Respondents need to be aware of not only the policies and deadlines of Title IX policy, but also the atmosphere that arises. This is how a particular school addresses a sexual assault complaint on campus. Are there strong anti-sexual assault student groups around? Are these groups supported by or have administrators that play a role? Does the college have a history of bias against respondents? Are they known for manipulating evidence or disregarding their own policies? All of these add up to make a college’s unique Title IX disciplinary atmosphere and it can greatly impact how charges are addressed and resolved from school to school.
The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (DOE-OCR) is not only responsible for enforcing Title IX nationwide, but they are also responsible for investigating colleges that mishandle allegations of sexual assault or altogether ignore them. The shift toward aggressive investigating and reprimanding (often through withdrawing federal funds) colleges is because of the great increase in the number of schools under investigation. While resolutions are gradually on the rise, active cases still far outnumber them. Since 2011, only about 25% of mishandled Title IX cases have been resolved. You can see the colleges still under instigation.
The government has prioritized Title IX cases throughout the past years including establishing the Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault in 2014. The Task Force is an intermediary agency that coordinates federal enforcement while helping schools meet obligations that are required by law. The Obama Administration also heightened the awareness of sexual crimes throughout the nation and has threatened to take away the backbone of Title IX compliance: federal funding. This means that colleges and universities are under intense pressure to respond quickly and effectively to sexual assault cases, and they avidly try to avoid any litigation from complainants who believe their case is not being handled properly. Schools are also under pressure to avoid any litigation from the respondents as well. Though the history of successful respondent litigation is not good, as more and more suits are filed, attorneys are beginning to see a consensus on which cases have a greater chance of success and which do not. Respondents are beginning to have limited success because their cases can be tailored to the recent decisions made at both the state and federal court levels.
Because of the national outrage of sexual assault cases where students are given lenient sentences, and the fact that schools are dealing with more federal pressure than ever, the atmosphere on many campuses is not good for any respondent. If a case is actively in the media spotlight, a respondent can expect that the atmosphere will be dismal, even to the point of infringing on their rights as schools address allegations of sexual misconduct even more aggressively than ever. This information needs to be carefully considered and weighed when building a successful case for the respondent.
A student can not be lax about allegations according to what they see on the news. Though some cases exist where the school does not punish severely, it is the exception loved by media, not the rule. The sanctions for violating Title IX are severe, even for lesser charges such as stalking and harassment. Suspension and expulsion are not only suggested punishments, but they are expected. If a school is under federal investigation, or is in the eye of the media, it will be even more likely to impose the strictest sanctions possible for all Title IX offenses.
If a student is found responsible for sexual misconduct under Title IX, the results can have long term affects. Suspension can pop up again after college when a future employer asks about disciplinary matters while at college. The charges will have to be discussed because it will be listed on record. Expulsion can make it impossible to find admission to any other school.