Title IX for Parents

This page is for parents of a student accused of Title IX sexual misconduct at a college or university.  If you are a student, please CLICK HERE for more information.

Your phone rings in the middle of the night.  It is your son, and he tells you that he is under a Title IX (Title 9) Investigation for sexual misconduct.  Now what?

The first thing to know is that your son is probably both scared to death and thoroughly embarrassed to find that he needs to discuss the details of his sex life with you.  He also probably mistakenly believes that he will receive fair and impartial treatment from his school.  After all, it's a safe learning environment, right? Wrong!

Title IX sexual assault cases have become almost fashionable in the last few years, and cases of false accusations against young men have exploded.  Some of this is due to governmental overreach - a 2011 guidance letter from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (the so-called "Dear Colleague" letter) - effectively directed schools to use an extremely low standard to find young men responsible for sexual assault.  This lower standard - a "preponderance of the evidence" - means that schools are directed to find an accused responsible for misconduct if they conclude that just 51% of the evidence favors the complainant.  The "Dear Colleague" letter also flatly discourages schools from allowing an accused student to ask questions of the complainant at the hearing and even encourages schools to permit complainants to appear by video instead of in person.  So much for proof "beyond a reasonable doubt" and the right to confront an accuser!  Neither of these rights apply in Title IX cases.  The current Secretary of Education has made some changes, and more are on the horizon, but many schools are so entrenched in their biased and unfair policies and practices that it is unlikely that these changes will be quickly implemented.

Some of the increase in Title IX false accusations comes from a victim mentality that pervades academia and social media.  It has become trendy to play a victim and young people today share details of their lives that were kept carefully private a few years ago.  False accusations are a form of bullying and sometimes even stalking - I had a case recently where my client was falsely accused of dating violence by two girls who attempted to collude in their stories.  We were given less than 10 days to prepare for two hearings - held on consecutive days at the end of the semester during exams.

The second thing to know is that some young women lie - for attention, revenge, jealousy, mental illness or other reasons - and their lies can be convincing.  I recently represented a young man who was accused of sexual violence by his former girlfriend nearly a year after they broke up.  She prepared a detailed statement full of lies that would have been convincing if we weren't ready for them.  In this case, the former girlfriend made her complaint only after she discovered my client had a relationship with another girl soon after they broke up.  She was willing to ruin his life for spite, and she would have succeeded if we had not carefully investigated the case.

The third thing to know is that the system is not fair.  Schools are given a lot of latitude in establishing the procedures they use to investigate Title IX cases and in the way they conduct Title IX hearings.  Often, an accused student is not given an absolute right to call witnesses - I recently had a case where a young man submitted a notice to call three witnesses and the hearing officer refused to allow him to call two of them on arbitrary grounds.  All too often, Title IX administrators and investigators are not just plainly biased against men, but actually hostile to them.  The law requires Title IX cases to be handled "equitably and promptly,"  but in practice there is nothing equitable about the typical Title IX case.  In most cases, an accused student is placed on restrictions and forbidden from participating in student activities.  In all cases, the accused student's studies and social life is disrupted by the Title IX process.  Here in Virginia, a recently settled Title IX case involved a Title IX coordinator who allegedly told a girl that "regret means rape," thereby encouraging her to accuse her former boyfriend of sexual assault.

So what to do? Your first instinct may be to encourage your son to apologize in order to defuse the situation.  This is the WRONG thing to do.  Any apology will be construed as an admission of guilt, and will not make the process any easier or better for your son.

The school may encourage your son to work with an advisor that is employed by the school, because that person knows and understands the school's process.  Do not be manipulated into trusting that any school employee will be looking out for your son's best interests.  You need to consult with an experienced independent advisor at the beginning of the process and encourage your son to delay making any statements until he has spoken with an advisor.  This is especially important if your son is facing a criminal investigation.

I have two college-aged boys and these false Title IX cases really anger me.  A finding that your son (or daughter) is "responsible" for sexual misconduct can get him expelled from school and denied admission elsewhere.  It can bolster a civil case against him and ruin his reputation.   If your child has been falsely accused of sexual misconduct or dating violence and is facing a Title IX investigation or hearing, call me NOW.  Time is of the essence.  Your child needs an experienced advisor.  Not a friend.  Not a faculty member.  An advisor who knows and understands the process and has experience in protecting the rights of her clients. I've worked with dozens of students, and have achieved the best results when I am involved early on in the process.  That is why my fees are extremely reasonable, and for a good reason.  As I know from personal experience, putting a kid through college is extremely expensive and I want to make sure I can help as many falsely accused clients as I can until Congress stops this injustice with legislative reform.