What Are My Title IX Rights?
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. The original purpose of Title IX was to open opportunities for women to be involved in collegiate athletics and to receive athletic scholarships.
In the 70s and 80s, federal court cases began to determine that sexual harassment was a form of discrimination on the basis of sex under Title VII employment protections and Title IX was expanded to protect students against sexual harassment. Sexual harassment was later determined to include sexual assault.
Title IX was changed for the first time in 2020 by Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education under the Trump Administration. The changes have sparked major debates in the way Title IX works for and against survivors. It is a confusing and complicated document that makes it difficult for survivors to know their rights.
Under Title IX, both the complainant and respondent have a right to:
Have an advisor of choice present during the process (which may include an attorney if permitted by the school)
Present evidence or have witnesses speak on their behalf
Have timely access to information that will be used at the hearing(s)
Be present at pre-hearing meetings that provide an opportunity to present their testimony
Receive the final hearing decision in writing at the same time as the other party without being required to sign a non-disclosure agreement
Have a right to appeal the decision
Colleges must ensure that someone who experiences sexual violence or sex-based discrimination has access to support services and take actions to prevent further violence, harassment or assault. They can issue no-contact orders to the accused and make reasonable changes to class schedules, living arrangements, and/or extracurricular involvement of the survivor. The school - not the complaining student - is also responsible for the costs incurred for accommodations that are deemed necessary.
Institutions of higher learning such as colleges and universities are required to publish a nondiscrimination policy online and have it available in print across campus. Your school must have unbiased Title IX coordinators who complainants and respondents can report to. Schools must also adopt and publish a grievance procedure outlining Title IX procedures.
School employees must be trained to handle reports or witness of sexual harassment. Employees must be able to report their obligations under Title IX, students' options and confidentiality, and the students' right to file a Title IX complaint and criminal complaint.
The new Title IX rules have shifted the Title IX process to look more like a criminal trial, with the sharing of information mimicking the discovery process and the new rules requiring IN PERSON hearings. While the hearings can be structured so the complainant and respondent are not in the same room at the time of the hearing, it does require a cross examination. This can prove problematic when a survivor is being represented by a victim advocate they have disclosed to and the respondent is being represented by an attorney. The invasive and confrontational cross examination process is a large part of why many survivors do not report.
Informal resolution (IR) methods are popular amongst students who file formal Title IX complaints. These processes occur after the filing of a complaint but before the formal hearing process and are intended to provide a range of possible outcomes. Title IX coordinators determine whether or not IR is appropriate considering the allegations being made and will supervise the process. Parties are not required to be in the same room or confront one another during this process and any signed resolution reached is binding. Conditions may be proposed as part of the final IR agreement, such as an admission of responsibility, disciplinary/punitive sanctions, counseling, and involvement in educational programing.
Knowing where and how to report Title IX complaints and knowing your rights is important in fighting sexual assault on college campuses.