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Ensuring Fairness for Students Accused of Sexual Misconduct
Many people consider Title IX to be the law that protects students from sexual misconduct on college and university campuses. In reality, Title IX offers numerous protections for all students of publicly-funded institutions, from kindergarten through higher education. Even when students are accused of sexual misconduct, they still have important rights and protections under the law.
When the focus is on the accuser, an accused student’s legal protections can easily fall by the wayside. However, over the past year, the Department of Education has clarified guidance regarding the Title IX protections of every student, even those facing sexual assault allegations. The guidance requires that students receive proper due process and unbiased treatment during any disciplinary proceedings. This is highly important, as a finding of sexual misconduct can result in loss of scholarships, disqualification from collegiate athletics, expulsion from school, and difficulty gaining acceptance into new educational programs or obtaining professional licenses.
There is too much at risk to try to defend against sexual misconduct allegations on your own. You need an attorney who believes in standing up for the rights of respondents in Title IX actions. Our highly experienced Title IX and Conduct Code attorneys at Duffy Law believe in fairness for all parties involved in Title IX actions. We represent clients who are complainants or respondents. We have a unique perspective on these cases, and you can trust us to advise you of all your rights and options when facing disciplinary proceedings. Call our office to find out more about how we can help you.
Due Process for Title IX Respondents
Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education recently proposed new policies that bolster the rights of respondents in numerous ways to ensure due process. Some changes include:
- Allowing schools to choose their own evidentiary standard between “preponderance of the evidence” and the higher “clear and convincing evidence” when deciding on suspension or expulsion of a student
- Allowing mediation as an informal resolution between the students
- Allowing respondents access to all investigatory evidence, even if it will not be used in a hearing
- Allowing respondents to request evidence from and to cross-examine complainants
- Requiring schools to handle Title IX complaints with impartiality and to conduct objective investigations that lead to equitable resolutions
- Requiring schools to handle investigations and hearings with the presumption that the accused student is innocent until proven guilty
In the past several years, guidance by the Department of Education and the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) led schools to give so much deference to complainants that the accused often did not receive fair and unbiased treatment. Assuming that a male student is guilty without proper investigation and proceedings violates a student’s rights against sex discrimination under Title IX, just as allowing sexual misconduct to occur is a violation. While it is imperative to protect students from sexual assault and harassment, schools should never take it so far that it affects a respondent’s right to an education free from sex discrimination.
How We Can Help
Universities and colleges these days don’t want a reputation for creating an environment that allows sexual assault, so schools often aggressively pursue allegations against students. The stakes are high in any Title IX sexual misconduct case and, unfortunately, too many students and their parents fail to realize the full scope of potential immediate and lasting consequences if they don’t take steps to protect the student’s rights. Fortunately, there are many ways an attorney can advise you during the Title IX disciplinary process to help you obtain the most favorable outcome possible.
At Duffy Law, we evaluate each case on an individual basis, though the following are some ways we may help Title IX respondents:
- Explain the Title IX process and policies of your school, as well as your rights under the law
- Identify the types of information and evidence that you can use to support your narrative and help gather such documentation and evidence
- Craft arguments to rebut any presumptions or claims made by the complainant
- Help you present facts in a clear and comprehensive manner
- Help you use appropriate language and a calm demeanor when discussing sensitive and personal sexual information
- Help you understand and present a consistent and convincing narrative of consent
- Assist you with interactions and communications with investigators and Title IX staff at your school
- Help you practice your narrative to ensure you have a clear presentation even when under the stress of a live hearing
- Help you anticipate certain questions and provide coaching and advice before and during a hearing
- Draft documents including written statements, correspondence with Title IX staff and investigators, and appeals if needed
- Identify when your school acts in violation of its own policies or your Title IX rights and take proper legal action on your behalf
In addition, some students facing Title IX allegations also face criminal charges for sexual assault. In many cases, we can advise you regarding your criminal defense and your Title IX hearing.
Our highly knowledgeable Title IX and Conduct Code lawyers believe that no school should deny students their constitutional and legal protections in disciplinary hearings. Without proper legal representation, it is all too easy for a student to receive overly harsh consequences based on biased and wrongful disciplinary findings. Our attorneys have unique and personal experience with Title IX actions and thoroughly understand the college disciplinary process, which allows us to best represent clients facing sexual misconduct allegations.
Contact Our Nationwide Title IX Attorneys to Discuss Your Situation
It can be stressful and even terrifying when someone accuses you of sexual assault or harassment. You may be uncertain your school’s policies for disciplinary hearings and of your future. You shouldn’t hesitate to contact Duffy Law to learn about your options. Our highly experienced Title IX lawyers believe in every student’s rights to be free from sex discrimination. If you would like to discuss your particular case, please call us at 203-946-2000 or contact us online to schedule your case evaluation today.