What to Expect During a Title IX Investigation in Texas
“Help! I’ve been accused of a sex crime on campus. What happens next?”
Title IX was enacted in 1972 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender in a number of forms. These include stalking, domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment. While every school is obligated to follow the law, how educational institutions interpret the law is often controversial.
When Title IX is ignored or followed inappropriately, an investigation may be in order. However, an investigation of these violations must be conducted in a distinct step-by-step manner. What follows begins with the initial complaint and continues onto an appeal if necessary.
When Title IX investigations occur, they generally lack standard courtroom form. Attorneys representing the victim may not be allowed to speak during the hearing. Pieces of evidence that find the accused student, faculty or staff member in a favorable light may be overlooked.
Yet there is every reason for a Title IX investigation to be conducted in a fair and orderly manner. Should a learning institution fail to correct instances of discrimination on its campus, this school risks losing federal funds. This is why colleges and universities need to resolve any violations of the law that may exist.
Every Title IX investigation timeline begins with the assignment of a compliance officer to oversee matters. This person may be referred to as a “Title IX Specialist” or “Title IX Coordinator.” The number of compliance officers brought onto a case depends upon the size of the school and the severity of the complaints.
The compliance officer is the contact person for anyone with questions about the law. They must not only understand Title IX but other laws related to federal funding and school policies. During the investigation process, this compliance officer may be asked to work closely with law enforcement agencies.
Notice of discrimination
One of the many facets of the Title IX law is that schools that are federally funded must draft a “Notice of Discrimination.” This notice must be published and distributed on campus. It must also be published in the student handbook, annual report and on the school website.
The published document must state the school’s view of gender discrimination as practiced in all sports and activities. This includes career opportunities and academic programs. The name and contact information of the school’s compliance officer must be available, should anyone wish to inquire or file a complaint.
Title IX requires federally funded schools to make sure students and staff members know their rights under the law. They must be able to report a violation if they believe they have been victimized, have witnessed an incident or are a “confidante” to an involved party. The reporting process can involve a website portal, phone hotline or in-person interviews.
What procedures are followed to comply with Title IX?
Here is the step-by-step process of a Title IX investigation.
Step 1: Notify involved parties.
All involved parties must be informed of the complaint and that an investigation is underway. This notice must include the allegations being investigated and the policy that it violates. The rights of both parties named in the complaint must be included. Both parties should give all necessary contact information of the investigators working on the case.
Step 2: Gather the facts.
Once it has been decided that the investigation will proceed, all information as it relates to the allegations must be explored. This includes the gathering of files, recordings, phone records, documents, photographs and social media activity. Both the person making the complaint(s) and the accused person(s) will be interviewed. Witnesses who come forward will be interviewed as well.
Step 3: Review and analyze information.
Both parties must be presented with enough time to study this information. Should either party wish to address an issue, this is allowed too. At this point, it is up to the investigator to weigh the evidence to ascertain whether a violation of the law has occurred.
Step 4: Determine a violation.
The legal description of the “standard of proof” in a formal Title IX case is not as stiff as in a criminal trial. A bulk of the evidence must only outweigh the legal definition of “probable cause” to proceed. Interviews, documents and files do not have to meet the legal definition of “beyond a reasonable doubt” for the university to come to their conclusion.
Step 5: Write a final written report.
A final report must be written to include the alleged violations, how school policy was violated and the names of the involved parties. It must also contain the evidence, interviews and other information collected as part of the investigation. Both parties must be notified of the outcome of the case and what conclusions were reached, and receive a copy of the report.
Why hire a defense attorney who understands Title IX
Both the party making the accusation and the accused should contact an attorney to maintain their rights during an investigation. Remember that colleges and universities are not looking out for your rights, but rather their own. That’s why it is always in your best interest to work with a law firm experienced in the application of Title IX and how investigations are processed.
An attorney who is well-versed in Title IX investigation procedures will listen to your side of the story and make sure your rights are respected. With the Neal Davis Law Firm, you’ll be able to schedule an appointment to review your case with a legal representative, discuss your situation and discover the best way to proceed. Don’t delay.