Our team of attorneys has successfully advocated for students and faculty at Colleges and Universities across the United States. We are prepared to protect your rights as well. Contact Mudrick & Zucker, P.C. for a competent and experienced Title IX lawyer you can depend on.
Whether you are facing a Title IX investigation, campus discipline code of conduct violations, or criminal charges associated with a student discipline case, we can help you navigate the process and protect your educational and professional future. Our Title IX team includes criminal defense attorneys, former prosecutors, and civil litigators who have put their diverse experiences to work to benefit our student and faculty clients.
The most known aspect of Title IX is that of Women’s Collegiate Sports, but the most frequent application of Title IX involves allegations of sexual misconduct in an educational setting that are deemed to be sufficiently severe or pervasive enough to deprive a person of the benefits of an education. The covered sexual misconduct generally falls into several categories including sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual coercion, and sexual exploitation. These categories are not exhaustive, and some schools break these categories down further into dating violence or intimate partner nonphysical abuse. There are over six thousand colleges and universities to which Title IX regulations apply.
Each school has its own definition of what defines these categories. Some schools will simply adopt the definition set forth in their states’ criminal code. Others will create their own definitions which can vary from school to school. For the most part, all schools require that all sexual and physical encounters between people be consensual.
We call it the sixty-four-thousand-dollar word because a finding of responsibility for some sections of a school’s Title IX policy can result in expulsion and loss of tuition previously paid. Consent literally is the hub of the wheel that a school’s Title IX policy is centered on. So, what is consent? Consent is or should be spelled out in every school’s student handbook. How do we know? Because while most students do not read them, we do!
Schools will usually state that Consent must be “Affirmative Consent.” This means that consent must be a voluntary and freely and unambiguously communicated agreement to participate in a particular sexual activity. Consent must be obtained for each separate act. Schools use the term “Affirmative Consent” because silence, failure to say “no” or physically resist, or failure to otherwise refuse consent are not deemed to be considered consent at any school.
Consent can be withdrawn at any time. While most colleges will suggest that verbal consent is best, consent can also be deemed to have been given by someone’s physical actions.
A person who is incapacitated because they are helpless due to the effects of drugs or alcohol ingestion, whether voluntary or involuntary, cannot give consent, nor can someone who is asleep or unconscious give consent.
Title IX and the Autistic Student
College class work, being away from home, the campus social scene, alcohol consumption, and sexual attractions can be confusing and difficult for neurotypical students, For students on the autism spectrum it can prove downright overwhelming. These challenges can pose a veritable Title IX minefield for neuro-diverse students. Adam Zucker, head of the firm’s Title IX and Campus Discipline practice has recognized the underserved need of attorneys trained to represent autistic students in Title IX and Campus Discipline cases. In response, he has undertaken training to give autistic students the specialized representation they need and deserve in the Title IX arena and in Court. Mr. Zucker has also presented legal education to other Title IX attorneys on representing the autistic student. Our attorneys understand effective and respectful communication with the neuro-diverse student and faculty member. We know how to, engage the appropriate resources for the autistic student including psychologists and the university’s office for disability services, and programs for students on the spectrum, if they have one. Obtaining the accommodations an autistic student might need in the Title IX process is an absolute must and something our firm has fought for many times. It is a fight we will proudly continue.
While each school has its own process, students, faculty, and staff can generally expect the process to follow this general route. After a complaint is filed with either a mandatory reporter or the school’s Title IX / Disciplinary Office, a notice of alleged violation is sent to the accused student or faculty member. Schools refer to the accused individual as the respondent and the person who files the complaint as the complainant.
It is critical that immediately upon getting a notice of alleged violation the recipient contact a qualified attorney with experience in representing respondents in Title IX cases. If the respondent is a student still supported by their parents, it is also very important that they let them know as soon as possible. Trying to handle a Title IX or campus discipline case without an experienced representative can have disastrous effects. One wrong statement at the beginning of a case can set the case up for a finding of responsibility from the start. Upon receiving the notice of allegation, it is also important to request any accommodations one might have been granted through the school’s Office of Disability Services.
The notice will usually offer the respondent an opportunity to meet with the school’s Title IX coordinator. This is usually called an informational meeting. The purpose of the meeting is so they can educate them on the process, what is expected of them, and what their rights in the process are. Respondents have the right to have an advisor present with them at every step of the process and it is important to have a Title IX lawyer present at this initial meeting.
An investigator either from the school or outside law firm or agency will be assigned and contact the Complainant and Respondent to arrange for an interview. This investigative interview is an important step in the process and the people should be fully prepared before participating in the meeting. A Title IX lawyer will help the student or faculty member prepare their statements and prepare for questioning and how to conduct themselves during the investigative process.
Once the investigator has interviewed the complainant, respondent, and any witnesses they will issue what is referred to as a Draft Report. Both sides are given a period of time to review the draft, make comments, and provide supplemental information to the investigator. After the review period has ended the Investigator will issue a final report to which both sides can again comment. After the review period for the final report has ended the Title IX coordinator will set a date for a hearing before either a hearing officer or hearing panel. With the assistance of a Title IX lawyer, the parties can investigate the hearing officers or panel members to determine if there is any bias, and if any is found, then request they be replaced on the panel.
A hearing will be held and presided over by the Panel Chair or single hearing officer. Generally, the Complainant makes an opening statement and then the Respondent makes an opening statement. Any witnesses will then testify. The hearing panel or officer usually asks questions of the Complainant, Respondent, and any witnesses. Both parties and witnesses can be cross-examined but only by the parties’ advisors. Using a legally trained Title IX advisor can greatly increase the effectiveness of a party’s cross-examination.
The hearing panel or office will issue a finding of “Responsible” or “Not Responsible”. If there is a “Responsible” finding then a sanction will be decided on, usually within ten days. Either party may appeal the finding or sanction. Appeals are generally limited to three areas; 1) There was a breakdown in the process or rules were not followed. 2) There is new evidence that was not previously available and 3) The sanction is excessive in light of the offense.
Sanctions after a Responsible finding can result in punishments as light as an educational requirement such as writing an essay and probation all the way up to suspension or expulsion from school.
Colleges often refer to the Title IX process as an educational process. However, the process can include being suspended or expelled from school, losing tens of thousands of dollars of tuition, and a loss of scholarships. Students can be removed from housing or disqualified from participating in programs such as sports, study abroad, and ROTC. An adverse finding can result in a permanent mark on your educational record. and can have a negative effect on future career prospects, and the ability to transfer, graduate, or attend graduate school. If the individual is a faculty member they can lose tenure, ability to teach certain classes or at certain levels or even lose their job making it hard to find another.
In short, there is a lot to lose in the Title IX and campus discipline process. An attorney with experience in the field of Title IX and Campus Discipline is best suited to help protect students’ and faculty rights in this process. A Title IX lawyer knows Title IX law and what is required in the process. Our firm has been trained to help students and faculty present their cases and help the parties make persuasive arguments. We understand how to conduct skilled cross-examination. Advising clients is what we do. Unlike school-appointed advisors, it’s not a side project that we sometimes participate in.
Contact the Mudrick & Zucker Title IX and Campus Discipline Legal Team to put our experience to work protecting your educational and career future.