Alabama Title IX Defense Law Firm
Sexual assault is a serious concern on college campuses in Alabama and throughout the nation. Statistics show that an average of one in five women, and one in 16 men, will be sexually assaulted while in college. These numbers are very concerning, and in response, individual university institutions, which are under pressure from the federal government, have begun to crack down on sexual assault allegations. Further, pursuant to Title IX, colleges and universities are investigating and prosecuting sexual assault allegations independently of any criminal charges.
Title IX Defined
If you have been accused of an act of sexual assault on a college campus, it is important that you understand Title IX, what actions may be taken against you, and your rights. You should contact an experienced Alabama Title IX defense attorney as soon as possible to help you defend yourself against allegations and protect your future.
What Is Title IX and How Does It Relate to College Sexual Assault?
Title IX is a federal law that was enacted in 1972. The law, also referred to as the Education Amendment of 1972, reads that:
“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.”
In other words, Title IX is a law that prevents sexual discrimination, and applies to those schools that are receiving federal funding (i.e. private universities that do not receive federal funds are not subjected to the provisions of Title IX).
The language in Title IX is quite broad, and over the years, the statute has been broadened further to include sexual harassment and assault. Indeed, a victim of sexual assault could perceive a college environment as hostile if they were harassed or were the victim of sexual violence. As a result, they may feel the need to leave school or have trouble attending class, which could impair their access to educational benefits. In order to ensure that universities and colleges are able to continue receiving federal funds and are not accused of violating the provisions of Title IX, schools are required to respond to any allegations of sexual assault.
Despite the fact that the Dear Colleague letter that was issued in 2011 was recently redrawn, the letter prevented schools from relying on criminal investigations to resolve complaints brought forth under Title IX, and encouraged schools to adopt a minimum standard of proof (preponderance of the evidence) in determining guilt. There is no doubt that those accused of Title IX violations may still face an unfair process.
In 2011, the Obama Administration published guidelines that directed colleges and universities to hire a Title IX Coordinator to administer investigations and provide a grievance process that both sides could use to present evidence and allow witnesses to testify. Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the 2011 guidance was the requirement that schools apply a lower burden of proof – “preponderance of evidence” – to Title IX investigations. In other words, in a school investigation, the accused is subject to punishment if it is “more likely than not” that the allegations are true, rather than the criminal standard of “beyond reasonable doubt.”
What Has Changed Under the New Interim Title IX Guidelines?
In reversing the previous guidelines, Secretary of Education Betsy Devos cited concerns that students accused of sexual misconduct may be denied due process, and that these guidelines were implemented without a “notice and comment” period in which interested parties would have been given the opportunity to express their thoughts and opinions. The new interim guidelines provide schools more flexibility in how they handle Title IX investigations with the goal of a more fair and equitable process for both sides.
Under the new interim guidelines, schools have the option to implement a higher standard of proof in Title IX cases. They can now apply either the previously recommended “preponderance of evidence” standard, or a “clear and convincing evidence” standard. The standard applied is left to the discretion of each school, but schools are now invited (and almost encouraged) to apply the higher “clear and convincing evidence” standard during the investigation of Title IX cases.
Other important changes under the interim Title IX guidelines include:
- Investigations are to be administered by someone who has no clear biases or conflicts of interest;
- Informal dispute resolutions such as mediation are now permitted if voluntarily agreed to by all parties;
- Schools now have the option not to allow an appeals process, or to allow only the responding party to appeal.
Sexual Assault, Title IX, and Defending Yourself
A university violates the requirements of Title IX when it fails to investigate claims of sexual assault. Types of sexual acts that an education institution is obligated to investigate include:
- Sexual violence;
- Stalking and sexual harassment; and
- Other instances of sexual misconduct that occur between students.
A person who is accused of any of the above may face criminal charges and may face consequences from a university. Even if a person has criminal charges against them dropped, or if they are not convicted of criminal charges, because sexual assault perpetrates inequality and discrimination, a school will still open an independent investigation into the allegations. If you are found guilty of sexual assault on campus, even if you are not charged or convicted criminally, you may expelled or face other academic consequences.
Unfortunately, the school disciplinary process isn’t always fair to students. In fact, rights traditionally provided in the criminal process (such as the right to not testify against oneself, right to legal representation, etc.) are not guaranteed; a student may not be able to question those who have accused them or testified against them, the burden of proof is lower (preponderance of the evidence vs. reasonable doubt), and a student may not have any right to appeal.
Why You Should Contact an Attorney if You Are a Student Accused of Sexual Assault
If you are a student who has been accused of any sex crime on campus, you may face serious repercussions, including suspension or expulsion. This could have a major effect on your future, preventing you from transferring to or join another educational institution, meaning that you may be unable to obtain a degree, and potentially unable to obtain professional work in the future. An allegation of sexual assault can change the course of your life, and forever impair your future.
If you have been accused of sexual assault or another sex crime, the last thing that you should think about is attempting to represent yourself. Even if criminal charges against you are dropped, you should not assume that the educational institution’s disciplinary process will go as well. Educational establishments are under a lot of pressure to investigate claims of sexual assault and take action to ensure that Title IX laws are not being breached. An attorney can help you to understand your rights and options and represent you during every step of the process to ensure that the best outcome for your case possible is secured.
Contact the Law Offices of Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce & Thompson, LLP Today
At the law offices of Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce & Thompson, LLP, we strongly believe in the provisions of Title IX, and are in agreement that sexual assault should always be investigated and treated seriously. However, we do not agree with biased school judicial processes that unfairly criminalize and penalize young defendants who are hardly given a chance to understand the evidence against them or defend themselves against charges. We will work tirelessly to protect your rights.
If you have been accused of a sex crime on campus, you need to take action today to start building your case. Our attorneys have decades of experience in the Alabama legal system, and are ready to advocate for you. Please contact the law offices of Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce & Thompson, LLP, today for an initial consultation and the legal guidance you need. Reach our law firm today online, or by calling 334-821-3892 today.
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