How to Comply With the Dept. of Ed’s Title IX Sexual Violence Guidance

Prompt and appropriate investigations of on- and off-campus sexual assaults and harassment will help to ensure your campus will meet the U.S. Department of Education’s expectations.

Each school’s Title IX coordinator is expected to provide guidance to their law enforcement department about how to respond to reports of sexual violence under their institution’s specific Title IX grievance procedures. This should include training for public safety p
ersonnel on the school’s procedures and any other procedures used for investigating or responding to sexual violence. With the consent of the complainant, information from a law enforcement investigation may also be used in the Title IX investigation “so long as it does not compromise the criminal investigation.”

Include Title IX Procedures in Clery Reports

For college and university police or security officers responsible for producing their institution’s annual Jeanne Clery Act report, being familiar with the all of their sexual violence grievance procedures is especially important. The Clery report should contain a summary of all procedures that may be used to investigate, respond to and resolve a sexual assault complaint using both informal and formal procedures, including options for making changes to a student victim’s academic and living arrangements.

If there isn’t already a working relationship between police and the Title IX coordinator, police should be able to readily identify who to contact from their institution’s published procedures and reach out to them to begin a collaborative relationship.

Don’t Wait to Investigate Title IX Claims

Unlike a criminal investigation, due to the promptness requirements of Title IX, there are limits on how long an institution may take to conduct an investigation under their grievance procedures. Schools should designate and publish “reasonably prompt time frames” for each stage of a case, specifically for the investigatory phase, when the complainant and alleged perpetrator will receive the outcome of the complaint, and for any appeals. OCR expects a typical investigation to take about 60 calendar days, although they recognize that more complex cases, such as those involving multiple incidents, may take longer.

The new guidance also addresses how long an institution may delay taking full action while a law enforcement investigation is underway. Schools aren’t able to wait for the conclusion of a criminal investigation and shouldn’t dissuade victims from seeking a resolution under Title IX prior to the resolution of any criminal matters. Similarly, schools shouldn’t discourage students going through their Title IX grievance process from reporting to law enforcement. Under the Clery Act, colleges and universities are required to offer sexual assault survivors assistance in reporting to law enforcement. If a school has a memorandum of understanding with local police, it should address under what circumstances, including addressing any mandated reporting laws especially for juvenile victims, sexual violence will be reported and how.

Some Temporary Delays are Acceptable

A school, however, “may need to delay temporarily the fact-finding portion of a Title IX investigation while the police are gathering evidence,” writes Ali. “Once notified that the police department has completed its gathering of evidence (not the ultimate outcome of the investigation or the filing of any charges), the school must promptly resume and complete its fact-finding for the Title IX investigation.” OCR notes that this delay may normally range from three to 10 calendar days but may be longer in some cases depending upon the complexity of the matter. During this time, schools should notify victims of their rights to pursue disciplinary action or obtain other assistance.

Schools should also still take any interim action – such as a no-contact order or interim suspension of the accused – needed to protect the victim and or the rest of the campus community. As some of these steps may be outside the scope of law enforcement, it is critical that there be coordination with appropriate officials at the school who are empowered to take these steps. This would include working with student judicial officials and academic departments.

Prevention of Sexual Harassment Works Best

Ultimately the best approach to Title IX compliance is one that does not tolerate illegal sexual harassment and violence. It is also important to have personnel at every school, college and university who work together collaboratively to combat it in a coordinated manner.

S. Daniel Carter is the director of the 32 National Campus Safety Index.

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