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Institutions that receive federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education are bound by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. To comply with this law, each school has its own policies and procedures for handling Title IX sexual misconduct complaints. Since opening the San Antonio criminal defense firm of Tylden Shaeffer, Attorney at Law, P.C. in 2000, I have offered representation to students and faculty members accused of Title IX violations. I help accused individuals put forth effective defenses tailored to the policies and procedures of the academic institutions involved.
Sexual misconduct accusations are particularly common on college and university campuses. When one student (the complainant) accuses another (the respondent) of sexual assault, sexual harassment, relationship violence, stalking or any other form of sex-based discrimination banned by Title IX, the academic institution they both attend must respect each student’s rights.
Colleges and universities are required to address any Title IX complaint related to an incident that occurred on campus or within an education program, including at parties of school-recognized fraternities and sororities. Higher-education institutions also have the power to discipline students and faculty members for sexual harassment that occurs beyond school premises. For example, the University of Texas System Board of Regents maintains a policy to address any off-campus misconduct that may substantially affect a person’s education or employment, or that poses a risk of harm to members of the university community.
Federal regulations that went into effect in August 2020 require all publicly funded colleges and universities to hold live hearings to adjudicate alleged Title IX violations. At these hearings, each student’s selected adviser — who may be a criminal defense attorney or someone else — may question the accuser and accused as well as any other relevant individuals. The accused student must be presumed innocent. A clear and convincing standard of evidence is needed to find the respondent guilty. (Prior to the 2020 guidelines, the Obama-era Title IX guidelines allowed a finding of guilt based on the “preponderance of evidence” standard, which was easier for complainants to meet.)
Each school has its own methods for dealing with Title IX investigations and hearings, and each has its own system of disciplining respondents for different offenses. Your defense should be tailored to your school’s specific policies and procedures. If you are accused of sexual misconduct and face expulsion, loss of a scholarship or any other adverse action, speak to a lawyer. I take the time to understand what you are up against and explain your options for fighting and resolving the claim. If your case is likely to be referred to a prosecutor, I will prepare to defend you against criminal charges.
Elementary schools, middle schools and high schools are also required to comply with Title IX guidelines. Accordingly, these institutions must address all complaints promptly and maintain a grievance process that treats the accuser and accused equitably. Secondary schools are not required to complete live hearings with cross-examination, and instead can make disciplinary decisions based on the results of an investigation. Because hearings are optional at the K-12 level, it may be more difficult for a respondent to push back against an accuser’s complaint.
An allegation of sexual misconduct in school can threaten a child’s prospects for college, athletic scholarships, school activities and social life. As an attorney well versed in Title IX cases, I understand how the policies of each school should shape the accused’s defense strategy.
At the office of Tylden Shaeffer, Attorney at Law, P.C. in San Antonio, I advise Texas students and school faculty members during Title IX investigations and hearings. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, call (210) 227-1500 or contact me online.