Why Due Process Matters in Title IX Cases
When it comes to allegations of sexual misconduct in schools, ensuring that victims receive justice is a top priority. However, it’s important to balance this with the need to treat accused persons fairly under the law. While advocating for victims’ rights is important, due process protections for defendants are equally critical.
Due process is an essential component of the American judicial system and is enshrined in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. It guarantees that no one shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without fair treatment by the law. But what does this mean in practice?
At its core, due process ensures procedural fairness and presumption of innocence until guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Defendants have a right to legal representation and trial by jury. This protects against abuses of power by those tasked with enforcing laws and ensures that innocent people are not punished unjustly.
Title IX was enacted in 1972 to eliminate sexual discrimination in education, particularly at higher education institutions. However, as its scope has broadened over time, questions have arisen about how to ensure due process protections while investigating campus incidents of sexual harassment or abuse.
High school students accused of such misconduct are also entitled to due process protections despite being subject to different procedures than traditional courts. The Trump administration introduced new guidelines known as The Final Rule that expanded protections for respondents accused under Title IX. However, President Biden has pledged to repeal these guidelines, leading some schools to abandon previous procedures entirely when adjudicating student claims.
In addition to setting standards for notice requirements and equitable treatment between parties involved in Title IX cases, current rules require investigators who are free from bias and decision-makers who can evaluate evidence impartially. While a preponderance standard remains applied rather than the “beyond reasonable doubt” standard seen in criminal cases, respondents still benefit from an absolute right-to-defense under current guidance.
High schools may face unique circumstances when handling such issues. While not required to offer “live” hearings, most do still demand meetings between both investigators and decision makers with relevant parties present, including respondents who would like witnesses to speak or answer questions submitted by email.
While schools make decisions about the type of sanctions that may be applied in response to proven cases of sexual harassment or discrimination, a mandatory minimum punishment is typically suspension or expulsion. The penalties for found responsible records will follow students throughout their academic career and beyond.
When faced with the complicated process involved in Title IX accusations or charges, seeking guidance from an experienced attorney versed in defending these cases is crucial. Todd Spodek has the knowledge and experience necessary to navigate a system that can feel stacked against defendants accused of Title IX related incidents. With hundreds of successful defenses under his belt, Todd Spodek can protect against aggressive school district behavior while providing direction essential for achieving results that are equitable and reflective of due process protections.