If you’re a college student in the United States, chances are you’ve probably heard something about Title IX. It’s a federal law that protects students on college campuses from sexual assault and sexual harassment.
Title IX is in place to protect students from discriminatory and harmful behavior by other students, staff, or any members of the college community. Filing a Title IX complaint with the administration is often the best course of action if you are assaulted or otherwise harmed on a college campus.
Even so, the Title IX disciplinary process can be difficult for all parties involved. Often, it can be a good idea for the complainant to secure legal representation, or at least contact an attorney experienced in Title IX cases for legal counsel.
From our team of Ohio criminal defense attorneys at Hiltner Trial Lawyers, here are 5 things you should keep in mind when filing a Title IX complaint.
What is Title IX?
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is the federal law that allows alleged victims of sexual harassment or assault to argue that their sexual assault or harassment violates their right to equal opportunity in education. The law reads:
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.
Since the 1970s, courts have interpreted this law as a protection against sexual harassment or assault. The argument goes that a culture of harassment, as well as a tendency on campus to disbelieve those who come forward about their experiences, create a hostile environment for many women, LGBTQ folks, and other survivors of sexual assault.
If your school receives any federal funding, they probably have a Title IX administrator, or at least someone who handles student claims of sexual assault or discrimination under Title IX. When you file a complaint under Title IX, your school will begin disciplinary proceedings to investigate your claims and potentially implement consequences for the respondent, or the person you are accusing in your complaint.
5 things to keep in mind
Filing a Title IX complaint might be the best course of action if you’ve been assaulted or otherwise harmed on campus, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be an easy or pleasant process.
Here are 5 things to be prepared for if you file a complaint under Title IX on your college campus.
- The respondent will likely find out who you are: Every college or university has different policies for pursuing Title IX complaints. But since the details of the accusations are usually so personal, it is likely that the person you’re accusing will be able to figure out who filed the complaint against them. This can open up the opportunity for retaliation, or at least a lack of privacy.
- There will probably be a confidentiality agreement: Again, details will differ by school, but most schools require confidentiality agreements to protect both parties’ reputations. This doesn’t mean you can’t talk to family or a therapist about your experience, but it does probably mean that you can’t talk to anyone on your campus about the proceedings.
- The investigators may be biased: Since these are disciplinary proceedings beholden only to your school’s policies and code of conduct, there are no legal standards that the investigators have to meet. If you are filing a complaint against a faculty member, or someone with influence in the community, there might be bias against you in the proceedings. Similarly, if you’re the accused in a Title IX case, you could face bias from the other side. Either party will probably be able to appeal the final decision, according to your school’s policies.
- University policies and federal guidelines are always changing: Title IX is a political battleground, and each new administration means there are new rules and guidelines for universities to adapt their policies to. It’s a good idea to read through your school’s policies for Title IX complaints and keep up to date to the year before filing a complaint.
- You should seek legal counsel: While most attorneys with experience in Title IX cases represent the accused, those attorneys can also provide vital counsel to people who are seeking to file a complaint. They can give you an idea of what the proceedings will be like, how to prepare your case, and what you need to do to protect your rights.
Contact a Title IX attorney in Ohio
At Hiltner Trial Lawyers, our number one priority is helping protect good people from the abuses of the legal system. So whether you’re the victim of a campus sexual assault hoping to file a Title IX claim, or you’re facing disciplinary charges at your school, we have the experience to help you through the process. Contact us to schedule a free consultation today.