If someone in your family faces disciplinary action for sexual misconduct at a school or college in the Houston area, this is likely what’s known as a Title IX case.
But what is Title IX in education, and why is it called Title IX?
The law which came to be known as Title IX (pronounced as if written as “Title 9” or “Title Nine”) was added as a clause to the Education Amendments Act of 1972. That act amended what was known as Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin, and later added sexual orientation and gender identity.
The 1972 Title IX law was also known as the Patsy Takemoto Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, having been written by Patsy Mink, the first woman of color elected to Congress. Ms. Mink was a third-generation Japanese American who was born and raised in Hawaii, and she was the first Asian-American woman elected to Congress in 1964.
Enacted on June 23, 1972, the original Title IX law is just 37 words. As presented by the U.S. Department of Education, these words are:
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
The 1972 law was not written with sexual misconduct in mind. Rather, though it made no mention of sports, the law was written in large part to enhance athletics opportunities for female students at high schools, universities and colleges where participation in sports or athletics had long been dominated by males. This domination was seen as discrimination against girls and women.
In the years since its enactment, female participation in sports from high school through college increased dramatically. To ensure that a school was compliant, a 3-part test for Title IX was used by the Office for Civil Rights.
To be Title IX compliant, a school had to pass at least 1 of 3 tests:
Title IX law, while often applied and interpreted in courts, broadened in the late 1970s to include protections against sexual harassment of female students by male instructors, which was seen as sexual discrimination in itself.
Soon, sexual assault, rape, date rape and other violent sexual acts also became a focus of Title IX lawsuits and legal actions against students, faculty, staff and an educational institution itself.
Over the years, various court decisions all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court have elaborated on how Title IX can and should protect female students from sexual abuse. In fact, sexual misconduct has been the chief reason that Title IX has been applied in recent years and has led to an enormous impact of Title IX beyond its original focus on discrimination in school sports.
For instance, Texas went to the extreme of passing a law in 2019 which requires college officials to report sexual misconduct on campus or face criminal penalties. Texas’ Title IX rules thus make it even more likely that a school will overreact and rush to judgment against accused students.
In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court authorized persons who filed complaints under Title IX to sue for damages if the avowed gender discrimination was not resolved. When schools and universities began facing—and losing—lawsuits over violent sexual acts on campuses, they became more aggressive in their investigations of and response to sexual complaints about students, faculty or staff.
This wasn’t just to protect female students but to protect the educational institutions themselves—particularly the school’s bottom line.
Take the 2006 case of Simpson v. University of Colorado, where a federal court found that the school had acted with “deliberate indifference” to the sexual assault of 2 female students by male athletes and recruits. The university was ordered to pay $2.5 million in damages to the victims.
On top of lawsuits, schools could also lose federal funding by failing to act promptly and strongly after a Title IX complaint. That’s because any educational institution which receives federal funding could have such funding withdrawn if it fails to follow federal Title IX guidelines.
The #MeToo movement has contributed to a rise in accusations of sexual assault, although some of these claims are false accusations. Coupled with universities’ sense of urgency about not losing money through lawsuits or withdrawn federal funding, Title IX actions have mushroomed.
In the face of all this, the rights of accused college students have been trampled in recent years.
That’s why it’s vital for persons who are accused of sexual misconduct in Title IX grievance procedures to engage an experienced Title IX defense lawyer in their area as soon as possible.
Apart from a Title IX complaint, a Houston sex crime defense lawyer can also protect the legal rights of accused persons in the event of a separate criminal charge against them.
As for how a Title IX investigation works, each school has its own detailed policies on how to proceed, but many such policies are similar.
Houston’s Rice University, for instance, has an elaborate Sexual Misconduct Policy.
Under that policy, if students claim they’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted, a university Title IX official will explain to them that they have the option of pursuing an on-campus disciplinary process—a college Title IX hearing—and also the option of contacting off-campus law enforcement authorities to pursue a criminal charge.
Thus, an accused student could face a Title IX disciplinary hearing as well as a state criminal charge for the same alleged assault.
Many schools’ Title IX procedures begin with an allegation being made to the college or university claiming sexual discrimination in the form of sexual harassment or sexual assault. The school’s Title IX Coordinator then appoints an investigator to explore the claim.
Then, all persons involved—including the accused—are notified by the school of the investigation and, if deemed necessary, a hearing is held to evaluate its findings. There, both sides may have a legal representative present as an advisor while the allegations are considered.
As noted, schools have a financial incentive to side with the accuser in such cases. Also, the result of the hearing will likely be decided by a low burden of proof, that being a “preponderance of evidence.” This means that the school must find as little as a 51 percent chance that a claim is true in order to rule that it is, in fact, true.
If a Title IX hearing goes against the accused, it can result in punishments or Title IX sanctions for college cases, and these can be quite severe.
When Title IX procedures go against an accused student, the student can be permanently expelled from a university. A student might also face disciplinary Title IX suspension and be ordered to stay away from campus for a period of time.
Students who lose their fight in a Title IX hearing could be punished in the following ways:
As you can see, it’s vital that anyone who’s accused of sexual misconduct and faces such punishments consult with an experienced Houston Title IX defense lawyer or attorney. The Neal Davis Law Firm has years of such experience fighting for accused persons’ legal rights.