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Title IX in Florida

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Title IX in Florida

While Title IX and the accompanying regulations are federal laws, they have been interpreted differently in various jurisdictions of the United States. Florida is one state where lawmakers and officials do not always see eye to eye with the federal agencies that establish Title IX policies, specifically, the guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education. For instance, when the Department issued guidance requiring schools that receive federal funding to extend Title IX protections to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the Florida Education Commissioner, Manny Diaz, Jr., advised schools in the state that they were under “no obligation” to follow that guidance.

If you have been accused of a Title IX violation at a Florida school, or if you want to enforce your Title IX rights on campus or in court, it is important to understand not only the federal policies currently in force but also how policies have been interpreted in the local federal courts. The team at Duffy Law has focused on Title IX issues for decades. We understand how to enforce rights and protections for students, faculty, and staff in all 50 states, and we have helped many complainants and respondents successfully protect their rights in proceedings at Florida colleges and universities. A Title IX complaint proceeding is more than a minor in-house disciplinary matter—the ramifications can profoundly affect the mental health and educational and professional future of everyone involved. It is important to work with professionals who can provide advice and assistance to protect your interests.

Title IX Prohibits Discrimination, but the Definitions Changes Frequently

The original language of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 specifies that no one in the U.S. should be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or be discriminated against in educational programs or activities on the basis of sex. Initially, the enforcement efforts focused on providing equal opportunities for women to participate in athletics and to a lesser degree, academic programs. Sports equality got all the attention, and many people even today think that’s what Title IX is all about.

However, after a few decades, the definition of what constituted “discrimination” began to expand. Sex-based discrimination under Title IX evolved to include harassment and sexual assault. Sexual misconduct such as rape became not only a criminal offense that could be investigated and prosecuted in criminal court but also a Title IX violation that could be investigated and adjudicated by school officials.

Recently, the term “on the basis of sex” has also been expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. While this initial expansion came in the form of guidance from the Department of Education, it is expected to be enshrined in new federal regulations. More than many other laws, interpretation of Title IX has been subject to change based on political priorities which can make it difficult for those who need to pursue or defend claims to know exactly where they stand.

Campus Disciplinary Proceedings Require Special Attention

Many people mistakenly believe that even when they are dealing with a serious accusation such as sexual assault, they don’t need to worry about seeking legal assistance with a campus disciplinary matter. They wait to see if an issue will be taken to court before they consult a knowledgeable Title IX attorney. This can be a serious error for both complainants and respondents for a variety of reasons:

  • Campus Proceedings Operate Under Different Rules. The regulations in force at the time may allow campus proceedings to use a burden of proof that differs from both criminal and civil standards, and both complainants and respondents need to be prepared. Working with an attorney who is familiar with the unique standard of proof and other rules can help students protect their interests more effectively.
  • Campus Proceedings Move Quickly. Title IX regulations require schools to conclude investigations and adjudications on a tight timetable, so the parties to the complaint, as well as witnesses, may be caught off guard before they have time to prepare for questioning. Complainants may not have enough time to build their case without assistance, and respondents may not be ready to defend their rights.
  • Evidence May Be Shared. If campus investigators or witnesses produce evidence in a campus Title IX proceeding, that evidence can be shared with law enforcement officials and result in a criminal prosecution years later. Respondents need to be prepared by collecting their own evidence to refute allegations, and an experienced attorney can assist early on when evidence is most readily available.
  • The Process and Outcome Can Have Lifelong Consequences. Respondents cannot be sent to jail if they are found responsible for violating Title IX, but a finding of responsibility damages their reputation for years if not forever. Being expelled from school for a Title IX violation leads to a loss of academic, athletic, and professional opportunities that can never be replaced. For complainants, mistakes in the pursuit of a Title IX case can cause similar damage to reputation and self-esteem.

Parents, students, and others associated with a Title IX campus proceeding are often surprised at the intensity of the proceedings and violent reactions they receive from friends as well as strangers. Having an experienced legal advisor to guide you through the process can help you prepare for and reduce negative consequences in the short and long term. For instance, if a student is found responsible for a serious Title IX violation, an experienced attorney might negotiate a withdrawal from the school so the student does not have an expulsion on their record.

Duffy Law Protects the Rights of Students, Faculty and Staff in Florida

Whether you are filing or defending against a complaint on campus or your case on campus was not handled properly, and you need to pursue justice in federal court, the experienced team at Duffy Law knows how to enable you to take full advantage of the best opportunities to protect your interests. We are dedicated to Title IX ideals and fight for justice in Title IX claims in all types of educational settings, at the administrative level, and in court.

It is important to take the right steps to safeguard your future when Title IX issues need to be addressed. We invite you to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss the ways we can assist in Florida. Just call 203-946-2000 or contact us online to get started.

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