When sexual assault or harassment occurs on college or high school campuses, the cases often fall under Title IX, which is an act of Congress protecting students from sexual discrimination. These cases are complex, multifaceted and, until recently, poorly understood even by the California schools handling them. This article sheds some important light on various aspects of Title IX cases, including:
Title IX cases are complicated enough before you even stop to consider jurisdiction. However, it is important to understand who has the authority to handle such cases based on the location.
The answer, unfortunately, is inconsistent. Some college student handbooks and or rules say they have jurisdiction if you are off campus but engaging in a school activity, such as an away game with the football team.
This could also apply if you are at a party that is sponsored by the school, for example. Or, if you are being tutored, even if it is not at a school location but is an extension or connected to you being a student. If the other person is another student or an instructor, professor, or faculty member, the Title IX rules may be applicable.
In one case, the event happened off campus but involved a school employee and a student. Because the school's rules said an employee could not be with a student under those circumstances, the location of where it took place was less important than the relationship between the two of them.
If you are unsure which jurisdiction applies to a case you are accused of, you can reach out to an experienced Title IX or criminal defense attorney for guidance.
If the case becomes a criminal one, then yes, the prosecution has an obligation to turn over any of the accuser's relevant background information. This could include prior statements, prior cases, prior filings, and criminal records.
When an accuser testifies at a Title IX hearing or at a criminal preliminary hearing or trial, their credibility is often the main issue. If the accuser has a history of being untruthful, if they filed a complaint that was denied, if they have a misdemeanor conviction for theft (a crime of moral turpitude), these are things that a jury, investigator, or hearing officer will consider.
They will need to do so when determining whether or not the allegations that the accused did something sexually improper with them are truthful or credible.
If your child is being investigated under a Title IX claim, chances are they will not be able to go to school during that time. It is heartbreaking when parents get an email from the school that their son or daughter is under Title IX investigation and cannot go to class anymore. They cannot take courses anymore and have to stay home.
That often throws their whole life into a whole different orbit. Everything the student has been doing up to that point, working hard in high school, getting the grades, getting to college, getting a scholarship, or working to pay for college, is now suddenly put on hold.
The perspective of the schools, of course, is that they cannot risk liability. Once the accusation is made, even though it has not been sustained, they have to err on the side of caution. Even though they haven't determined whether or not the accusations are credible, they have to protect the other students and the staff.
Some high schools will make an exception (because high school is mandatory) and say that the student just has to stay a hundred yards away from the person who's made the allegation. They will not be able to have classes with them or do extracurricular activities. But for most colleges, it is pretty straightforward, and you will not be able to be on campus anymore.
This can become extremely emotional for the child and their family, especially considering the amount of time these cases can sometimes take.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, from the schools to the accuser and the accused alike, Title IX cases take a long time to be resolved. Often months, sometimes even a year.
In the state of California, when Title IX first made its way to all schools that received federal grants, it was new. The schools did not have the personnel or the proper setup. They made mistakes, and they often did not follow through. When the auditors came in recently and took a look at it, the Cal State System and the University of California systems both got bad reports.
As a result, now they are doubling down on precautions. The schools are hiring former law enforcement agents who worked in sexual assault. They are hiring firms with attorneys who have worked in the district attorney's office or the public defender's office who handle sexual assault cases.
All of these are good and important steps, of course. After all, if you have never questioned someone about whether they have been sexually assaulted, whether a sexual encounter was consensual, or what happened next, you might not realize how delicate, difficult, emotional, and personal these questions are. If you have no experience with that, you cannot be a good investigator and are likely doing a disservice to both sides.
Title IX cases are so important because there remains a huge disconnect. It is a process that is causing families, both of the accused and the accuser, to go through a nightmare – nightmares which could be prevented if we got in front of these issues and were proactive about preventing them instead of just reactive about punishing them. Attorney Darryl Stallworth has written a book to help anyone navigating the complicated legal system. Click here to read [A Guide To Understanding The Criminal Justice System: Sex Crimes]
In the meantime, however, lawyers continue to be required. If you or your son, daughter, or loved one has been accused of sexual misconduct under Title IX, it is time to contact an experienced defense attorney. For more information on Title IX Investigations In California, an initial consultation is your next best step.