Impact of the MeToo Movement on Campus Title IX Claims
In the fall of 2017, just after a news story revealed dozens of sexual harassment and assault allegations against major Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, actress Alyssa Milano helped reawaken a previous movement started more than ten years earlier. The “MeToo” movement initially began as an attempt for sexual assault survivors to show others they were not alone. In 2017, Milano recommended that survivors use the hashtag #MeToo to demonstrate the magnitude of the sexual harassment and assault problem in our society.
By the end of 2017, reports indicated that more than 100 million people worldwide had posted statuses related to the #MeToo movement. Millions of people—many of whom had previously stayed silent—inspired each other to speak up about their experiences. Women, men, and gender non-conforming people shared accounts of sexual misconduct on various social media platforms.
The unprecedented movement against sexual assault and harassment may also result in a surge of Title IX claims on college campuses across the United States. Harvard reported that in the months after the #MeToo movement started, the school saw a 20 percent increase in Title IX complaints, both formal and informal. While many schools have not yet compiled or released statistics for the time period since the movement started, it can be expected that this increase may be a trend at colleges and universities nationwide.
How Schools Handle Title IX Claims
As the number of cases may increase, schools must be careful not to become overwhelmed or mishandle claims. For example, not every complaint of sexually-related behavior will necessarily constitute sexual misconduct under Title IX. Although schools may tailor their own definitions and policies to the campus environment, misconduct generally includes:
- Non-consensual sexual conduct
- Sexual assault
- Threats based on sexuality or sex
School policies should also define what it means to “consent” to sexual activity. Being offended by a certain act does not necessarily mean it constitutes a valid Title IX complaint. On the other hand, schools should be careful to pursue every valid complaint in line with their policies, even if the number of complaints grows.
As complaints may increase, schools should guard against becoming lax in their handling of these matters. This may include taking improper interim measures against students while proceedings are pending. As the cases increase, the time between the initial complaint and the resolution may be prolonged significantly, so taking proper interim measures fair for all students involved is a critical matter.
The rise in sexual assault cases may also bring more actions against schools for failure to comply with Title IX policies. These cases can become complicated, however, it is important that the rights of students are upheld no matter how overwhelmed a college or university may become.
Title IX claims can be difficult for all parties involved – the complainant, the respondent, and the school. As the number of Title IX sexual misconduct claims will likely increase, schools should be sure to closely comply with all relevant policies and procedures to ensure the rights of all students are protected. The best way to protect your interests if you’re involved in a Title IX claim is to seek help from an experienced attorney who regularly handles these types of cases.
Contact an Experienced Title IX Attorney Today
The #MeToo movement may have far-reaching effects on campus Title IX claims. Title IX is a complicated law and not many people—not even many school administrators—fully understand its intricacies and proper application to college campuses and athletics. At Duffy Law, our legal team has unique experience and insight that allows us to skillfully represent the rights of students in the Title IX process. Call our office at 203-946-2000 or contact us online to learn more.