Title IX & Religious Schools

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Title IX Rights & Honor Codes at Religious Schools

  • Case Results
  • Testimonials
  • List of Schools
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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 am writing to let any college student who gets accused of something serious by their school know that they need a lawyer like Felice Duffy to defend them.  I was accused of something terrible by a student that I would never do and didn’t do.  Even though I knew exactly what actually happened, I was very scared that my university might not find me innocent. It was terrifying to think that I might lose my full basketball scholarship or could have been suspended or expelled and that me and my family’s name could have gotten a horrible reputation. I can’t even put into words how I excited I was when I got the letter from the school that cleared me completely of the charges against me and I have Felice to thank for that 100%. Since I’m not in Connecticut, Felice and her investigator used video conferencing to interview me and my witnesses, talk with my parents, and get me fully prepared for every meeting I had with my school.  They got all my texts and email that proved my innocence and organized them perfectly for the Dean and the discipline committee. Felice was always very direct and respectful even though the subject matter was very personal, and she was always ahead of the school in terms of getting me and them important information at every step.  It was like having the best scouting report ever." Felice obviously knows her stuff but she also deeply cares.  You can tell that she loves the work she’s doing to help college kids in really difficult situations.

College Sophomre, Colorado

“The claims leveled against me were terrible, but the wonderful news is that I was fully cleared of all the allegations because of the outstanding work Christine Brown and the team at Duffy Law did on my behalf. The first thing that really impressed me was that from the very first call Christine quickly understood what was going on and was able to read between the lines to understand the complicated dynamics of the situation. Despite my entire career being spent in academia, I didn't know much about Title IX procedures. Her expertise and knowledge of the process was immediately apparent and critically helpful in guiding me and giving me as much peace of mind as possible.. Christine knew how to spot the important subtext throughout the process and made sure I understood the strategic options I had at every stage going forward. I felt very confident in the decisions we made together. I felt vindicated by the decision and that this situation will have no further effects on my career. I am very grateful to Christine and Duffy Law for guiding me through this stressful process and recommend them without reservation to any faculty member facing a similarly challenging situation. ”

Assistant Professor in the School of Medicine at a midwest university

“I hired Felice Duffy in the middle of a Title IX sexual assault proceeding. While I had initially retained another attorney on a recommendation, it turns out they did not have much insight to the inner workings of university policy, which I learned is NOT required to follow the basic laws of due process. Felice was absolutely incredible, and as an athlete, she understood my thought process and feelings the entire way. This is what stood out the most to me. At the beginning of my school’s adjudication process, I was an absolute mess. Not only is Felice extremely knowledgeable in law and how school adjudication processes work, but she also really does care about her clients and their well-being. It was initially extremely tough for me to speak about what I was facing. Felice was able to assist me not only in compiling the proper evidence and responding to the school, but also put me in the right state of mind to defend myself and move on with my life after it was all completed. Prior to hiring Duffy Law, I was concerned that I would be relegated to working with a legal assistant or secretary being that my case was in a college setting as opposed to a state court. However, Felice always found a way to make time and was there every step of the way. I feel like an important part of hiring an attorney is being able to trust them to fight for you no matter what the scenario may be and you can rest assured you will be getting that with Duffy Law. I would recommend Felice Duffy of Duffy Law 10 times out of 10 to anyone that may be put in a tough situation like I was”

Female College Freshman, Massachusetts

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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

Alert: Biden Orders Fresh Look at Title IX Regulations

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On March 8, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order requiring the Department of Education (“DOE”) to review federal regulations, orders and guidance put in place under the Trump administration that apply to how educational institutions handle complaints of sexual misconduct. The DOE will evaluate whether those regulations are “consistent with the policies” of the current administration. The executive order allows the DOE to suspend, revise, or rescind any or all the prior actions if they are found to be inconsistent. This review will likely result in another major shift in how colleges and universities across the nation handle sexual misconduct cases and alter the policies that schools enacted at their institutions in 2020. The attorneys at Duffy Law stay up-to-the-minute on all applicable Title IX regulations, as well as potential changes expected by mid-June, and are available to consult with you during this tumultuous time in Title IX law. The full Executive Order issued by President Biden can be found here.


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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