The Supreme Court has ruled that Title IX protects participants of all ages from sexual harassment, even in situations where a plaintiff would not receive any monetary damages. As such, all educational providers should evaluate their current policies and procedures to ensure they comply with Title IX. The evaluation process must be transparent and include a written determination for both parties. Additionally, both parties must be allowed to appeal the decision.
Under federal law, all higher education schools must investigate any reports of sexual harassment and assault, dating violence, domestic violence, or stalking that a student or employee brings to them.
This investigation is separate from a law enforcement investigation because the school examines whether a policy has been violated. In contrast, law enforcement determines if someone is facing allegations of a Title IX violation. Be sure the school investigates your complaint and reaches a decision before informing you of the outcome.
Ask for a written explanation of any deadlines your school missed and a summary of the opportunities you had to present evidence or review the information. If the school does not treat you fairly during the investigation process, consider filing a lawsuit under Title IX and other equal protection laws.
After both parties agree to proceed with the investigation, your school must gather evidence relating to the complaint. This includes documents, audio and video recordings, cell phone records, social media posts, and more. Once the investigation is complete, your school must give both parties and their advisors a copy of the report for at least ten days to examine it. They must also provide the investigator’s notes and any other materials they used during the investigation.
If a school decides to investigate the allegations, it must notify the respondent of the investigation and provide contact information for investigators. The notice must also include:
Both parties must receive advance written notice of any interviews or meetings, including the dates and times. They should be allowed to bring representatives with them if they choose.
Each party must be provided an equal opportunity to inspect and review the evidence collected by the investigators before it is presented to the decision-maker. In addition, both parties must be sent a copy of the final investigative report and proof for inspection ten days before the determination to permit them to submit a response.
If your school has a Title IX coordinator, bring them on board to help you ensure compliance with the final rule. This person cannot conduct investigations or make decisions about the outcome of cases – but they can help you prepare for a hearing and monitor complaints to prevent them from becoming systemic issues. During a live hearing, ensure your school follows the rules of evidence. This includes prohibiting questions and evidence that aren’t relevant to the case.
For example, the regulations state that questions and proof regarding the Complainant’s sexual history or propensity aren’t allowed. Also, let your school know if you think their policies aren’t easily accessible or if they don’t give the complainant and respondent equal opportunities to submit evidence. If you believe this has happened, a legal advocate or lawyer could help you file an OCR complaint.
Your school must tell students, faculty, staff, parents, and unions about its procedures for reporting a Title IX violation. It must also summarize these procedures and post them on its website. Schools must promptly – typically within 48 hours – contact the individual to request a meeting for supplemental information, explain the process for filing a formal complaint, and discuss reasonably available supportive measures (available with or without filing a formal complaint).
They must also demonstrate that a person has the right to report incidents of sexual violence to law enforcement on campus or off. Your school should make all evidence gathered as part of the investigation publicly available for inspection and review during a hearing. It must also give complainants and respondents equal opportunities to present evidence.