The #MeToo movement swept across America and brought down many powerful and abusive men who preyed on weaker men and women for decades. The public nature of the movement has created a national environment where it is more acceptable than ever to bring Title IX complaints. Still, filing a Title IX complaint should not be taken lightly, and you should have a solid understanding of the gravity of the process, as well as a strong support system of family and trusted friends, before choosing to file.
Here are five things you should know before filing a Title IX complaint through your university:
- What Exactly Is Title IX?
Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any educational program or activity that receives federal funding. This means that, if your college or university receives any federal funding, they are legally-bound to implement the provisions of Title IX into their policies and procedures.
You can file complaints with your school’s Title IX or Dispute Resolution Office based on discriminatory actions, which can include discrimination based on disability or race, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.
It is important to note that filing a Title IX complaint in a university setting will not bring a lawsuit. Since investigation and resolution of Title IX complaints fall within the purview of universities, these are not legal actions and instead take place within the school’s own dispute resolution system, not in the criminal justice system. Because each school has different dispute resolution procedures, you must speak with your university’s Title IX coordinator in order to fully understand the process.
- Will the Respondent Know Me?
The Respondent is the person against whom you file your complaint. Since the resolution of Title IX complaints differs by university, this can vary. At some universities, you can file anonymously or as a named complainant. It would be best to discuss these options with your university’s Title IX coordinator.
Keep in mind that, due to the personal nature of Title IX complaints, the respondent will almost certainly figure out who you are early on in the process. At the very least, he or she will need to do so in order to formulate a defense to your complaint.
- Can I Tell Anyone That I Filed This Complaint?
It is likely that there will be a confidentiality requirement to these proceedings, usually done in order to protect both parties’ reputations, since Title IX complaints concern sensitive topics and personal information.
However, because these proceedings and investigations can take months and are very emotionally straining, you should speak with someone you trust, like a parent or close friend who does not attend your university.
- What if They Rule for Respondent?
Investigators, who are not held to any legal standards, can be poor at their jobs or biased for or against you. Unless there is extremely strong evidence in your favor, the outcome could go either way, especially if you file against faculty.
If the investigator does rule for respondent, universities have procedures to appeal the result. Choosing to appeal is a personal decision.
- Seek Legal Counsel.
These proceedings are complex and require great specificity on your part. It can also take a lot of courage. Hiring a legal team can take some of the weight off of your shoulders and will assure you that you have someone in your corner. DC Student Defense attorneys have experience working for both complainants and respondents, and are available for consultations.
These materials have been prepared by Cohen Seglias for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.