What to Expect in a Title IX Investigation in Illinois
Title IX prohibits sex discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal funding. Sexual harassment and sexual assault are forms of discrimination under the law. Schools are legally obligated to conduct Title IX investigations and prevent future misconduct. If you or your child has been a victim of sex discrimination, the attorneys at Mahoney Law Firm can explain the Title IX hearing process in Illinois.
If you’ve been the victim of university sexual discrimination, harassment, assault, or domestic violence, it’s important to know what to expect during a Title IX investigation in Illinois. Many victims feel they must choose between disrupting their education or being forced to go to school daily with the offender. You need to protect your rights and interests. A Title IX attorney can provide the guidance necessary to work toward a favorable outcome.
Under federal law, colleges and universities must look into any allegations of sexual misconduct involving students. The timeline that educational institutions are required to follow during a Title IX investigation may vary slightly from school to school, but the steps are the same. Title IX proceedings are separate from a criminal investigation. You may also choose to press criminal charges.
Universities sometimes try to cover up or ignore sexual misconduct allegations to avoid bad publicity. They may even allow the offender to remain on campus or in your housing complex. You need an Illinois attorney on your side who specializes in handling Title IX cases. The Mahoney Law Firm can explain the Title IX investigation process and advise you on your rights and how to appeal a decision.
Title IX Investigation Process
Complaints & Reports
A Tile IX investigation begins with a report of sexual discrimination, harassment, assault, or abuse. Allegations of sexual discrimination and misconduct can be reported by filing a grievance with the university’s Title IX office. Going to the Title IX office should automatically launch a formal investigation into the alleged behavior. Sometimes, a school may violate federal law by not taking complaints seriously or neglecting to investigate the evidence thoroughly.
If you are unhappy with how your university handles allegations of sexual discrimination, harassment, assault, or abuse, you can contact the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The OCR oversees how complaints are addressed at the university level and carries responsibility for regulatory guidance on Title IX matters. The OCR will investigate how your college or university is following federal guidelines and require corrective action if it has failed to comply.
Colleges and universities are required to appoint a Title IX coordinator. That person’s job is to head up all investigations, beginning with the initial case assessment. During an initial Title IX assessment, your college’s coordinator will send the accused a no-contact letter prohibiting both verbal and non-verbal communication with the complainant. Both parties will also receive a request to meet with the Title IX coordinator separately to provide a statement.
The parties may have a support person attend the meeting with them, but they will not be permitted to speak on the parties’ behalf. An Illinois Title IX lawyer can act as a support person.
It’s important to consult with legal counsel before speaking with Title IX investigators to protect your interests during the proceedings. An attorney can advise you on how to answer questions you may be asked and can also recognize whether the university is acting in compliance with federal Title IX laws.
Your institution’s Title IX office should conduct a formal investigation of the evidence, which can include the following:
- Statements from the complainant, the accused, and any witnesses
- Information in student personnel files
- Documented evidence, including applicable police reports
The formal investigation seeks to answer these questions:
- Did the alleged conduct occur?
- Did the conduct meet the criteria to violate Title IX?
- What actions are necessary to end the discrimination, eliminate the hostile environment, and prevent something similar from happening again?
Throughout the investigation and proceedings, the accused is presumed innocent.
Standard of Proof
When developing its Title IX procedures, the institution must choose a standard of proof for all complaints. That standard must be consistent for all proceedings, whether allegations are made against students or employees. The institution must choose between a preponderance of the evidence or clear and convincing evidence.
The preponderance of the evidence standard means the allegations are more likely true than not. Clear and convincing evidence is a higher standard, meaning a party must demonstrate a high probability or reasonable certainty that their version is true. However, it is not as high a standard as reasonable doubt.
The institution bears the burden of proof.
Hearing and Resolution
Following the investigation, a formal hearing usually decides the outcome. Typically, a hearing is held before a panel of faculty members. Whoever presides as the decision-maker must not be the same person as the investigator or the Title IX Coordinator.
The parties’ advisors are allowed to cross-examine witnesses. However, the parties themselves are not allowed to.
During the proceedings, the institution must ensure that complainants are not asked about their prior sexual history. Rape shield laws prohibit such lines of questioning.
When the panel concludes that sexual misconduct did occur, the accused can face consequences up to suspension or expulsion from the university.
If you are unsatisfied with the panel’s decision and recommended resolution, a Title IX lawyer can help you file an appeal.
Title IX Investigation Timeline
Any time sexual misconduct is reported, a college or university must investigate immediately, regardless of whether the victim or their family wishes to press charges.
The Title IX investigation timeline begins when the university is made aware of the allegations and ends with a resolution that requires the university to provide a written decision to both the complainant and the accused.
The entire process typically concludes within 60 days. However, it may take longer to come to a resolution, depending on the complexity of the allegations, the availability of witnesses, and other factors.
What to Expect During a Title IX Investigation
You have the right to present evidence during a Title IX investigation, to have a support person or advisor present during the proceedings, and to receive a written copy of the final decision. If you are not afforded these rights, you may have a case against the college or university for failing to follow federal Title IX guidelines. Call an Illinois Title IX lawyer to learn more about how you may recover compensation.
The Role of Advisors and Attorneys
Even though your attorney will not be allowed to speak on your behalf during the initial interview or to present evidence at a hearing, they can advise you of your rights during a Title IX investigation and cross-examine witnesses at the hearing.
The outcome of your case relies on the quality of the legal advice you receive. A lawyer well-versed in Title IX can identify when a college or university is not following federal guidelines, which may help you in an appeal.
Importance of Honesty and Cooperation
Remaining honest and cooperating with investigators is critical during Title IX investigation. The investigator and decision-makers should trust your reliability as a witness.
Potential Outcomes of a Title IX Investigation
Depending on the panel’s decision, the severity of the allegations, and any record of prior incidents, the outcome of a Title IX investigation can vary widely to include:
- Dismissal of the complaint
- Requiring the accused student to undergo counseling or receive a formal warning
- Taking steps to separate you from the accused student
- Suspension or dismissal of the accused student from the university
You have the right to appeal the findings of a Title IX investigation.
Consult with an Experienced Title IX Attorney
Universities must act immediately on allegations of sexual misconduct. Hiring legal counsel before a Title IX investigation is crucial to ensure that your school follows proper procedures to protect you from your abuser. You need the advice of an Illinois Title IX lawyer.
Call Mahoney Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation, and let us help you get your life back on track.