March 6, 2024

A Title IX investigation and/or disciplinary proceeding can have severe and irreversible consequences for the life and livelihood of a student, professor and administrator at a college or university. Many such people facing Title IX proceedings may have little understanding of the procedures involved and the potential lasting impact of a negative outcome in such a proceeding. As a result, many of these same people fail to take important steps to properly defend themselves against Title IX charges, including working with an experienced Title IX defense attorney. 

What Is Title IX? 

Title IX is a federal civil rights law originally enacted in the early 1970s that people commonly associate with the obligation of educational institutions to provide equity in sporting activities on the basis of sex. Although that is a well-known aspect of the law, Title IX additionally has, over the years, applied to the actions of private individuals attending educational institutions, creating massive legal and reputational risks for accused students, faculty, and administrators accused of misconduct in disciplinary proceedings. 

Indeed, academic institutions are required to pursue disciplinary proceedings when certain allegations are made, such as those relating to sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, gender discrimination, and domestic violence. In more recent years, the concept of what qualifies as “harassment” has expanded to include what some might describe as otherwise protected speech asserting perspectives regarding sexuality and gender not targeted at any individuals, and this expansion of the concept of sanctionable “harassment” may continue pursuant to new rule changes proposed by the federal government in 2022. 

Thus, it is possible that a student, professor, or administrator can face Title IX disciplinary proceedings not only for alleged actions such as domestic violence and sexual encounters with others on campus, but also for stating viewpoints on gender and sexuality that offend another person on campus. 

The Importance of Defending Against a Title IX Accusation

Unlike typical criminal investigations, Title IX proceedings often are pursued by academic institution employees rather than law enforcement, and those facing discipline may not necessarily be provided the same due process and other civil rights protections required in criminal investigations. For example, a student or administrator may not be provided with a defense attorney or advised to seek out legal counsel to assist in responding to the proceedings. 

However, the negative consequences of a Title IX proceeding on an individual’s life might be even greater than those found in a criminal or civil matter in a government courtroom. Where a misdemeanor criminal conviction might result in a fine or even a very limited jail sentence, a Title IX proceeding can result in expulsion from the school as a student, which can in turn lead to a loss of expensive fees and tuition, inability to enroll at another institution, and a disciplinary record that can affect future schooling or employment. For a professor, a disciplinary proceeding might mean a loss of tenure and/or employment and inability to ever work again in a field that the person might have spent well over a decade working towards. A finding of misconduct in a Title IX proceeding can also provide a basis for a civil lawsuit by alleged victims or even a criminal prosecution. 

Although it is the case that a college or university cannot sentence a person to jail in the same way a criminal court can, again the consequences in a Title IX proceeding might be far worse than a limited jail term. It can be difficult to quantify the lost earnings, reputational cost, and general emotional damage of a Title IX proceeding where an accused loses his or her standing and/or career in an educational institution and/or field. 

What Steps Should I Take To Defend Against Title IX Charges?

Based on the significant consequences that can happen as a result of a Title IX proceeding, it is highly recommended that any person facing a Title IX investigation or disciplinary proceeding take all reasonable steps to defend themselves in said proceeding, including working with experienced Title IX defense counsel. While engaging with an attorney to address the challenge of a Title IX disciplinary investigation or other proceedings may initially feel unnecessary or even an admission of guilt, understanding the severe implications of an adverse outcome in such a proceeding makes clear that doing everything possible to address these potential consequences – including asserting your lawful right to independent legal counsel – often far outweighs the initial concerns involved with reaching out for legal assistance.

A Title IX defense attorney can help in the following ways, among others:

  • Helping to understand the breadth and strength of evidence presented against you, which can include private investigatory efforts regarding the allegations against you
  • Working with you to provide a counter-narrative of the events in question, including collecting and presenting additional facts, questioning the sufficiency and accuracy of evidence presented against you, and developing legal arguments regarding the application of the facts to the school’s powers under Title IX
  • Formulating a legal strategy for achieving the best possible outcome in the proceeding, including determining whether and how to work with school officials towards mitigated consequences, or, alternatively presenting a comprehensive defense to the charges at a disciplinary proceeding and/or on appeal
  • Advocating for you in interviews with investigators and at hearings before school officials
  • Protecting your due process rights throughout the investigation and/or disciplinary proceeding
  • Assisting and representation in appeals efforts. 

Contact a Title IX Defense Attorney Today

If you are a professor or staff member who is facing or potentially facing the prospect of a Title IX disciplinary proceeding based on allegations of misconduct, it is important to take decisive action to protect your interests. 

The attorneys of Zweiback, Fiset & Zalduendo understand the stress, anxiety, and fear that comes with a Title IX disciplinary proceeding – or even the threat of such a hearing – and we provide zealous counsel and representation to help our clients avoid negative outcomes and move on with their lives. Contact our office to speak with an experienced Title IX defense attorney regarding your situation today.

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