Title IX Investigations

Nearly all public and private elementary and secondary schools, school districts, colleges, and universities that receive Federal funds must comply with Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, a Federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities. Actions such as sexual harassment, sexual violence, sexual coercion or any gender-based discrimination are considered discriminatory because they result in denying the victim equal access to educational benefits and opportunities.

According to nj.com reports of sexual assaults at colleges and universities have been on the rise with the number of reported rapes increasing 24 percent from 2015 to 2016. In New Jersey, the numbers are tracking upward as well. Princeton University’s Sexual Discrimination and Sexual Misconduct Discipline Report stated that in academic year 2017-2018, 33 sexual misconduct cases were adjudicated under the University’s Sex Discrimination and Sexual Misconduct Policy. For academic years 2016-2017, 2015-2016 and 2014-2015 the number of cases was 18, 15 and 25 respectively.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is pushing for an overhaul of the handling of sexual assault and harassment under Title IX. Her proposal will reduce liability for universities, tighten the definition of sexual harassment, allow schools to use a higher standard when evaluating claims and give new rights to the accused. Regardless of the final outcome, general counsel and Title IX coordinators will need to stay on top of this very complex issue in order to protect the rights of the victim, the accused and the institution.

Colleges and universities are responsible for addressing sexual misconduct as per Title IX. Despite the increase in sexual misconduct complaints throughout all educational levels however, some colleges and universities do not intend hire outside counsel for Title IX investigations. A recent study by APCO Worldwide surveyed 50 general counsel and 50 administrators at public and private educational institutions; only 14% said it is likely they will retain outside counsel to handle sexual assault allegations under Title IX.

Institutions that hire outside neutral professionals to investigate sexual assault and harassment allegations do so to eliminate any conflicts of interest and ensure that investigations, disciplinary hearings and mediations are thoroughly and expertly conducted.

The American College of Trial Lawyers recommends eight steps to conducting a sound investigation(1):

  1. Investigations and hearings should be conducted with due consideration for any appearance of confidentiality
  2. Sexual misconduct investigations and hearings should be conducted with due consideration for any appearance of partiality
  3. The subject of a sexual misconduct investigation should promptly be provided with the details of the allegations and advised of his/her right to consult legal counsel.
  4. The subject of a sexual misconduct investigation has the right to be advised and accompanied by legal counsel at all stages of the investigation.
  5. The parties to a sexual misconduct investigation should be permitted to conduct some form of cross-examination of witnesses
  6. The subject of a sexual misconduct investigation should be provided with access to all evidence at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner so that he/she can adequately respond to it.
  7. The standard of proof for “responsibility” should be clear and convincing evidence.
  8. Fact finders in sexual misconduct investigations and hearings should produce written findings of fact and conclusions sufficiently detailed to permit meaningful appellate review

Attorneys who prosecute criminal and civil cases are proficient in conducting investigations. They seek to uncover the truth by gathering all the facts, analyzing documentation and getting to know the key witnesses throughout the interview process.

Retired judges are highly skilled in handling disciplinary hearings and mediations. Educational institutions need experts schooled in due process to adjudicate hearings; no one understands the protections of constitutional guarantee of due process of law better than a judge.

Keefe Law Firm is uniquely qualified to conduct Title IX investigations, conduct hearings and mediate cases in a proficient and timely manner in matters such as:

  • Harassment
  • Assault
  • Rape
  • Coercion
  • Retaliation
  • Discrimination

For legal counsel regarding with a sexual misconduct matter Contact Us immediately.

View Our Resource on Combating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace