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Title IX FAQ

A Student Defense Attorney Answers Important Title IX Defense Questions

The looming specter of a Title IX investigation (and the hearing process) can be nerve-wracking for the accused student and their family that could be greatly mitigating with the help of an experienced student defense attorney. The accusation of sexual misconduct under Title IX could lead to significant penalties that include a lengthy period of academic suspension, expulsion from school and mandatory counseling on sexual misconduct, among various other punishments. Additionally, despite the fact that the actual content of the investigation and hearings is not a public matter, media speculation and negativity will undoubtedly lead to a negative social stigma for the student and family, even if the underlying allegations are proven to be false. Finally, accused students face the realization that they may need to report adverse findings on future school applications, background investigations, and job applications for the rest of their lives.

College Student meets with Student Defense Attorney

Before We Begin, Our Student Defense Attorney Encourages You to Stay Calm During the Title IX Investigation

It is important that you remain calm throughout the Title IX process.  Understandably, the prospect of a dispute is intimidating, if not downright frightening.  There is reason to be optimistic, however, so long as you can obtain qualified assistance.  Though there are many frustrations and challenges that you are likely to encounter along the way, it is possible to successfully navigate the dispute with the aid of a skilled student defense attorney who understands the in-and-outs of Title IX investigations and hearings. Even if the school gets it wrong and finds against the accused student, it may be possible to challenge the result in court.

Students and families may feel somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of information that exists regarding Title IX, which is often made somewhat murkier by the political controversies surrounding the law and its implementation.  However, we aim to simplify and clarify things through some basic Q&As below. Additionally, we encourage you to schedule a confidential consultation with a student defense attorney at our firm as early in the process as possible to help relieve your concerns. 

Why Hire a Student Defense Lawyer

Perhaps the most common question is why hire a student defense lawyer at all. Though parents may believe that a school will protect their child’s best interest, out attorneys find that is not often the case. 

Title IX proceedings can vary from school-to-school, as each school implements its own procedures and requirements.  In some universities, for example, the accused student is not entitled to cross-examine the student-accuser.  They may also not be entitled to attorney representation in a hearing — if they are granted a hearing at all.

Despite these structural limitations, however, there are good reasons to consult with and retain a skilled student defense lawyer for your Title IX proceeding.  

Attorneys Can Challenge Administrative Injustice

As noted above, the administrative adjudication process for Title IX disputes can be rather frustrating.  Not only are the procedures “rigged” to disadvantage the accused student, but the standard for guilt is also significantly lower than a criminal proceeding.  Title IX disputes are based on a “preponderance of evidence” standard, which requires just 51 percent likelihood of guilt (i.e., more likely than not).

Given these barriers, accused students must take care not to lose ground on certain procedural protections, too.  For example, if the school limits admissible evidence, then a student defense lawyer can help you push against this limitation and ensure that the student is able to introduce a more comprehensive body of evidence, which could counter the accuser’s claims.

The attorney can help in numerous other ways, too — negotiating with administrators, taking a strict view towards notice requirements, and more.  Taking an aggressive stand will ensure that the students rights are preserved to the degree possible in a Title IX proceeding.

Statements Can Be Used Against You in Subsequent Civil and Criminal Proceedings

It’s important to note that any statements you make over the course of a Title IX investigation and proceeding — such as an admission of guilt — can be used against you in subsequent civil and criminal litigation (if the case develops further).  Thus, what appears to be a more informal, casual process (i.e., the Title IX process) can have significant ramifications for you in formal state or federal proceedings.

In many situations, it’s not entirely clear what statements could undermine you in a later proceeding, and so it’s critical that you have a qualified attorney guiding you through.  A student defenses attorney from our firm will “coach” the student on what statements can — and cannot — be made over the course of the Title IX process, thus minimizing potential liability at a later date.

Common Title IX Questions

What exactly is Title IX?

Title IX was established in 1972 as an anti-discrimination regulation.  It states that no person in the United States shall — on the basis of sex — be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.  Over the decades, enforcement of Title IX was expanded to cover sexual misconduct (which was seen as relevant to the Act in the sense that it could be interpreted as discriminatory and exclusionary behavior), and schools subject to Title IX were also required to actively investigate and process allegations.

Title IX might initially seem applicable only to public schools (i.e., public high schools, state universities, etc.), but in reality, most private schools receive federal financial assistance, even if it only constitutes a minimal portion of total funding.  As such, it is more likely than not that your school is covered by Title IX protections.

What rights can a student defense attorney ensure that I am granted throughout the Title IX process?

It is important to understand that a Title IX investigation/hearing is not like a formal civil or criminal process, in that schools are not entitled to give you a right to confront the opposing party, for example, or various other protections.

Still, schools must ensure that the Title IX process is prompt, impartial, and equal, and that you have access to an “advisor” who can be present and provide guidance at every stage of the investigation and hearing process.  For example, if the complainant is given the right to introduce witness testimony, then fundamental fairness dictates that you must be given the right to cross-examine that witness.  Your Title IX defense attorney will represent your interests aggressively in this aspect, as schools are quick to disregard the rights of the accused in Title IX cases.

Is there any way to ensure that the accusations (and all the associated institutional controversy) do not go public?

Unfortunately, your ability to impose limitations on disclosure apply only to the school and their agents.  The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act prohibits the school and its administrators, employees and other agents from disclosing any information about the case to the public.

The complainant-accuser, on the other hand, may freely choose whether to discuss their case with the public. This could involve law enforcement communications or speaking to media outlets about the underlying allegations. It is worth noting, however, that the complainant is not entitled to speak about the content of the investigation/hearings themselves, as that is still confidential information.

Don’t be alarmed.  Perhaps the best way to manage publicity is to be proactive in minimizing the damage caused by a “trigger-happy” Title IX complainant who is looking to garner public support for their sexual misconduct accusation.  An experienced student defense attorney understands how to serve as a professional representative in this regard and knows how to minimize the harm caused by public exposure.

Does the complainant need to prove that I engaged in sexual misconduct “beyond a reasonable doubt?”

No, the applicable standard in a Title IX case is not “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is a stringent standard used in criminal prosecutions.  Instead, Title IX cases are subject to a significantly less strict “preponderance of the evidence” standard of proof, which makes it easier for the complainant to succeed in the dispute.

The preponderance of the evidence standard requires only that the complainant prove that their allegations are more likely true than false.  If the Title IX tribunal/panel determines that the complainant’s allegations are more than 50 percent likely to be true, then the complainant will “win” and you will be subject to sanctions.

Can I appeal the decision reached by the school over the course of the Title IX process?

It depends.  Schools can adopt various Title IX procedures, and not all schools necessarily grant a right to appeal.  If you are given such rights, you may request it in accordance with the procedures imposed by the school. Your student defense lawyer can help you in this regard.

Importantly, if a school gives the complainant a right of appeal, then you must also be granted that same right.  Appeals can have both favorable and unfavorable consequences, depending on the outcome of the initial case.  If you have received a positive result — in other words, if you’re found not guilty of sexual misconduct — the complainant can further extend the length of the situation by appealing the decision and potentially committing you to additional investigation and hearings.  On the other hand, if you have received a negative result, then you should have the opportunity to correct the error before a formal punishment is handed out.

If the appeal process still does not work, there is often another option: pursuing your rights in a lawsuit. Binnall Law Group has filed a number of lawsuits, usually in federal court, on behalf of accused students across America. Often times schools do not know or understand their duties to be fair and impartial under Title IX and the United States Constitution. But federal and state judges usually do understand these rights. When schools violate our client’s rights, a student defense attorney from our firm will not hesitate to take them right into a courtroom and show them what due process is all about.

Contact Binnall Law Group for Title IX Defense Assistance from a Skilled Student Defense Attorney

Here at Binnall Law Group, our attorneys have decades of combined experience working with a variety of clients in both civil and criminal proceedings, including Title IX student defendants who are facing allegations of sexual misconduct.

Our student defense attorneys understand the high-stakes nature of such litigation and how important it is for the future of a child (socially, psychologically, and academically) that their record be free of the stain of a false accusation.  As such, we invest significant resources into closely guiding our clients through the Title IX investigation and hearing process, helping them secure a favorable result despite the administrative and procedural disadvantages at play.

Ready to speak to an experienced student defense attorney at our firm?  Call us at 703-888-1943 or complete an intake form online to request a consultation today.