College campuses and other educational institutions have a responsibility to protect their students. There are multiple pieces of legislation that codify how to do exactly that. One of these pieces of legislation, Title IX, is a means of helping colleges to conduct thorough and helpful investigations after an incident of sexual violence occurs on campus. Title IX lays down guidelines that require a college to respond promptly to the incident and create measures to heal the sense of decreased safety on the campus. The college must also create a plan to address the ways that the incident has created a hostile environment for students. Schools that don’t implement effective measures according to Title IX requirements are subject to the loss of their federal funding.
Rather than having a formula or a rigid series of steps to follow during investigations, Title IX allows colleges to create informal and unique solutions. Every college is required to have resources and plans available to use as a starting point if a sexual violence incident should occur. Each college’s plans are unique, and the measures taken can vary widely from campus to campus.
One of the most important aspects of Title IX is that the guidelines are meant to protect the complainant rather than the perpetrator. The complainant is often subject to emotional upheaval, feelings of isolation, guilt, shame, and extreme fear about coming forward. These things can severely interfere with the ability to learn and engage in normal social activities.
If a perpetrator is found beyond a reasonable doubt to have committed an act of sexual violence, the school administration must discipline them. However, disciplining the perpetrator isn’t enough to be in compliance with Title IX. The school must also address the specific culture of fear and violence that the incident has caused or unearthed. They have to promote an environment of healing instead of a sense that a problem is solved when the perpetrator is punished.
When a formal lawsuit is brought against a perpetrator of violence, the end goal is for the complainant to receive financial compensation for their suffering. Title IX investigations have a different end goal, though. Rather than providing the complainant with financial compensation, a Title IX investigation must include remedies that ensure that the complainant is able to have equal access to educational opportunities.
A sexual violence incident is a traumatic experience that can severely disrupt the complainant’s life. They may miss an exam or certain important classes following the incident. In these cases, the student should not be penalized academically. They must also be given the resources to make up missed work and catch up on any lessons and lectures they missed.
The remedies available for the complainant will vary depending on the school, the circumstances surrounding the incident, and the desires of the complainant themselves. While having multiple resources available is critical, it’s also critical that the complainant be given full autonomy in which measures they choose to utilize.
Some common remedies that can be adjusted for many different circumstances include:
- The provision of academic support, victim advocacy, mental health, and medical resources
- A no contact order being implemented to keep the perpetrator away
- Adjusting living arrangements and class schedules so that the complainant and the perpetrator do not have to share space on campus
- Allowing the complainant to switch classes, withdraw from classes, arrange their exam schedule based on their needs, or retake a course that they began performing poorly in after the assault without suffering financial or academic consequences
- Giving the option of having a security guard escort the complainant to and from different areas on campus, or having a more discreet security patrol keep an eye on the complainant’s dorm room to make sure no trouble is caused
- Letting the complainant know they have a right to file a police report and press criminal charges against the perpetrator
Notice of Outcome
When an investigation is finally concluded, Title IX requires that the school give both the perpetrator and the complainant a written notification regarding the outcome. The notification will detail whether the school found compelling evidence of the incident, what remedies are offered through Title IX, and whether any sanctions will be imposed upon the perpetrator.
In addition, the notice is required to outline any steps that the school is taking to promote healing and reduce hostility in the education environment. There should be active plans to keep similar incidents from occurring on campus again. One important note is that the perpetrator’s notice should not include any information about the remedies that the complainant is being offered.
Title IX also requires that schools implement campus-wide remedies following a sexual violence incident, so there must be a written plan regarding this.