If your child is in college and facing a Title IX investigation for sexual harassment, there are some important things to know.
Different processes, different stakes
It can be easy to panic if you hear your child is the subject of a Title IX investigation. And indeed, these can take a tremendous toll on your child’s emotional welfare and academic future. Thus, it is crucial to take them seriously.
That said, these investigations are not the same as criminal investigations. They generally do not involve the police but rather parties employed by the school. Additionally, there are different terminologies used for the people involved. Rather than being a “defendant,” your child can be a “respondent.”
Another distinction is that school disciplinary proceedings are often confidential, while criminal trials are public.
Further, school cases can result in school-related sanctions rather than criminal penalties like incarceration.
In other words, if your child is the respondent in a Title IX case, there is much on the line, but it is not the same as a criminal investigation.
Defending against accusations is complicated
If another student accuses your child of sexual harassment under Title IX, you likely want to be aggressive in defending your child and their rights.
Unfortunately, there are limited procedural safeguards for protecting your child in these situations. They can wind up answering questions they need not answer or handing over evidence they are not entitled to hand over. You may be navigating a case without the information and guidance you would be guaranteed in a criminal case.
Further, it is worth noting that the Title IX law is turning 50 this year, but it continues to be subject to challenges, changes and misinterpretation. Thus, it is not always clear what respondents can expect.
There could be other legal elements
Even if a school investigation does not result in your child’s suspension, expulsion or other penalties, the other party could still pursue other legal avenues. They might file a civil suit seeking financial damages or pursue criminal charges.
Considering all the legal elements that are inextricably linked with Title IX claims, talking to an attorney can be essential to understanding what is happening and how you can protect your child.