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Title IX

Sanctions and Punishment for University Violations of Title IX

By November 8, 2021April 6th, 2022No Comments

Allegations of sexual assault and discrimination at colleges and universities and their subsequent mishandling of said allegations have become a large part of the nationwide #MeToo discussion. 

At the center of the conversations are the regulations imposed on universities by the Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. These regulations govern discriminatory complaints that a student brings at a university, be it against a student or member of faculty or staff. 

Our student defense attorneys at DC Student Defense have worked with many students facing Title IX accusations and helped them through the process. But what happens when a university faces sanctions for Title IX violations?

The Basics of Title IX

Title IX states that:

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” 

Title IX does not simply encompass sexual assault allegations but rather complaints of any sort of discriminatory nature on the basis of gender, including treatment of pregnant or parenting students, discriminatory practices in athletics, and admissions practices.

In 2011, the Obama administration’s Department of Education issued an unofficial guidance, often referred to as the “Dear Colleague” Letter, encouraging school administrations to take effective steps to end sexual harassment and violence. The letter also made it clear that any school which fails to live up to this responsibility could be in danger of losing their federal funding.

Under the Trump administration, the Department of Education implemented a new set of rules — many of which directly contradicted the policies established under the Obama administration.

It remains to be seen how President Biden’s administration will handle this subject.

What happens when colleges and universities do not comply with Title IX?

The language of the statute very clearly states that any college or university that receives federal funding must comply with these regulations, or they will face withholding of federal funds. 

However, would the federal government actually withhold funds from a large university when those funds are a large part of its budget?

The investigation against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill a few years ago provided an overview of what to expect when a school is under investigation for failure to comply with Title IX regulations. 

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights began a formal investigation into UNC’s handling of Title IX complaints after two women, both alumni of the university who previously filed sexual assault complaints against other students, began a national campaign demanding greater scrutiny of the university’s practices after they university failed to comply with federal procedures in handling their complaints. 

After five years of thorough federal investigation, the government found that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had violated Title IX procedures. 

Instead of denial of federal funding, the university formulated a resolution agreement with the Department of Education with a variety of mandatory actions to prove to the Department of Education that the University is in compliance with Title IX procedures:

  • The university must give clear notice to employees, students, and third parties about its sexual harassment and sex discrimination policies;
  • The university must give concurrent written notice of all stages of the grievance process;
  • The university must provide a more refined description of the voluntary informal resolution process;
  • The university must expressly state that a dean, director, or department chair may not reject investigative findings and recommendations or corrective actions in complaints against employees;
  • The university must provide links to descriptions of appeal procedures.

What does this case mean for other Title IX actions going forward?

Currently, the Department of Education is still investigating 392 cases of alleged mishandling of Title IX complaints about sexual violence. 

But truthfully, it is inconceivable that the government would withhold funds from every school found in violation of Title IX procedures.

The real punishment that universities face is to their reputations. 

Universities strive for pristine reputations and high enrollment rates but face serious backlash for failures to properly handle these complaints. In the case of the University of North Carolina, a documentary film followed the two alumni who sparked the federal investigation, and dragged the university’s reputation through the mud.

Contact DC Student Defense for Title IX Help Today

If you are struggling to file a Title IX complaint or are looking to do so, DC Student Defense lawyers are here to help. We are happy to discuss your situation with you if you are worried that your university is not taking your claim seriously.

Additionally, if you have been accused of sexual assault or harassment and are worried that your university isn’t respecting your rights, we are also available to help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

These materials have been prepared by Cohen Seglias for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.

These materials have been prepared by Cohen Seglias for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.

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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