Title IX hearings are conducted due to the enforcement of the federal law that obligates publicly funded higher education institutions to adjudicate matters involving sex-based discrimination, like sexual assault and harassment. The initiative to deter this form of discrimination has become a top concern for many educational institutions across the country, including many colleges and universities in Pennsylvania.
If you've been accused of sexual misconduct on your campus, by law, you'll have to go through the Title IX process. This includes attending a hearing, where you'll present your account of events and a panel will determine whether or not you are “responsible” for violating school policy. Many respondents (accused students) have questions about their rights and how this process works. I've managed to piece together a few facts about the process that I feel are important for respondents to know:
This isn't a criminal case.
A lot of students are under the impression that their school's Title IX hearing and a trial in the criminal justice system are similar, but this isn't true. Allegations of on-campus sexual harassment and assault are solely handled by the administrative body or a university or college, and they concern the determination of whether or not a student violated school policy. The criminal prosecution process, on the other hand, involves an actual trial and reserves the entitlement of rights for defendants that student respondents primarily under their institution's care don't have. Also, the concern of criminal cases is if state or federal law has been broken. Although on-campus allegations could lead to criminal charges, criminal cases are always handled separately from Title IX hearings.
With that being said, the penalties can still be harsh.
Even though there are significant distinctions between a trial and a Title IX hearing, the penalties can be stiff in both cases. Of course, the severity of a school-imposed sanction is based on the nature of an allegation. But it is important to note that a lot is at stake in the event of a “responsible” determination, and the penalties can be just as severe and life-changing as a criminal conviction. From disciplinary probation to short-term or long-term suspension, and even expulsion from school, these sanctions can impede your ability to complete schooling, inhibit professional opportunities in the future, and drastically tarnish your reputation.
Regardless of the situation, you have the right to representation.
Many higher education institutions aim to get these instances out of the way quickly by scheduling hearings immediately. Despite what your school does, you shouldn't forfeit your extremely important right to representation. Undertaking the role of an advisor, an attorney can help prevent you from incriminating yourself and can ensure that your rights are protected throughout your school's Title IX process. Additionally, an attorney can be your representation if you're facing criminal allegations in connection to underlying allegations. It may be of some consolation that Department of Justice statistics reflect that most campus Title IX proceedings will not result in criminal proceedings, but unfortunately, what can take place at the campus level can itself cause severe consequences if the matter is not handled properly.
Nationwide Title IX Advisor
The only way to make sure your voice is heard and your rights are upheld is to retain a student defense attorney. For respondents, especially, the assistance of an attorney advisor is invaluable in the Title IX process. National Title IX attorney Joseph D. Lento has the skill, experience, and expertise to help you preserve your entitled rights under Title IX and your school's policy. For a case evaluation or more information about his representation, contact him online or give him a call at 888-535-3686 today.