With increased attention on campus sexual assaults and discrimination against LGBT and transgender students, colleges and universities are taking their role as defender of student rights under Title IX very seriously, as they should. That also means more students are facing disciplinary hearings under Title IX charges, putting them in completely unfamiliar situations.
If you or your son or daughter is facing a Title IX disciplinary hearing at your college or university in Minnesota, it’s imperative that you have an experienced attorney leading your defense. Each institution operates under its own set of Title IX rules, so an experienced defense attorney is needed to get you the best outcome.
Understanding Title IX
Title IX is a federal civil rights law that was passed in 1972 that requires any educational institution that receives federal funding (even private schools where students receive federally backed student loans) to ensure students do not suffer discrimination, harassment or sexual violence based on gender, sexual orientation or, increasingly, gender identity.
The most famous cases in the early years were those that required schools to provide equal opportunities for women in sports and across the academic spectrum.
As these institutional issues have been largely addressed, the greatest time commitment now for college Title IX compliance offices are dealing with individual cases of sexual violence, harassment and discrimination on campus.
Another factor that has come under growing scrutiny is the nature of consent required before any sexual activity takes place. The federal government pressured universities to define consent, so each institution has established different definitions of affirmative consent before a sexual act occurs.
Some of these rules can be hazy, as they may determine there is a state where the student is “unable” to consent, but does not define what that state is. For instance, if alcohol is involved, there may be no determination if “unable to consent” kicks in when the student is “buzzed” or if the student must be completely passed out. Current cases may be used to define and refine these rules within each college or university.
Each institution also is required to have a procedure in place for investigating student complaints of sexual violence, harassment or discrimination. Whether there is a criminal case or not, the university must conduct its own investigation of the complaint. Often the time frame for completing an investigation is much shorter than in a criminal case, so if you have been accused it’s important to consult an attorney immediate as the case will proceed quickly.
Normally, the compliance office will conduct the investigation of the claim, interviewing the parties involved and potential witnesses and collecting possible evidence, such as text message, emails, medical records, etc. If the office determines there is enough evidence to believe a claim can be substantiated, they will present the case to a hearing panel comprised of staff, faculty and students. All of this can happen within a 60-day window.
Because Title IX compliance is set up to defend the rights of the person filing the complaint, the university also must act to ensure the accuser is able to continue his or her education without fear of retaliation by the accused. Therefore, the university can require the accused to change activities or classes to protect the accuser, even during the investigative process.
Though a university investigation is not a criminal proceeding, both the accuser and the accused are allowed to be represented by an attorney.
If the hearing panel determines the accuser’s claim is valid, the accused will be subject to university punishment, which can range from disciplinary probation to suspension to expulsion. A criminal case also could be taking place against the accused outside of the university hearing.
Contact us for immediate assistance if you have been accused under Title IX at any college or university in Minnesota.
The following universities have some type of sexual consent rules:
- St. Catherine College
- St. Scholastica College
- University of Minnesota
- Carlton College
- Gustavus Adolphus College
- Augsburg College
- Hamline University
- Minnesota State Colleges and Universities
- Univ. of St. Thomas
- Concordia University
- Macalester College
- St. Olaf College
Disclaimer: The content of this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact Jennifer Speas to discuss the specifics of your case.