Title IX No-Contact Orders: Here’s What You Need to Know
A No-Contact Order—which a Title IX lawyer will often refer to as an “NCO”—is commonly issued by colleges after someone has made a complaint of sexual assault or harassment. The complaint initiates a lengthy Title IX investigation and other processes that usually take considerable time to resolve. This means that an NCO can be in place for months or even years. That said, students, staff, and faculty who do not understand how to comply with No-Contact Orders risk serious penalties.
What Exactly is a No-Contact Order?
Many people find it easiest to think of an NCO as being similar to a restraining order in an intimate partner violence case because they restrict activity and contact between parties involved in a dispute. However, while a restraining order or protective order is issued by a civil or criminal court, a No-Contact Order in a Title IX case is generally issued by the college or university where the complainant brought the claim. That means the school sets the terms of the order, including penalties for violation of the order.
It is imperative to carefully review the restrictions specified in order to avoid compliance problems. A Title IX lawyer can help anyone involved understand the varieties of communication and conduct that are and are not allowed under the terms of the NCO and whether the NCO is valid and satisfies Title IX.
Types of Communication Prohibited by No-Contact Orders
While the terms of the NCO will govern each specific situation, many No-Contact Orders have similar terms. Below are some types of communications that are likely to be prohibited by an NCO:
- Conversations in person
- Phone calls
- Text messages
- Emails and notes on paper
- Social media posts
- Messages sent through third parties
Depending on the interpretation of restrictions, even social media posts aimed at a general audience could be deemed a violation of a No-Contact Order, so it is a good idea to discuss social media habits with a Title IX lawyer before posting anything or even responding to a private message from a third party.
Electronic evidence used to support or defend against allegations that someone violated an NCO needs to be authenticated, so it is important to work with a Title IX lawyer who understands the applicable rules of evidence.
Other Conduct That May Be Restricted in a No-Contact Order
Frequently, NCOs prohibit far more than communications between parties involved in a Title IX case. They may include spatial restrictions that affect students’ living situations and class assignments.
A student may be prohibited from living in a particular building or visiting a specific campus section. However, when both students need access to the same space, school officials will often consider various facts to determine which student will continue to have access.
Students may need to change classes or make arrangements for virtual participation while a No-Contact Order is in force. The order may also restrict contact with the friends of a complainant or respondent. Our Title IX lawyer is well aware that an NCO can impose drastic changes on the life of a student, faculty, or staff member.
Equal Rights to NCOs
A No-Contact Order is not supposed to be issued as punishment but as a means of protection for both complainants and respondents. This includes protection from retaliation. For instance, an order might restrict contact between the friends of the respondent and complainant to prevent them from trying to take social revenge based on allegations or for the act of filing the complaint.
While it used to be common to place more restrictions on a respondent than on the person bringing the complaint, new rules now require schools to make NCOs available to both parties equally. That means either party should be able to request a No-Contact Order, and the school cannot favor one party over another when establishing terms.
Examples of NCO Violations
The actions that constitute a violation of an NCO will depend on the exact terms of the order and the circumstance involved. Some examples colleges have given of actions that violate No-Contact Orders include:
- Standing next to the other party in line at the cafeteria
- Sitting within a few rows on the campus shuttle bus
- Studying on the same floor of the library
- Exercising in the same room at the school gym
- Showing up at the party’s place of employment and staring at the party
As an example of conduct that may be permitted, schools have described situations such as attending an athletic event at a large venue on campus where sufficient distance can be maintained between the parties.
Penalties for Violating a No-Contact Order
Because each college and university sets the policies for the No-Contact Orders they issue when someone alleges a Title IX violation, these schools also establish their own penalties for violating NCOs. Under school policies, penalties usually depend on the nature of the violation and its severity. For example, a serious or repeated violation could result in suspension or expulsion (often referred to by school authorities as “separation.”) Less serious violations might result in disciplinary probation, a reprimand, or a warning. Even minor penalties, however, can become part of a student’s permanent record and negatively impact opportunities for employment and further education.
To be clear, if a student also obtains a civil or criminal restraining order, violation of that type of order may be treated as a criminal offense depending on the type of order and the jurisdiction.
An Experienced Title IX Lawyer Can Help You Obtain or Comply with a No-Contact Order
If you need a No-Contact Order or are subject to an existing order, the best way to protect your interests is to obtain legal advice from an experienced Title IX lawyer. The dedicated team at Duffy Law focuses our practice on ensuring academic excellence and integrity through fair application of Title IX principles and school codes of conduct.
We understand the complex arrangements for handling allegations in a school setting, and we fight fiercely to protect the interests and future prospects of those dealing with school disciplinary issues. For a confidential consultation to learn more about your options and how we can help you reach your goals, contact Duffy Law today.