Proposed changes to a 1972 federal law banning sexual discrimination on campuses—a law known as Title IX—are due in October.
Those changes are expected to extend protections for LGBTQ+ students, reverse Trump-era rules impacting survivors of sexual assault and allow transgender college athletes to participate on sports teams that match their declared gender identity.
Title IX rules govern how universities should handle on-campus administrative hearings on reported sexual assaults among their students, faculty and staff. One expected change in the rules will be to discourage any cross-examination of the accusers of sexual assault by a lawyer who represents the accused student.
That stance already had been the case under Obama-era rules, but those rules were reversed during the Trump administration so that cross-examination was instead mandated. The Biden administration plans to resume discouragement of cross-examinations at college hearings on sexual assault cases via these reinstated Title IX rules.
Real-life impact of Title IX rule changes
Similar rules had an impact on the case of an Afghani neuroscience student at Yale University who was expelled in 2019. The accused student, Saifullah Khan, 30, was not allowed to face his accuser during university hearings on the matter of a sexual assault claim, nor was his attorney allowed to cross-examine the accuser.
According to the Daily Mail, Khan now has a $110 defamation lawsuit against the university for not allowing him to complete his degree. The lawsuit, which also targets his female accuser, asserts that Yale violated his rights throughout its investigation process under Title IX, a federal law that specifies how universities should handle sexual assault hearings and, more broadly, prohibit discrimination based upon sex.
The damages sought by the former Yale student’s lawsuit are for the obstruction of Khan’s degree completion, the reputational harm to Khan, the breach of his right to privacy and alleged instances of emotional distress.
After months of litigation, the lawsuit was allowed to proceed by Connecticut’s Supreme Court, which ruled that Khan was not given a proper chance to defend himself at Yale’s hearing on his alleged sexual assault.
In Connecticut as well as in several other states, witnesses who provide testimony in such quasi-judicial Title IX hearings at colleges and universities have been promised absolute immunity against defamation lawsuits.
Campus hearings have lacked fair treatment for defendants
But the Supreme Court of Connecticut disagreed. In a unanimous vote, it held that Khan’s Yale hearing was not quasi-judicial because it lacked due process, otherwise known as fair treatment under the law.
Such due process includes the American standard of presuming a defendant is innocent until he or she is proven guilty and is provided by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.
“For absolute immunity to apply under Connecticut law, fundamental fairness requires meaningful cross-examination in proceedings like the one at issue,” the court ruled.
If Title IX rules are changed as expected in October, a return of the previous rule that discouraged cross-examinations—a rule that was in place during Khan’s hearings—could expose colleges and universities to more such lawsuits by students who are suspended or expelled without being allowed due process, or what is commonly called their “day in court.”
Get a skilled defense lawyer for a sexual assault claim
If you or a family member in the Houston area faces an allegation, accusation, claim or charge of a sexual assault, you must get the best criminal defense lawyer you can find. And that includes getting skilled legal defense in Title IX cases.
The knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers of Houston’s Neal Davis Law Firm have years of experience protecting such rights for defendants who face a university’s Title IX investigation of alleged sexual misconduct.
Yes, even for a university’s in-house Title IX hearings on alleged sexual offenses, which are far from a courtroom, the accused is entitled to engage and be represented by a defense attorney or lawyer. Current and previous Title IX rules—rules that tend to favor alleged victims at the expense of defendants—at least have not prohibited that.
The Neal Davis Law Firm has defended students’ rights at such on-campus Title IX hearings held at a number of institutions, including Rice University, the University of Houston, Texas State University and the University of St. Thomas. Such hearings have resulted in the exoneration of students who were wrongly accused of sexual assault.
If you or a family member already has experienced such an on-campus hearing that concluded unsatisfactorily and you want to pursue a lawsuit against a university, please know that the award-winning Neal Davis Law Firm does not handle civil lawsuits, but rather criminal defense cases.
But also know that the Neal Davis Law Firm stands ready to defend not only students in Title IX cases that could lead to expulsion, suspension, fines or other punishments, but also persons who may face a state of Texas criminal charge of a sexual assault or other sex crime. Such charges can lead to years in prison and high fines for those who are convicted in a criminal court. (The term “rape” is not used in Texas law, but rather the term “sexual assault.”)
Contact us today to arrange a confidential consultation for your Title IX sexual assault case or for any other case involving a criminal charge for an alleged sexual offense.
And don’t delay. Your reputation, your livelihood, your future and even your freedom may be at stake.