NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED FEDERAL LAWYERS
Last Updated on: 24th September 2023, 10:43 pm
Title IX is a big deal here in Kentucky. This federal law prohibits sex discrimination in education programs that get money from the government. That includes discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Title IX applies to a bunch of areas like sports, sexual harassment and assault, pregnant and parenting students, STEM education, and more.In Kentucky, Title IX has been in the news a lot lately because of a high-profile lawsuit against the University of Kentucky. A couple years ago, two former UK students sued the school. They said UK violated Title IX by not giving female athletes the same opportunities as male athletes.Specifically, the lawsuit argued UK should’ve added women’s field hockey, lacrosse, and triathlon teams. The students said there was enough interest and ability among female students for these sports. But UK never added the teams.After a three-day trial in August 2022, a federal judge agreed with the students. The judge ruled UK violated Title IX by not adding those women’s sports teams.This case shows how important it is for schools and universities in Kentucky to understand Title IX rules. It also shows why schools need help from lawyers when Title IX issues come up.
What Title IX Requires for Athletics
When it comes to athletics, Title IX says schools have to give male and female students equal athletic opportunities. This equality covers a few areas:
- Athletic participation – The number of spots on teams for male and female students
- Athletic scholarships – The money awarded to male and female student athletes
- Treatment and benefits – Things like equipment, coaching, facilities, etc.
Schools have to meet one of three standards to prove they’re giving equal athletic opportunities:
- Provide participation opportunities for male and female students in numbers that match their enrollments
- Show a history and continuing practice of expanding sports teams for the underrepresented gender (usually women)
- Fully accommodate the athletic interests and abilities of the underrepresented gender
The lawsuit against UK said the university didn’t meet any of those three standards. The judge agreed. She found UK violated the “interests and abilities” standard by not adding women’s lacrosse, field hockey, and triathlon teams.
How the Government Reviews Title IX Compliance
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the Department of Education is in charge of enforcing Title IX. If someone files a Title IX complaint against a school, the OCR will open up a compliance review.Here’s what the OCR does during a review:
- Interviews school staff, coaches, and students
- Analyzes data on athletic participation, scholarships, budgets, etc.
- Reviews school records and policies related to Title IX
- Evaluates the school’s athletic programs for equality
If the OCR finds discrimination, they’ll try to get voluntary changes from the school. If that doesn’t work, the OCR can start administrative enforcement proceedings or refer the case to the Justice Department.But recent news stories suggest the OCR doesn’t really have much power to enforce Title IX. Schools can ignore OCR’s requests and recommendations without many consequences.For example, after almost a three-year review, the OCR decided UK’s athletic program violated Title IX. But UK didn’t add the women’s teams the OCR recommended.It wasn’t until the students sued UK themselves that the school faced any real accountability. This shows why lawsuits play an important role in enforcing Title IX.
Suing Schools for Violating Title IX
Students, parents, and others can file lawsuits to enforce Title IX, like the case against UK. These legal cases can seek money damages and court orders to make schools comply with Title IX.For a Title IX athletics lawsuit to succeed, the plaintiffs (people who filed the lawsuit) have to show:
- The university gets federal funds
- There are participation gaps between male and female athletes
- There’s unmet interest and ability among female students to have a new varsity team
- The university failed to accommodate that interest and ability
Expert testimony, surveys, and data analysis help show unmet athletic interest among female students.In the UK case, the plaintiffs used surveys showing a lot of UK students wanted the school to add women’s lacrosse, field hockey, and triathlon teams.If they win, Title IX lawsuits can make universities add new women’s teams. Courts can also order schools to pay money damages to the plaintiffs.But these cases take a long time and cost a lot of money. There’s also no guarantee the plaintiffs will win.
Title IX and Campus Sexual Misconduct
While the UK case focused on sports, Title IX also deals with sexual harassment and violence at colleges. Students disciplined for alleged sexual misconduct often end up in Title IX proceedings at their schools.Some key issues that come up in campus sexual misconduct cases:
- Fair process – Accused students are entitled to a fair disciplinary system. This includes getting notice of the charges, a chance to review evidence, a hearing, an advisor, cross-examining witnesses, and more.
- Standard of evidence – Many schools use a “more likely than not” standard in Title IX cases. But some argue the “clear and convincing” standard should apply instead.
- Retaliation – Title IX prohibits retaliation against anyone who files a complaint or takes part in a Title IX grievance process.
- Appeals – Title IX requires schools to have an appeals process for disciplinary decisions. Appeals can consider procedural mistakes, new evidence, bias, unfair punishments, and more.
Title IX sexual misconduct proceedings are really complex. Students facing suspension, expulsion, or a disciplinary record should definitely get a lawyer.
Why Work with a Kentucky Title IX Lawyer
With so much at stake, it’s critical for both complainants and respondents to have qualified legal help with Title IX issues.Title IX lawyers have experience with OCR complaints, compliance reviews, lawsuits, and campus discipline cases. They help clients understand their rights and options under Title IX.For schools and universities, a Title IX lawyer can:
- Do Title IX audits and self-evaluations
- Update policies and procedures to comply with Title IX
- Provide Title IX training for students, faculty, and staff
- Handle Title IX complaints and investigations
- Avoid athletic gaps that could lead to OCR reviews or lawsuits
- Defend against OCR complaints and litigation
For students, a Title IX lawyer can:
- Review disciplinary charges to spot due process violations
- Help prepare appeals of punishments
- Guide students through filing an OCR complaint
- Represent plaintiffs in Title IX lawsuits
- Advise on strategies to reduce sanctions or overturn findings
- Explain Title IX rights and protections
Having a lawyer levels the playing field for students facing suspension, expulsion, or other discipline under Title IX.
- Title IX bans sex discrimination in federally funded school programs, including sports, sexual harassment/violence, and more.
- Schools must provide equal athletic opportunities for male and female students.
- Individuals can file OCR complaints against schools for Title IX violations.
- Lawsuits can also be filed to enforce Title IX and potentially get money damages.
- Students involved in Title IX discipline should get legal help.
- Title IX lawyers help schools comply with the law and represent clients in complaints, lawsuits, and campus cases.
- Title IX is complex, so understanding your rights and responsibilities is important.
- Talking to a qualified Title IX lawyer can provide the legal guidance needed to navigate this critical civil rights law.
Title IX has been making headlines here in Kentucky. With an experienced Title IX attorney on your side, you can better understand how this important law applies to your school, sports program, or individual situation. The right lawyer can help make sure your Title IX rights are protected.