Title IX Accusations, Procedures, And Appeals - Darryl A. Stallworth Law Office - Experienced Title IX attorney in California

Ideally under the law, anyone accused of a crime is considered innocent until proven guilty under the full and due process of the law. Unfortunately, sexual misconduct cases in our school system, especially in colleges and universities, are handled differently.

Understandably, we want to keep our kids out of the criminal justice system. But the Title IX procedures used instead have their own flaws, which we will explore in this article, including:

  • Where the burden of proof falls in Title IX cases in California colleges and universities.
  • Why Title IX appeals rarely work for sexual misconduct cases.
  • The importance of an advising attorney for anyone accused of sexual misconduct under Title IX in California.

Does Sexual Misconduct Need To Be Proven Beyond A Reasonable Doubt In A Title IX Case?

In the criminal justice system, we often talk about the reasonable doubt standard. In criminal cases, the jury is instructed to determine if the prosecution has proven the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This means there is no room for a reasonable person, looking at the evidence, to be unsure if the crime happened.

Unfortunately, this does not apply to students “on trial” for sexual misconduct in our school system. These kids are, for better or worse, dealing with a process outside the criminal justice system: Title IX violation claims. These Title IX hearings to determine if one student harassed or assaulted another do not bear the same burdens of proof. Their standard is much lower.

What Is The Standard Of Evidence For Decisions In Title IX Sexual Misconduct Cases In California?

While there is no formal standard, it is often described as a preponderance of evidence. In other words, which version seems more likely to be true?

The hearing officer has to listen to both descriptions of events, which are sometimes pure contradictions, he said, she said, a direct contrast. Then, they have to write a report and draw a conclusion. Often, they would never be able to be sure beyond a reasonable doubt, but if they are convinced by one version, and under Title IX, that is sufficient.

This kind of judgment can be crushing to the accused or accuser child and their parents. No matter which way they decide, someone's life is adversely affected permanently, but without the certainty that a criminal court case judgment can deliver, not under that standard of proof.

Obviously, there are genuine and clear-cut cases of assault and sexual misconduct, and the aggressors need to be held accountable. But when cases are so close, and so much is riding on them, there should be a stronger standard of review that is fair to both the accuser and the accused. And when you consider how ineffective the appeal process is, it is easy to see how the system can be perceived as rigged against the accused.

Can The Accused Student Appeal The Title IX Decision?

As in the criminal justice system, there is an appeal process. Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible to win. Rather than debate over the procedures, biases, flaws, or evidence, it really is just another person being asked to look over the evidence.

They will check if someone missed something, a piece of physical evidence that showed it was not possible, or if someone made a legal or substantive mistake. But they are not going to review it and come up with a different opinion about whether the alleged victim is trustworthy; that is simply not what happens.

By the time you get to the Title IX conclusion by the hearing officer, the school, and the board, they have done a considerable amount of work. They have put together a thorough argument for why they came to that conclusion. An appeal process could only be helpful if you have new information, for example, that the accused was untruthful and made an admission.

Merely asking someone to take a look at the same evidence and come up with a different opinion is just not realistic. Families will often appeal anyway, of course, because they are desperate and they do not want their kid to be expelled. Unfortunately, this rarely works.

A better path is to hire an experienced Title IX defense attorney to advise the family and the accused child throughout the process to avoid the wrong decision in the first place.

What Are The Issues With Title IX Charges Or Claims That A Title IX Defense Attorney Can Help With?

A Title IX defense attorney will not be able to take your defense like a defense attorney would in court, unfortunately. They may not even be able to cross-examine or ask questions of the accuser. They will, however, be able to provide you with invaluable guidance and insight into the procedure to help you understand what is being asked and how to frame your answers.

These are crucial topics, such as helping you understand the definition of consent. Helping you understand the circumstances surrounding the event before, during, and after, and their importance. An attorney will guide you through the process and help you understand how it works. They will also advise you on what you should and should not do or say.

There's a reason why Miranda laws were passed 60 years ago: to enforce the right to remain silent. It was not because people were guilty and saying it, but because people were innocent and did not know how to articulate it.

People were being interrogated and did or said things that sounded untruthful and were convicted on that basis. This right is not enforced in the Title IX process, so you need an attorney to help you develop the ability to articulate what happened in a way that is going to be receptive to the hearing officer.

If you do not have the knowledge, context, and perspective from a defense attorney to help, it can end very badly. Kids, even their parents, go into the interview flushed, even angry.

They think they do not need a lawyer because the truth is on their side, but in the end, they come off as abrasive or full of themselves. They may claim that the accuser is simply lying, or maybe even insult them or use crude language, which only undermines their claims.

If you do not have an experienced Title IX attorney to help you navigate the case and hearings, chances are you will lose the case. You cannot go in without understanding what you are being interviewed for and how to address it. And you need to make sure you do not screw it up the first time because you will not get a second chance. For more information on the Burden Of Proof In California Title IX Cases, an initial consultation is your next best step.

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