Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, 20 U.S.C.A. § 1681, et seq., is a comprehensive federal law with an important goal: prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs or activities operated by educational institutions receiving federal funds. Colleges and universities must publish “grievance procedures” that ensure “prompt and equitable resolution” of student and employee complaints about conduct covered by Title IX. See 34 C.F.R. § 106.8(b); 28 C.F.R. § 54.135. The challenge for institutions of higher learning has been to adopt procedures that balance complainants’ rights with the fundamental due process and contractual rights of the accused. Too often in practice, grievance proceedings fall short of Title IX’ s “prompt and equitable” mandate, and a wave of litigation has resulted. See, e.g., Doe v. The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, 270 F. Supp. 3d 799 (E.D. Pa. 2017) (permitting claims of suspended student to proceed against the University for (1) breach of contract grounded on the lack of thorough investigation, insufficient training of investigators and hearing officers, and lack of a process free of gender bias, and (2) under Title IX based on “erroneous outcome” and “selective enforcement” theories). If you are involved in a Title IX investigation, understand the grievance procedure and ensure the procedure is fair in its terms and implementation. Title IX allegations often constitute crimes under state and federal law. Even less serious allegations threaten to impair permanently a student’s educational record and impose long-lasting limitations on graduate education and career prospects. The goal of Title IX is unassailable, but the procedures implemented by colleges and universities to achieve this goal are not. MBK has successfully litigated under Title IX. If you are involved in such a case, know your rights. The stakes are high!
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