What Is Title IX?
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and requires any federally funded education program or activity to investigate claims of sexual misconduct against students. (Source: U.S. Dept. of Education, Office of Civil Rights (2015) Title IX and Sex Discrimination).
Students facing disciplinary action for misconduct risk expulsion from school, a disruption in their studies, and damage to their reputation. The student may also face a criminal investigation in addition to a student disciplinary investigation.
Trump Administration Changes to Title IX
The Trump administration amended Title IX in May 2020, to include basic due process protections, including cross-examination and live hearings, for people accused of sexual misconduct or harassment. Former Secretary DeVos also changed the rules of Title IX to exclude cases that take place off-campus and narrow the definition of sexual harassment. Her policy changes also encouraged schools to treat those accused as innocent at the outset of the investigation and repealed the requirement that schools use a “preponderance of evidence” standard.
New Rules: Biden’s Approach to Title IX
The Department of Education will be holding a public hearing to address how schools should handle sexual misconduct in the first of many steps toward overhauling Title IX regulations. The hearing is targeted at K-12 schools and colleges that receive public funding.
After the hearing, the department will begin the formal process of rewriting Title IX rules in addition to providing question-and-answer style guidance over the next few weeks. This is part of President Biden’s campaign promise to scrap Trump-era regulations.
Many criticized former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s revisions and said that the law narrowed the definition of sexual harassment and seemingly allowed schools to brush sexual misconduct under the rug.
It is unclear what specific policies will be implemented over the next few weeks, but the Biden administration is adamant about changing the rules to protect victims. While this is a critical move for victims of campus sexual assault, many students accused of Title IX may be vulnerable to harsher penalties.
What This Means for Those Accused of Sexual Misconduct
Until the administration begins the rule-making process and specific policy changes come to light, it is unclear what the effect of these reforms will be for those accused of sexual assault or harassment.
We can only guess what is in store for Title IX under President Biden, but any changes made could result in students having fewer federal protections from false accusations that could affect their future.
Ultimately, these policy changes will take time, and students who have been accused of a Title IX violation can still benefit from Trump-era policies regarding sexual assault and harassment. It remains essential that those accused under Title IX understand that Title IX charges are very serious and may have long-lasting consequences. If you have been accused of sexual misconduct, you should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible.
Parisi, Coan & Saccocio, PLLC will continue to follow updates to Title IX.