Can You Go to Jail for a Title IX Violation?

Title IX is a comprehensive federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in any federally funded education program or activity. Enacted in 1972 as part of the Education Amendments, its primary purpose is to prevent gender bias in schools and universities and protect students and staff from sexual harassment and violence.  

Title IX violations do not fall under the purview of the criminal courts. However, in some cases, these violations can be prosecuted in criminal court. In this blog, we will discuss the potential consequences of Title IX violations, the differences between Title IX proceedings and criminal proceedings, and whether Title IX violations influence criminal proceedings.  

Title IX Violation Examples  

Title IX violations can take several forms, including:  

  • Sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can encompass unwanted sexual advances, solicitation for sexual acts, and any form of verbal or physical behavior that is sexually inappropriate. 

  • Gender-based discrimination. Gender-based discrimination, on the other hand, refers to treating someone unfavorably because of their gender or enforcing gender stereotypes. 

  • Sexual violence or assault. Sexual violence or assault is a form of sexual harassment and includes acts such as rape, forced sexual acts, or unwanted sexual touching.  

  • Retaliation. Actions taken against a complainant or participant in an investigation for the purpose of intimidating, threatening, coercing, or discriminating against them because they exercised their rights under Title IX. 

  • Hostile environment. Creating a hostile environment occurs when a person creates an intimidating and offensive environment that makes others feel fearful, that limits another person’s ability to benefit from or participate in the environment, program, activity, or job, or that is discriminatory in nature.  

  • Pregnancy and related conditions discrimination. Discrimination against a student based on pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, or recovery from any of these conditions. 

What Happens When You Violate Title IX? 

Title IX violations can lead to serious consequences for the alleged perpetrator. However, it is important to note that these are not criminal proceedings. They are administrative actions taken by the educational institution to maintain a safe and non-discriminatory environment. 

Sanctions can range from a warning to expulsion, depending on the severity of the violation. In some cases, the school may also provide remedies to the victim, such as counseling services, academic support, and changes to housing or class schedules. While Title IX does not directly lead to jail time, certain violations, such as sexual assault, can also be prosecuted under criminal law.  

Can Title IX Allegations Affect a Criminal Investigation?  

Title IX allegations involving sexual misconduct, such as sexual assault or harassment, can trigger two parallel investigations – one under Title IX and another as a criminal investigation. A Title IX investigation is an administrative process initiated by an educational institution to determine if a violation of the school's sex discrimination policy has occurred.  

This process differs significantly from a criminal investigation. While a criminal investigation seeks to determine if a person violated state or federal criminal laws, a Title IX investigation is focused on ensuring that educational institutions provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment. 

The outcome of a Title IX investigation can have a profound effect on a concurrent criminal investigation. For instance, evidence and testimonies gathered during the Title IX process could potentially be used in a criminal trial. However, there are limitations. Title IX investigators must respect legal privacy protections and cannot share certain types of information without consent, such as confidential communication with a counselor or attorney. 

There are circumstances where a criminal case may be dismissed following a Title IX investigation. One such factor could be insufficient evidence to prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, a higher standard than what is required in Title IX investigations. Furthermore, discrepancies between the testimonies given during Title IX and criminal proceedings may also lead to the dismissal of a criminal case. 

Differences Between Title IX & Criminal Case Proceedings 

As we mentioned, the goals of Title IX and criminal cases greatly differ. Other key differences between these proceedings include the following:  

  • Confidentiality/privacy. While criminal trials are public, Title IX hearings are kept as private as possible.  

  • Cross-examination. While parties can cross-examine evidence and witnesses in a criminal trial, people are not often afforded the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses in Title IX hearings.  

  • Case authority. While judges and juries are the authority and judgement makers in criminal proceedings, school administrators and/or a panel of school employees, staff, and/or students.  

  • Investigators. While law enforcement officials investigate crimes, school employees and Title IX investigators/coordinators investigate allegations.  

  • Rules of evidence. In Title IX cases, evidence does not have to be shared between both parties, and witnesses do not have to swear under oath; witnesses also do not face perjury charges if they make false statements. However, in criminal proceedings, evidence must be shared, and witnesses are placed under oath.   

  • Standard of evidence/proof. In Title IX cases, evidence does not have to establish the case and guilt beyond a reasonable doubt (like in criminal cases); the standard of evidence must meet the preponderance of evidence, which means that the violation more likely occurred than not.  

  • Appeals. In Title IX cases, either party can pursue an appeal of a ruling. However, in criminal cases, only the accused party can pursue an appeal of guilty rulings if double jeopardy does not apply.  

  • Punishments. As we mentioned, Title IX allegations can lead to sanctions, loss of credits, loss of tuition, loss of tenure positions, formal warnings, or suspension. Criminal charges are punishable by imprisonment and/or fines.  

Schedule a Consultation Today 

Whether you are facing allegations of sexual misconduct or discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs or activities, we have the expertise to provide effective legal representation. We thoroughly investigate each case, prepare a strong defense strategy, and advocate tirelessly for our clients. 

If you are facing a Title IX investigation, the experienced attorneys at Parisi, Coan & Saccocio, PLLC are prepared to help you. Call (737) 200-2332 to schedule an initial consultation and discuss your case in further detail.