Title IX is part of the federal Civil Rights Act that that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program receiving federal funding. Title IX applies to all education programs that receive federal funds, including elementary and secondary schools and colleges and universities throughout North Carolina. With increasing frequency, Title IX is being used to investigate and punish sexual assault and rape through school disciplinary processes rather than the criminal courts. Whether you are under investigation by your educational institution or you are a victim of campus-related sexual assault or rape, a qualified lawyer can help you understand and protect your rights under Title IX.
Is a Title IX investigation serious enough that I need a lawyer?
Absolutely. Whether you are an accused individual or the victim of campus-related sexual assault or rape, the process and outcome of a Title IX investigation can stay with you for the rest of your life. Often, the process that many schools follow lacks the procedural safeguards that protect accused individuals and victims in criminal court. If you are a victim the school might not investigate your claim properly, give you adequate protection, or assure that your education is not detrimentally affected. If you are an accused individual, you could be hamstrung from investigating your own evidence and witnesses, or called into a hearing where you do not have a fair opportunity to present your case. You could also be tricked into giving incriminating statements the school could use to find you responsible in their internal process, or that could be reported to law enforcement and lead to criminal charges against you. Whether you are a victim whose education is disrupted or an accused student who is unfairly targeted and swept up in a Title IX investigation, your education record may be tarnished forever by the consequences. When mishandled this process and the results can have unfair impact on applications for jobs, internships, higher education, professional licenses, etc.
What happens if a Title IX investigation goes against me?
If you are a victim of campus-related sexual assault or rape, in addition to the physical and emotional trauma you sustain, there could be disruption of your education from your abuser being present or interfering with your activities. There could also be educational consequences like incomplete grades or low grades that are uncharacteristic for you and directly related to the trauma you sustained. You might have expenses for medical care, counseling, or other professional support. These things can burden you indefinitely, if not forever.
If you are an accused student, you could be suspended or expelled from school if you are found responsible, with a permanent notation on your education record that can never be removed. You might be exposed to harassment by your accuser, friends of your accuser, or others during and after the investigation. You could permanently lose opportunities for scholarships, internships, jobs, and extracurricular activities. Also, unlike most other campus disciplinary issues, Title IX covers matters that are also infamous crimes. Anybody who investigates your background in the future could uncover the record of this, and having a cloud of sexual assault or rape hanging over you is no small matter. In the worst case scenario, you could be charged criminally as a result of abuses of your rights and trust by school officials who collect incriminating evidence and statements from you.
What can a lawyer do in a Title IX investigation?
Whether you are an accused individual or victim, your rights under Title IX and the investigation process can be frightening and confusing. A lawyer can help you understand what is going on and advocate for you with school officials so none of your rights are left by the wayside. Sometimes, just having a lawyer announce themselves to school officials will give them incentive to be more careful about your case. A lawyer can also help investigate evidence and witnesses, negotiate the process with school officials to protect you from harassment, provide professional representation and advocacy for your side, and lay the groundwork for legal action if the procedure or end result is unfair and violates your constitutional or statutory rights.
If you are a victim of campus-related sexual assault or rape, or if you are the accused target of a Title IX investigation for sexual assault or rape, you should consult with a lawyer immediately to consider your options and take the right steps to urgently protect your rights.