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Articles by Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyer Carolyn Agin Schmidt

Title IX is a 1972 federal civil rights law that requires any educational institution that receives federal funding to ensure students do not suffer discrimination, harassment, or sexual violence based on gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Most notably, this law provided equal opportunities for women in sports and academics. But recently, with increased attention on campus sexual assaults and discrimination against LGBT and transgender students, colleges and universities are taking the role as defender of student rights under Title IX. Here are nine things you should know about Title IX.

  1. Title IX is not just about sports. In addition to addressing sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination, and sexual violence, Title IX also addresses discrimination against pregnant and parenting students and women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs.

  2. Title IX does not apply to female students only. Title IX protects any person from sex-based discrimination, regardless of their real or perceived sex, gender identity, and gender expression.

  3. Colleges/Universities must be proactive to ensure that their campuses are free of sex discrimination. Schools must take immediate steps to address any sex discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual violence on campus to prevent it from affecting other students. If schools have knowledge of discrimination, harassment or violence that is creating a “hostile environment” for anyone, they must act to eliminate it. Schools may not discourage those affected from continuing their education or suggesting students to “take time off” or forcing them to quit a team, club or class.

  4. Colleges/Universities must have an established procedure for handling complaints of sex discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual violence. Schools are required to have a Title IX Coordinator who manages such complaints. This person’s contact information should be readily available. If a complaint is filed, the school must investigate the claim regardless of whether a report was made to the local authorities. Schools should conclude their own investigations within a semester’s time and not delay its own investigation if criminal proceedings are taking place. The final decision of a school’s investigation should be provided in writing to the victim and the accused, and both parties have the right to appeal the decision.

  5. Colleges/Universities must take immediate action to ensure the accuser and accused continue their education free of ongoing harassment. Along with issuing a no contact directive to the accused, a school must ensure that reasonable accommodations be made to housing, class, sports, or extracurricular activities to ensure the complainant can continue their education free from ongoing sex discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual violence. Such arrangements can occur before a formal complaint, investigation, hearing or final decision is made. It can also continue after the entire process.

  6. Schools can issue a no contact directive under Title IX to prevent the abusers from interacting with the victims. Such directives should be enforced by local campus police. This is not a court-issued restraining order, but a school should help facilitate this process if the victim elects to pursue it.

  7. Schools may not retaliate against someone for filing a complaint and must keep a victim safe from retaliatory harassment or behavior. As part of this obligation, schools may not take adverse action against the complainant-victim for their complaint. Any retaliation should be reported to the U.S. Department of Education since everyone has a right to an education free from a hostile environment.

  8. Mediation is prohibited in sexual violence cases. Schools are prohibited from encouraging or allowing mediation between an accused student and the victim in sexual violence cases. However, schools may offer alternative process’ for other types of complaints, such as sexual harassment.

  9. Colleges should not make the victim pay the costs of special accommodations. If counseling, tutoring, changes to campus housing, or other remedies are needed for a victim to continue their education, the school should provide those at no cost. If the school fails to take prompt and effective steps to eliminate the violence and prevent its recurrence, the school may be required to reimburse lost tuition and related expenses.

 

Title IX cases are on the rise, and Title IX disciplinary hearings are becoming more commonplace on college campuses. Students are being expelled, losing scholarships and have a hard time getting into another college. Since each college/university operates under its own set of rules, it behooves anyone involved in a Title IX case to have an experienced attorney on their side.

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