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Title IX

What Do I Do If I’m Indirectly Named In A Title IX case?

By December 27, 2021September 25th, 2023No Comments

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is the federal law that requires universities to investigate accusations of sexual assault or harassment, and enforce policies against sexual assault on campus.

The process for these investigations and hearings differs from school to school. They generally involve interviewing both the accuser, referred to as the Complainant, and the accused, referred to as the Respondent. Usually, initial interviews and fact-finding will be followed by a live hearing, before a decision is made.

Anyone who has direct knowledge of the events or circumstances of the allegations is referred to as a witness. If you are a witness in a Title IX case, you may be asked to participate in an interview with the investigators and perhaps even testify at a hearing.

So what are your rights as a witness in a university Title IX case? At DC Student Defense, we make it our business to help students defend their rights as well as protect their academic futures. Read on for everything you need to know if you’re indirectly involved in a Title IX case.

Do I have to Participate in the Investigation Process?

If you are named or referred to in the initial Title IX complaint, or in anyone else’s statement, chances are that the investigators are going to reach out to you for more information.

At most universities, you will not be required to participate in the investigation if you choose not to. However, if you do have crucial information regarding the truth of the matter, it can be incredibly important to the investigation.

You have three options when you are contacted by a Title IX investigator:

  • You can refuse to participate
  • You can choose to participate fully
  • You can choose to give an anonymous statement but protect your identity

This last option will not always be possible. If the Title IX Coordinator’s office is simply conducting an informal inquiry in response to a report of sexual harassment, they may be able to accept your statement anonymously.

However, if an official complaint is filed, then both parties are entitled to know the identity of any witness in the case.

What Will the Process Look Like?

Before you choose to participate in a Title IX investigation as a witness, you may be wondering what the process will look like.

Although every school has different policies and procedures, here is an outline of a typical Title IX process for a witness:

  • An investigator will conduct an interview, asking you questions about what happened
  • The investigator will then ask you to provide any documentation that might be relevant, such as texts, screenshots, emails, or photos
  • Your statement will be shared with all parties (including the Complainant and Respondent), as well as the decision-makers in the investigation
  • You may be contacted again for a follow-up interview or further clarification
  • You may be asked to testify at a live hearing

If you are ever concerned about your rights or your privacy throughout this process, don’t hesitate to contact a student defense attorney. They will also be able to help you if you are concerned that your statement might implicate you in a conduct violation in any way.

Can I get In Trouble If I’m a Witness?

One of the main concerns that some witnesses have during Title IX proceedings is that they could get in trouble if they answer the investigator’s questions.

For example, if the incident in question took place at a party, you may be forced to reveal that you were consuming drugs or alcohol against campus policies. Alternatively, you might be worried that they could find that you were complicit in the alleged assault or harassment.

Some schools may offer you amnesty from disciplinary action in exchange for your cooperation as a witness. However, even schools that do offer this may reserve the right to refuse amnesty under certain circumstances.

If this is a concern that you have, you should contact a student defense attorney before you agree to anything, and certainly before you give an official statement. An attorney can help you comb through your university’s policies and make sure that you’re not exposing yourself to disciplinary action as a result of your cooperation.

What should I do to protect my rights as a witness in a Title IX case?

Providing a statement or testimony as a witness can be extremely important to the success of a Title IX investigation. It can also prevent the decision-makers from coming to an unjust decision.

However, there are certain things you can do to protect your rights as a student. Here are 4 steps to take as soon as you are contacted by a Title IX investigator:

  • Reach out to a student defense attorney as soon as you are contacted
  • Don’t talk about the case with anyone else at school, or post about it on social media
  • Read through all the school’s materials including the code of conduct, Title IX policies, and anything else they provide you with
  • Gather relevant evidence including any documentation that might be relevant to the case, as well as anything that can help defend you against any conduct violation accusations

Once you’ve taken these steps, you and your attorney can begin providing the investigators with the information they need.

Contact DC Student Defense

Our student defense team has years of experience protecting students’ rights in Title IX proceedings. If you’ve been named as a witness in a Title IX case, don’t hesitate to contact us as soon as possible to discuss your case.

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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