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Mike Kelly School Law Attorney

Title IX Attorney for Higher Education

Title IX is a federal civil rights law in the United States that was passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity that receives federal financial assistance. The law applies to higher education institutions, as well as primary and secondary schools, and other federally funded educational programs.

In higher education, Title IX covers a wide range of issues, including but not limited to:

  • Admissions
  • Financial aid
  • Athletics
  • Sexual harassment and assault
  • Pregnancy and parenting
  • Employment

Colleges and universities that receive federal funding must comply with Title IX regulations and take necessary measures to prevent sex discrimination, address complaints, and remedy any violations.

Kelly & Kelly P.C. has extensive experience handling legal matters involving elementary schools, school districts, and institutions for higher education. We provide legal counsel for individuals as well as administrative bodies. This includes extensive experience representing students for school related offenses.

Title IX – K-12 Education vs. Higher Education

Title IX is a federal law in the United States that prohibits sex-based discrimination in education programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. While Title IX applies to both higher education and K-12 education settings, there are some differences in how it is applied and enforced in each context.

Scope of responsibility: In higher education institutions, Title IX typically applies to a broader range of individuals, including students, faculty, staff, and visitors. In K-12 settings, the focus is primarily on students and school personnel.

Institutional structure: Higher education institutions are often larger and more complex than K-12 schools. As a result, they may have more extensive Title IX compliance structures, including dedicated Title IX coordinators, investigators, and resources for support and training.

Reporting and investigation procedures: Higher education institutions typically have more formalized procedures for reporting, investigating, and resolving Title IX complaints. K-12 schools may have simpler processes in place, but they are still required to respond promptly and effectively to any complaints.

Grievance procedures and hearings: In higher education, grievance procedures and hearings for Title IX cases can be more formal and may involve legal representation for the parties involved. In K-12 settings, grievance procedures are often more informal and may not involve lawyers or formal hearings.

Age and maturity of students: Title IX cases involving K-12 students often take into account the age and maturity of the students involved. In higher education settings, where students are primarily adults, the expectations for behavior and understanding of consent may be different.

Athletics: Title IX’s application to athletics is often more visible in higher education, where intercollegiate sports programs receive significant funding and attention. In K-12 settings, the focus may be on ensuring equal access to sports programs for both male and female students.

Prevention and education programs: Higher education institutions typically have more extensive prevention and education programs aimed at promoting awareness of sexual harassment, assault, and discrimination, as well as fostering a culture of respect and consent. K-12 schools may also have educational programs, but they are often tailored to the age and maturity of the students.

Despite these differences, the overarching goal of Title IX remains the same in both higher education and K-12 settings: to ensure equal access to education and prevent sex-based discrimination. Both institutions are required to comply with Title IX regulations and protect the rights of students and employees.

Role of a Title IX Attorney

A Title IX attorney is a legal professional who specializes in cases involving Title IX, a federal law in the United States that prohibits sex-based discrimination in educational programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. Title IX attorneys can represent clients in various capacities, depending on the nature of the case and the needs of the parties involved. Some common roles and responsibilities of a Title IX attorney include:

Advising clients: Title IX attorneys provide guidance and advice to students, faculty, staff, or institutions on their rights and responsibilities under Title IX. They help clients understand the law, the processes involved in filing or responding to a complaint, and potential outcomes of a case.

Representing clients in investigations: When a Title IX complaint is filed, an investigation is typically conducted by the educational institution or an external investigator. A Title IX attorney can represent either the complainant (the person alleging the violation) or the respondent (the person accused of the violation) during the investigation process, ensuring that their client’s rights are protected and that they have a fair and unbiased opportunity to present their side of the story.

Advocating during grievance procedures and hearings: In some cases, Title IX complaints proceed to grievance procedures and hearings, where the parties involved may present evidence and make arguments to support their case. A Title IX attorney can represent their client during these proceedings, presenting arguments and evidence, questioning witnesses, and making sure that the process is conducted fairly and in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

Negotiating settlements or resolutions: Title IX attorneys may work to negotiate settlements or resolutions between the parties involved in a Title IX case, helping to reach a mutually agreeable outcome without the need for further legal action or a formal hearing.

Litigating in court: If a Title IX case is not resolved through internal processes, negotiations, or settlements, a Title IX attorney may represent their client in a lawsuit filed in state or federal court. This could involve arguing the case before a judge or jury, presenting evidence, and advocating for their client’s rights and interests.

Advising and training educational institutions: Title IX attorneys may also work with educational institutions to develop and implement policies and procedures related to Title IX compliance. They can provide training and education to faculty, staff, and students on Title IX issues and help ensure that institutions are meeting their legal obligations.

Staying up-to-date with legal developments: Title IX attorneys must stay informed about changes in laws, regulations, and guidance related to Title IX, as well as court decisions and trends that could impact their clients and the cases they handle. This knowledge enables them to provide accurate and current advice to clients and effectively represent them in legal proceedings.

Title IX Sanctions & Penalties

When it comes to a student violating Title IX certain sanctions/remedies may be imposed such as,

  • Removal from the academic program
  • Referral for counseling
  • Changes in classrooms
  • Educational accommodations
  • In more extreme cases, referral to law enforcement

Title IX Investigator

The investigator in Title IX cases acts as a “fact finder” in that their role is to interview both parties in a neutral manner and prepare a final report after all parties have been interviewed. The investigator does not decide whether or not there’s a violation; they simply investigate both sides of the story and provide an unbiased report to the decision maker.

Title IX Complainant

The complainant in Title IX cases is the alleged victim. This is typically a student, although it may also be a teacher, staff member, or school administrator. The complainant is the individual or group of individuals who are claiming that there was a violation to their civil rights and that the school should be held responsible for this violation.

Title IX Respondent

The respondent is named by the complainant as the alleged actor who has committed a Title IX violation. The respondent has the right to be represented by legal counsel as does the complainant.

Title IX Investigations

A Title IX investigation is a process that takes place when a complaint is filed alleging a violation of Title IX. The investigation typically involves interviews with the complainant, respondent, and any relevant witnesses, and may include a review of documents, such as emails, texts, and other forms of communication. The goal of a Title IX investigation is to determine whether a violation of Title IX occurred and, if so, what corrective measures should be taken.

Title IX Complaints

Title IX complaints can involve a wide variety of discrimination issues such as sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination, unequal treatment of male and female students, and sexual violence. If a complaint is found to have merit, the school may be required to take corrective action and may be subject to penalties.

What is The Timeline for Title IX Investigations?

The entire process from the time a Title IX investigation is initiated to the time a decision is rendered typically is an average of 4-6 months.

The decision maker for Title IX Investigations is typically referred to as the Title IX Coordinator or Title IX Hearing Officer. This individual has 10 days to render a decision. With that said, this process can be extended for “good cause” such as filing a police report, collateral student misconduct investigations, language barriers, etc.

Also, even if it’s not a Title IX violation, the decision maker can find that it’s a violation of the student’s rights via the Michigan Revised School Code which may include suspension or expulsion.

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