Title IX & Religious Schools

Felice and Cristine standing in suits

Title IX Rights & Honor Codes at Religious Schools

  • Case Results
  • Testimonials
  • List of Schools

Case Results

Here are some representative results we’ve achieved for our clients.

Female complainant’s rights, health, and safety protected throughout lengthy proceedings

Our client was sexually assaulted by a male student acquaintance. We became involved to support our client in getting proper medical treatment, preserving and collecting evidence and witness testimony, and securing therapeutic support. We helped her understand and navigate the many complex options available to her, including a criminal complaint, an informal complaint process, a formal complaint process, or doing nothing. We guided her through the informal process and then the formal process, including interviews with various school and law enforcement officials, and worked closely with the school to put in place appropriate accommodations ensuring that all interviews and hearings did not retraumatize her. The male student was found responsible and was expelled.

Large private university

Witness to sexual violence protected from intimidation

We represented a female witness to a dating violence case on campus who was being pressured to speak with the police and the school investigators about a violent matter she had witnessed on her dorm floor. We immediately communicated on her behalf to the local police, school administrators, and the Title IX investigators to protect her right to choose to not testify and ensure her safety on campus. She was very relieved not to be pressured by the school, the title IX office or the police to attend the hearing and testify about fellow students.

Small private college

Investigation of sexual assault complaint concludes with no charges filed

Our client contacted us immediately upon receiving notice by his school that a claim of sexual assault was made against him by a female student. We assisted him in preparing his detailed answer to the complaint, and then prepared him and accompanied him to his interview with the campus safety police officers. We worked with the school Title IX administrators and helped our client find evidence to show inconsistencies with the complaint. The complainant withdrew her complaint when presented with these inconsistencies and then recanted. The investigation ended and our client was not charged with anything.

Midsized private college

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Client Testimonials

I was introduced to Attorney Duffy by my criminal defense attorney because I was fighting both a criminal charge and a conduct code violations charge. Felice's office responded right away and she and I met by Zoom video. She and her team were respectful, professional and super knowledgeable. They made everything clear and easily understandable. They knew exactly what questions to ask the school officials to get them to focus on the facts that supported my case. I was incredibly well prepared. I knew what I was going to say before I went in to my interviews and how to react to the many questions that would have tripped me up. I got probation, which was definitely the best possible outcome and I couldn’t have gotten that without Attorney Duffy’s help.

College Junior

“When your kid is accused of a serious conduct code violation at his college, you quickly learn that there’s a whole different set of rules in place than in the real world. There are no legal standards, no assurances of a “fair trial.” You're presumed guilty and you have to backtrack and prove why you’re NOT guilty. We pretty quickly realized that we needed strong legal representation and guidance. Our son was completely falsely accused and we were ready to dig in to clear his name.

Felice's truly unique background and deep experience with navigating the school’s process was amazing. She made it clear that our son was the client, not us (his parents). She worked with him extensively and earned his total trust. He felt empowered that he had the right person in his corner to defend him. Felice gave our whole family a sense a calm and confidence.

Thanks to incredibly hard work by Felice and her team, our son was found “not responsible” (meaning innocent of any wrongdoing). The outcome was everything we could have hoped for.

I have already recommended Felice to a friend who’s son was caught up in a serious, very complicated conduct code charge, and I will continue to recommend her to any student or parent without reservation.”

Parent of a private college senior

“I selected the firm after doing extensive research trying to locate an attorney that specializes in sexual assault cases on university campuses. Late one night I emailed her for a consult just to see what she had to say. By 6:30am the next morning she had already emailed me back leaving her information for me to call her. I was impressed by her promptness and early morning response. Our criminal attorney informed our family that this simply wasn’t his specialty and strongly recommended we hire someone who really understood how university disciplinary systems work.

In our culture, we are not often trusting and it took a huge step of faith to consider someone we didn’t know (much less one from out of state) to defend our son.

Based on her collegiate athletic background I felt that she would have a better understanding of our case as our son is a D1 athlete. Based on that and her professional accomplishments I felt like she was driven and determined and she clearly had the ability to understand the laws associated with Title IX.

Bottom line is that our son was found 100% not responsible (meaning not guilty) of the extremely serious charges that were brought against him by a female student.

Felice Duffy and her team were professional, focused, responsive and did a great job throughout the entire stressful ordeal. When we think about how badly and unfairly our son might have been treated by the school, we truly count our blessings that we found Ms. Duffy.”

Parent of a College Sophomore, Ohio

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Schools Where We've Handled Cases

Here are just some of the schools where we’ve represented students, faculty, coaches, and staff:

  • Amherst College
  • Arkansas State University
  • Belmont Abbey College
  • Bowling Green State University
  • Charter Oak State College
  • Colgate University
  • College of the Holy Cross
  • Columbia University
  • Connecticut College
  • Creighton Law School
  • Dartmouth College
  • Fairfield University
  • Flagler College
  • Florida State University
  • Furman University
  • Guilford College
  • Howard University
  • Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Indiana University
  • Lesley University
  • Louisiana State University
  • Marist College
  • Marquette University
  • Miami University
  • Mississippi University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Plymouth State University
  • Quinnipiac University
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Rice University
  • Sacred Heart University
  • South Carolina State University
  • St. John's University
  • St. Lawrence University
  • Syracuse University
  • Swarthmore College
  • Tallahassee Comm. College
  • Touro University
  • Trinity College
  • Tufts University
  • University of Connecticut
  • University of Kansas
  • University of Lynchburg
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Mass. Med. School
  • University of Miami
  • University of Missouri
  • University of Northern Colorado
  • University of Texas
  • University of Virginia
  • University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
  • University of Wisconsin, Whitewater
  • Utah University School of Medicine
  • Vassar College
  • Virginia Wesleyan University
  • Washington University, St. Louis
  • Wesleyan University
  • Westfield State University
  • Western Washington University
  • Wheaton College
  • William Smith College
  • Yale University

If you attend a college or university in the U.S., or if you are employed by a college or university, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 likely applies. Title IX is designed to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities. Generally speaking, colleges and universities that are affiliated with a particular religion or religious belief, must also adhere to the tenets of Title IX if they receive federal funding, which most do. However, Title IX allows exemptions for religious schools that are private and are controlled by religious organizations when applying Title IX would be inconsistent with the views of the religious organization.

Students and employees at religious organizations should know that their institution may be exempt, and that they may not have Title IX protections, and also that the institution may not be subject to the tenets of Title IX. In addition, it is important for students to know that religious schools may be able to use information that surfaces in Title IX investigations to allege that a student has violated the religious institution’s honor code. Our highly knowledgeable Connecticut Title IX lawyers will discuss religious colleges and Title IX more broadly, and then we will provide you with information about frequently asked questions concerning a religious university’s honor code and its relation to information in a Title IX investigation.

Religious Schools and Title IX: The Standard

In general, colleges and universities that receive federal funding are covered by Title IX. Accordingly, students and employees of those colleges and universities have protections under Title IX against discrimination on the basis of sex. Discrimination on the basis of sex is construed broadly to mean protections against pregnancy discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct or sexual assault, and retaliation. Many institutions also include protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity recognizing these forms of discrimination as forms of sex discrimination.

While colleges generally are covered by Title IX from the outset, religious institutions can seek a religious exemption. To be clear, a private college or university that is run or controlled by a religious organization can request that it be exempt from Title IX. To request an exemption, that institution must send a written statement to the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. The written statement must identify any of the provisions of Title IX that conflict with the religious organization’s beliefs. Yet, a religious college or university is not required to request the exemption to claim an exemption. That written request can provide the school with an assurance that it is exempt, yet even without making a written request, a religious college or university can invoke an exemption if a Title IX complaint is made.

When is a Religious College or University Exempt from Title IX?

Not all religious colleges or universities can be exempt. To be exempt, they must be controlled by a religious organization. The following are ways in which an educational institution can be controlled by a religious organization:

  • School or department of divinity that is designed to prepare students to enter a religious vocation or to teach theological studies;
  • Students and employees, including faculty, must either be members of or must embrace the tenets of the religious organization that the school says controls it; or
  • Charter, catalog, or other official materials from the school explicitly indicate that it is controlled by a religious organization.

The U.S. Department of Education maintains a list of religious colleges and universities that have claimed Title IX exemptions. However, even if an institution is not listed, it may still invoke an exemption.

Can Title IX Allegations Impact Honor Code Violations?

Title IX does not require confidentiality for the complainant. Accordingly, Title IX does not require that a Title IX coordinator or other college or university official keep the name of the complainant confidential or maintain any confidentiality regarding the information contained in the complainant’s allegations. Rather, as the Department of Education clarifies, a school must weigh a student’s request for confidentiality against other relevant factors.

Religious colleges and universities have been known to use student Title IX allegations against them to prove that they violated the institution’s honor code. Indeed, information from Title IX investigations can be used at religious colleges and universities to demonstrate that a student should be penalized for behaviors or actions prohibited by the school’s religiously based honor code.

For example, many religious institutions prohibit students from engaging in premarital sex in their honor codes. If a student makes a Title IX complaint that includes information about a sexual assault or other sexual misconduct, the university may use that information against the complaint to prove that the complainant violated the school’s honor code policy. In addition, many religious institutions have prohibitions against same-sex relationships or students identifying as LGBT. Students from a variety of religious colleges and universities have alleged that, when they came forward with allegations of Title IX violations due to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, they faced honor code violations after making a Title IX report.

Contact the Experienced Title IX Attorneys at Duffy Law for Assistance

The highly experienced Title IX and Conduct Code attorneys at Duffy Law can speak with you about Title IX and religious exemptions, as well as student and employee rights at religious institutions. It is important to understand the protections provided by Title IX, as well as situations in which those protections do not apply, or scenarios in which a college or university is not covered by Title IX altogether due to a religious exemption. When a college or university invokes a religious exemption, other discrimination claims may arise. Contact Duffy Law today to learn more about how we can assist with your Title IX case.

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