What to Expect in a Title Nine Investigation

What to Expect in a Title Nine Investigation

What to Expect in a Title Nine Investigation

In previous blogs, we’ve explained Title IX and explored the laws surrounding Title IX retaliations. However, if you’ve been accused of wrongdoing relating to Title IX, you’re probably more eager to understand what a Title IX investigation will involve.

In this blog, we’ll explain what happens in Title IX investigations – and how they can differ between institutions. We’ll also look at the basic rights of the accused and why it’s important to have an experienced Title IX attorney on your side if you’ve been accused of sex discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, sexual assault, or any other offense covered by these laws.

If you’re facing an accusation – whether you’re a college student or an employee of a facility receiving federal funding – it can be an extremely distressing time. Talking to an attorney-advisor to understand your rights can be a big help – so don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call us for a free consultation at 212-951-1232.

What are the basic rights of the accused?

Ultimately, an accused party should be treated fairly throughout any investigation of an alleged Title IX violation.

As you almost certainly know, the Title IX process attracts a lot of attention from the media. As such, schools are keen to conduct prompt investigations into the alleged incident. According to the law, the Title IX investigative process must be carried out in a timely fashion, be adequate in scope, be reliable, and be impartial. However, since these factors are hard to define, violations of these concepts do occur.

Violations of these principles would not be allowed to stand in formal civil or criminal proceedings. However, the nature of Title IX can lead to a flawed investigation process, where little fairness is shown, and partiality can occur.

It’s because of this tendency towards partiality that you should seek legal representation. The law does not favor either the accused or the alleged victim – instead, the law is in place to see that all parties are treated fairly. An attorney-advisor will help to make sure the law is applied correctly.

Will there always be a hearing and right to appeal?

Title IX investigations usually involve the following steps:

  1. Notifications sent to all involved parties
  2. Facts and evidence gathered
  3. Review and analysis of facts
  4. A decision as to whether a Title IX violation has occurred
  5. Preparation of a final investigation report
  6. Notification of outcome to all parties involved

You’ll notice that there’s no ‘hearing’ or ‘appeal’ stage mentioned here. This is because schools can differ significantly in how they investigate Title IX complaints. While some schools will allow hearings and appeals, others do not.

These differing processes underline another important reason to consult a Title IX lawyer. Quite simply, a fair outcome cannot come from an unfair investigation. Your attorney-advisor will help you understand whether the Title IX investigation is being carried out fairly or whether your rights are being violated.

There are a number of ways in which your rights may be violated. For instance, your attorney may feel that you have not been subject to an impartial investigation, that the process has taken too long, or that the proper process has not been followed.

If any violation of your rights is suspected, then – regardless of the outcome of the school’s Title IX investigation – your attorney may decide to move the fight into the court system. The school could be sued for failing to uphold your rights in line with Title IX laws, The United States Constitution, or other legal precedents.

What are the steps involved in a Title IX investigation?

We can take a more detailed look at the steps involved with a Title IX investigation here.

These steps will usually be carried out by a school’s Title IX coordinator. All facilities receiving federal funding must have a Title IX officer and Title IX office – this is required according to federal law. This person will communicate with both the complainant and the person who has been accused – and often also with local law enforcement.

1. Notifications

If an accusation is made, the school has a duty to investigate it and should never dismiss it out of hand or pass it off to someone else. This accusation will then be formalized, and the people involved will be notified, usually by letter.

2. Evidence gathering

After notifying the parties involved, the school’s Title IX personnel will begin to collect evidence. This may involve assessing their own security measures (such as CCTV), working with law enforcement, and/or speaking to witnesses.

3. Analysis of facts

When the Title IX investigator has collected what they feel to be enough evidence, they will begin an analysis.

Unlike criminal law, they are not looking for evidence that proves or disproves the case “beyond reasonable doubt”; instead they have a different evidence standard. In Title IX investigations, schools look for a “preponderance of the evidence”, which means there’s it’s more likely than not that the person accused carried out the alleged act.

4. Decision

Ordinarily, the sole Title IX coordinator (sometimes known as a Title IX specialist) will make the final decision about the case based on the evidence.

Despite this being commonplace, it has been criticized by the Department of Education and is prohibited by many courts and legal bodies. Ultimately though, this is still how some institutions decide to act.

5. Final report

The Title IX officer will produce a final report justifying their decision and circulate this to the people involved and any wider-school disciplinary professionals.

6. Final notifications

Final notifications are drawn up that explain the action that will be taken as a result of the formal complaint and subsequent decisions that are made.

Often, this final notification will explain that there is no appeal process.

Are you allowed an attorney to represent you throughout a Title IX investigation or hearing?

In civil or criminal proceedings, an attorney is allowed to represent you. However, depending on how your school interprets Title IX laws, you may or may not be allowed legal representation in this traditional sense. Some schools say an attorney cannot directly represent you or talk on your behalf

However, you can always seek legal advice. If you are not allowed an attorney to speak on your behalf, then your attorney will accompany you in an ‘advisor’ capacity – providing guidance on issues and processes as the formal investigation plays out.

Don’t be deterred from seeking legal counsel. Having a lawyer on your side is no admission of guilt – instead, it’s your way of making sure the law is applied correctly.

Speak to an attorney today

Sexual misconduct and acts carried out because of prejudice are extremely hot topics in the media. As a result, schools will try to be seen as responsive if allegations arise. Unfortunately though, the pressure of dealing with a case and bringing it to a swift resolution can sometimes be too much for the staff team – meaning corners and cut, due process isn’t seen through, and a person’s assumption of innocence is often not upheld.

We can be there with you if you’re facing a Title IX investigation. We will do our utmost to make sure the process is fair and that you’re protected. We can also help you to decide if any investigation process carried out has been unconstitutional or in breach of your student’s rights, in which case, we may even be able to talk to you about taking legal action against your school or college.

Being subject to a Title IX investigation can be upsetting and lonely – but it doesn’t have to be. Talk to us today about having the right legal team in your corner – 212-951-1232.