Accused… Now What?


Three Things to Do When You’ve Been Accused of a Title IX Violation –

It’s easy to be caught off guard when you receive notice that you have been accused of a Title IX violation. You may wonder how your behavior came off as offensive, or you will vehemently dispute what your accuser has said. You may deny all accusations. But you have to act immediately.

Title IX encompasses a variety of serious offenses, ranging from stalking to sexual harassment. Anyone accused of such offenses faces serious consequences, including the academic “death sentence”: expulsion.

If you are accused of a Title IX violation, take these three initial steps to prepare for what comes next.

1. Seek Help from an Attorney

Understanding your Title IX rights can be confusing, and an attorney can help you navigate the process and protect your rights. Title IX unambiguously grants you the right to legal counsel, and a school cannot forbid you from consulting with counsel.

Remember that campus “judiciaries” do not handle Title IX claims like a civil or criminal court. An investigation will include witnesses and evidence, but there are no established rules of evidence that the campus “judiciary” must follow. The burden of proof may be considerably lower than what would be accepted in a criminal court. If there are serious charges of sexual assault or rape, however, you may simultaneously face criminal investigation and prosecution.

Hiring an experienced Title IX attorney will help you understand the rights you have, craft a consistent and accurate statement, identify witnesses and evidence, and navigate the investigation.

This can be priceless, since your education and future earnings will suffer if you have an inadequate defense.

2. Review your School’s Policies

Find out exactly what you are being accused of. Your school is required to provide you the precise charges, but it may not. Ask for a specific violation and what the accusing party alleges took place, when, where, and who was present.

The U.S. Department of Education requires every college and university to establish guidelines for resolving Title IX complaints, but the law does not mandate specific requirements. Each school has its own process and rules for resolving Title IX complaints.

Review your school’s student handbook or other resources to better understand the policies regarding this matter. Sometimes they contradict each other. You also need to know what the school considers a Title IX violation, what disciplinary actions the school will take, and what procedures it will follow. You can then recognize when the school is not following its own policies and violating your rights.

3. Find Out Your Student Rights

Your school may have a “Student Bill of Rights.” You may have additional rights under state and federal laws.

Only if you are at a state school do you have constitutional rights to due process. Due process rights mean that you must have notice of the charges made against you, the right to know the evidence against you, the ability to present evidence of your own, and a chance to tell your side of the story to an unbiased decision maker.

Due process does not guarantee that the decision will be the right one, however.

Private schools can be more restrictive, and the Constitution does not require them to grant you due process rights. But you will still have rights. In most states, the school’s policies and procedures form a biding contract upon your payment of tuition. The school is obligated to follow its own policies just as a contract obligates anyone to follow its term.