Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972 has an admirable goal: It seeks to end sexual discrimination at institutes of learning. To that end, Title IX requires universities and colleges to investigate and take remedial action whenever one student accuses another of sexual harassment or assault.
Unfortunately, Title IX hearings are very different from hearings in a court of law. For students who stand accused of harassment, assault or rape, those differences have long been very troublesome. However, changes have finally arrived that can help level make the process fairer.
What happens in a Title IX hearing, and why have they been so problematic?
Each school has its own process for Title IX hearings. Generally, a panel of trustees, board members or faculty will hear the allegations, listen to any evidence, ask questions and then determine whether or not the student violated the school’s code of conduct.
In the past, the lack of transparency surrounding the rules of the hearing and the processes afterward made it hard for an accused student to adequately plan their own defense. In many instances, they were also denied representation and unable to even proffer rebuttal evidence that might speak to their innocence.
New rules (which are still being challenged in court) recently went into place that civil rights organizations have said were long overdue. Now, Title IX hearings will be handled much more like a judicial hearing in that:
- The accused student will be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Prior to this point, accused students could be burdened with trying to “prove a negative,” or that they weren’t responsible for whatever happened.
- Both the accuser and the accused will now have a right to submit and review evidence that speaks to the allegations.
- Both parties may have representation of their choice at a hearing, and the accused’s representative will be able to ask the accuser questions.
Could you be kicked out of college after a Title IX hearing?
You could. If the school determines that you violated its code of conduct, you can be suspended or outright expelled, among other consequences — although the new rules mean that you can’t be kicked out of school without a fair chance at a defense. When your future is on the line, don’t hesitate to reach out for experienced legal guidance.