Common Challenges of a Title IX Hearing
Nov. 15, 2022
Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 requires educational institutions – public schools, colleges, and universities that receive federal funds – to protect against discrimination based on sex.
Through the years, following guidance from the U.S. Department of Education and the Supreme Court, Title IX has become a system of disciplinary hearings at which a Complainant can accuse another, called the Respondent, of sexual misconduct. This often means that the two engaged in sexual activities, but the Complainant alleges the conduct was not consensual.
Unlike a trial, where a judge and jury would hear evidence and arguments from both sides and then come to a decision, a Title IX hearing is conducted by school officials who often have no background in the law. Also, the rules are a bit different.
Both Complainant and Respondent are allowed to have an advisor and a support person with them during the hearing, which means an attorney can be present, but the two in the situation will be answering all the questions. Therefore, preparation with the help of solid legal advice plays a large role in communicating your side of what happened at the hearing, where the stakes are high. The Respondent could end up being suspended or expelled from school.
If you find yourself facing a Title IX hearing in Santa Cruz, California, contact me immediately at the Law Offices of Andrew C. Janecki. I am a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney that will work with you to prepare your defensive strategy while keeping your best interests in mind. I can also be by your side throughout the hearing. I proudly serve clients in Palo Alto, San Jose, Berkeley, and San Francisco, California.
What Is a Title IX Hearing?
Suppose you and another student meet at a bar, have a couple of drinks, and head off to pursue the relationship at one or the other’s apartment. You believe that all activities were consensual, but the next day your partner files a Title IX sexual misconduct complaint against you.
In these cases, what is called a fact-finding hearing will be scheduled within 60 days, but the hearing administrator, or hearing panel in some cases, has the authority to hand out sanctions, which, as mentioned earlier, can include everything from probation or suspension to expulsion from school. You thought the two of you were engaged in consensual conduct, but here you are facing the prospect of being thrown out of school.
Challenges Ahead: Preparing for the Hearing
Before the actual hearing takes place, you, as the Respondent, along with the Complainant, will be summoned to a pre-hearing. The pre-hearing presents the perfect opportunity to ask questions to prepare yourself for the actual hearing. Different schools use different standards of proof. Some may rely on a “preponderance of the evidence” and others on “clear and convincing evidence,” which is a higher standard.
At the hearing itself, you will be allowed to deliver an opening statement, during which you can also present the hearing official or panel with any evidence you have, such as copies of text messages, social media statements, phone records, or the like. You will also be allowed to submit questions that you would like to be asked of the Complainant. You will also be allowed to call witnesses.
The same holds true for the Complainant, of course, so you need to be prepared to answer questions from the other side. You will also be allowed to give a closing statement and have an advisor and a support person with you.
This is where an experienced Title IX attorney can help significantly, not only during the hearing to help you focus and not do anything that could prove detrimental but coach you on how to handle questions and remain calm and composed.
Any decision reached by the hearing officials can be appealed, but each school or school system may have different policies on how to go about filing an appeal. If you do file an appeal, you can submit new evidence to support your defense, point out irregularities in how the hearing was run, or even argue that the hearing officer was biased. Your attorney will help you prepare your appeal.
Rely on Experienced Legal Counsel
I have been helping students and faculty prepare for and engage in Title IX hearings for many years, and I have the experience and knowledge to help you through your ordeal as well. Don’t take the prospect of a Title IX hearing lightly. Prepare carefully and get yourself up to speed on how to make opening and closing arguments and answer questions. As a criminal defense attorney, I can help immensely in these areas.
If you’re facing a Title IX hearing in or around Santa Cruz, California, contact me immediately at the Law Offices of Andrew C. Janecki. Let’s work together to come up with a solid plan to craft a defense that achieves the best possible outcome.