Title IX of the Education Amendments is a complex law that covers a broad range of issues in educational environments. Unfortunately, due to the current climate in higher education, Title IX is now commonly enforced as a response to allegations of sexual misconduct. It's evident given the ongoing contentious debates about its guidance structure and enforcement that the law isn't black and white, nor easy to wrap your mind around. There are a lot of grey areas that haven't even been clarified at the federal level. So one could only imagine the degree of confusion faced by students who are thrown into their school's Title IX process.
“I've been accused of an off-campus incident during a break, why is my school involved?”
This is one of the most common questions I'm asked by students and their parents around this time of year. Most sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sexual violence incidents occur off-campus in areas like apartments, fraternity houses, and other types of private property. Because of the school's current obligations, these incidents are still handled by your institution due to the potential creation of a “hostile environment.”
A hostile environment is created through misconduct that is deemed severe, pervasive or persistent enough to interfere with the complainant's (the accuser) ability to participate in or benefit from a college program or activity. Any behaviors that constitute any form as sexual misconduct are likely to be considered contributors to a hostile environment. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights has determined that the “mere presence on campus of the alleged perpetrator of off-campus sexual violence can have continuing effects that create a hostile environment.” In these circumstances, the school is legally obligated to take action to stop the offending behavior and restore a peaceful campus environment for all the parties involved.
So what does that mean for you? It means that you'll be required to undergo your school's Title IX process. This usually entails an investigation or a hearing, and even the implementation of interim measures if your school finds it appropriate.
In hindsight, respondents (the accused) who failed to get legal representation to serve as their advisor have expressed that due to misinformation or a mere lack of knowledge about the process, their processes were unfair. This isn't a rare occurrence, either. Parties on both sides have reported feeling slighted in the midst of their school's processes. This is why it's important that you reach out to an attorney to serve as an advisor throughout the process.
We're in the middle of a potential evolution of Title IX guidelines. It's important to note that if the proposed draft of Title IX guidance by Education Department Secretary Betsy DeVos is implemented, off-campus incidents won't be required to be handled by institutions.
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.