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Title IX

Privacy, Confidentiality and Title IX

By September 19, 2018September 25th, 2023No Comments

Privacy and confidentiality are essential parts of a university’s Title IX process. If victim-survivors are not assured that their privacy will be respected, they are much less likely to disclose or report sexual violence on campus. However, it is also important that victim-survivors are also not silenced by their universities.

Due to recent publicity surrounding many Title IX cases, many victim-survivors may be confused or unsure about protections provided by their universities or theirs or the school’s responsibilities. To make matters more complicated, though these guidelines are all related to federal laws such as Title IX and the Clery Act, these guidelines differ from school-to-school.

There are many questions victim-survivors may have when filing a Title IX complaint. All students have a right to know what their school policies and procedures are. Title IX offices don’t only exist to process complaints, but are also meant to serve as a source of resources and information.

Some questions a student may have include:

If I file a complaint, does the person I file it against have to know my name?

No, they do not have to know. While many universities may allow you to file a complaint without your name being disclosed, this could also substantially limit your options going forward, depending on your school’s policy. For example, a university could not, logistically, put a No-Contact Order in place without disclosing the complainant’s name to the respondent. That being said, there are many steps that can be taken to prohibit and/or limit contact between the complainant and the respondent both before and during a Title IX Hearing. For example, a No-Contact Order can go into effect once a report is filed, and hearings never require both parties to be in the same room at the same time.

If I make a complaint, do I have to go through with a hearing?

Most university policy states that a complainant can end the Title IX process whenever they choose. However, if the incident presents a severe threat to the safety of others on campus or involves a minor, the university may move forward with an investigation even if the victim-survivor chooses not to be involved. This may also be an incident in which the school finds it necessary to violate the desired confidentiality of a complainant.

Who will know about my case?

Staff and faculty that work in your school’s Title IX office will have access to your complaint. If you request certain accommodations, such as an extension on an assignment or a change in class schedule, staff in the Title IX office may communicate with a faculty member that you are making that request, but will not disclose any details about your case. The Clery Act requires that universities publish reports about certain crimes on campus, however this will not require disclosure of your identity, only that an incident was reported.

At your university, there may be strictly confidential and partially confidential resources. For example, someone in the Title IX office may be only partially confidential, meaning they have to report the incident under The Clery Act. Certain members of your university’s police department may be strictly confidential, meaning your information goes absolutely nowhere.

Will my parents find out?

No. A Title IX case is kept confidential under Family Educational Records Privacy Act (FERPA) if you are 18 or older. A university may, however, assist a student in telling their parents.

The bottom line is that you your university should never, ever breach your privacy or confidentiality without your knowledge. If you are considering filing a Title IX complaint, it’s important to contact an experienced lawyer to help you through this complicated and often overwhelming process.

Shan Wu

Author Shan Wu

Shan’s professional and personal background gives him a unique understanding of academic institutions and the criminal justice system. A former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., he is at home in D.C. Courts and very familiar with all of the Washington, D.C. law enforcement agencies, especially the Metropolitan Police Department. His parents were university professors so he grew up in a university environment. He understands the mindset of academic institutions. As a prosecutor, he supervised in the misdemeanor crime section. This is the section of the Washington, D.C. prosecutor’s office that handles most college student cases. His understanding of charging decisions and how judges view these cases is invaluable to his student clients and their families. Shan served as a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for over ten years. During his tenure there, now Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. appointed him to supervisory positions in the Misdemeanor Trial Section and also in a police corruption task force. His outstanding legal work in the government was recognized through numerous Special Achievement Awards from the Justice Department as well as awards conveyed by law enforcement agencies and community groups. From 1999-2000, Shan served as Counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno, advising her on criminal and civil investigations, E-Gov, E-Commerce (electronic signatures, internet gambling, internet telephony, privacy & public access issues in electronic court filings), congressional oversight, and legislative review. His responsibilities included serving as liaison to the FBI, DEA, Criminal Division, Executive Office of United States Attorneys, National Institute of Justice, and White House Counsel’s Office. Shan serves on the D.C. Bar Association’s Hearing Committee of the Board on Professional Responsibility and is a past president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association for the Greater Washington, D.C. area. He is a 1988 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, where he graduated Order of the Barristers, edited two law reviews, and was Co-Director of the Moot Court Program. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from Vassar College as well as a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Following law school, he clerked for the late Hon. Jerry Buchmeyer, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and the late Eugene Wright, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and Connecticut.

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