Title IX changes released in May 2020 shift the direction of the treatment of Title IX sexual harassment claims. The new Title IX regulations add additional due process protections for those accused of Title IX sexual harassment violations. In doing so, the new rules give universities and schools only a short window to review and revise their Title IX policies to be compliant. With a thorough understanding of Title IX’s past, present, and future requirements, Keffer Hirschauer LLP explains the significant changes to Title IX law under the new rule.
What You Need to Know about the Title IX Changes
The changes to Title IX announced by US Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are good news for those accused of sexual harassment in violation of Title IX. A narrower definition of actionable sexual harassment should help limit spurious Title IX complaints and unfair investigations. The new regulations also level the playing field through changes to the process and rights afforded to both parties during the investigation and resolution of a complaint. This means, however, that schools must scramble to have up-to-date Title IX policies in place by August 14, 2020, when the new regulations become effective.
Summary of Title IX Changes
The current approach to Title IX sexual harassment complaints protects the alleged victim to the detriment of the accused. The new Title IX regulations represent a marked change in direction by adding due process rights for those accused of Title IX sexual harassment. By revising key definitions and allowing the accused the right to a represented defense, anyone accused of a Title IX sexual harassment violation will have the same rights in a defense that the alleged victim has in pursuing a claim.
The new regulations differ from the current approach to Title IX sexual harassment complaint processes in the following ways:
- Narrower definition of sexual harassment: With the exception of stalking, dating violence, and sexual assault, the conduct must be “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” to violate Title IX
- Narrower geography of obligation: Schools are obligated to investigate and resolve sexual harassment complaints for conduct only in the US on school grounds, during school-sponsored, and in school-owned or -recognized housing (like fraternities)
- Quasi-judicial process: All complaints must be investigated and resolved in a live hearing with each party entitled to an adviser or attorney to conduct cross examination and a presumption of innocence—single investigator proceedings are no longer allowed
- Equal access to the allegations and evidence: Both the complainant and the accused must have equal access to written allegations of the alleged offense and evidence gathered in the investigation
- Same burden of proof for students and faculty: Schools may raise the burden of proof to the clear and convincing standard as long as it applies equally to students and faculty/employees
What the Title IX Changes Mean for Indiana Universities and Schools
The new rules will require some universities and schools to modify their Title IX processes—perhaps significantly. With a little over three months to review and revise their Title IX processes—while many schools are functioning with faculty and staff all working from home—will be challenging at the very least. Guidance from an experienced Indiana Title IX lawyer can help alleviate the burden and time required to become compliant with the new Title IX regulations and avoid a risk to federal funding.
Keffer Hirschauer LLP
Working with a knowledgeable Indiana Title IX lawyer helps speed universities and schools to compliance with the new regulations following the Title IX changes and ensures those accused of Title IX sexual harassment that they will fully benefit from the rights afforded under the new rules. There’s no time to wait—contact Keffer Hirschauer LLP today for a free consultation with a knowledgeable Indiana Title IX lawyer by calling (317) 857-0160 or completing our online contact form.