On June 23, 1972, the 92nd United States Congress enacted Title IX as a part of the Education Amendments. They enacted this amendment to update the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed several forms of discrimination but did not tackle the issue of discrimination within educational programs. The opening text of Title IX states that no education program or activity that receives federal assistance shall discriminate against people in any way based on sex. This discrimination can include but is not limited to the denial of benefits, exclusionary action, or sexual harassment.
While Congress wrote Title IX to protect victims and hold aggressors accountable, there is a lack of understanding about the investigative process among those outside this legal field. This general mystery can make even the act of filing a complaint intimidating to those unaware of what happens afterward. We’ll take an in-depth look into the procedures of a Title IX investigation from start to finish to finally clear the air.
The law requires every school to complete the investigative process within a reasonable time frame. However, this timeline may shorten or extend depending on available witnesses, evidence, and other factors. You can contact your school’s Title IX office or Title IX Coordinator for an estimated timeline or updates.
Ultimately, every investigative process will begin with an interview with a Title IX officer or investigator, either online or in person. The Respondent, otherwise known as the defendant, will also go through this interview process with a similar line of questioning. It’s important to note that you will likely be recounting triggering or intimate details, and not every investigator has training in trauma-informed practices. Some of these questions may feel victim-blaming or inappropriate. While it may not be the investigator’s intent to come across as biased, you may want to have a lawyer with you throughout this process.
During this time, the investigator will ask you for a list of witnesses. A witness can be anyone you spoke to before, during, or after the incident with the Respondent, either friend, family, medical professional, officer, or anyone else you may deem pertinent. However, it is important to remember that you’ll have to provide their contact information and that the investigator will likely interview them—some may even have to testify. Therefore, it is important to ask anyone you intend to list as a witness if they’re comfortable with having to do so. You can also add to your list of witnesses later, but the investigator cannot guarantee they will deem interviewing all these witnesses as necessary.
Aside from providing a list of witnesses, the investigator will also ask you for any evidence at some point during the interview process. Recounting the details may be difficult emotionally, or you may have trouble remembering. However, it is in your best interest to write down and document as many details of the event as soon as possible. Evidence can include but is not limited to, photos, texts, social media posts, rape kits, articles of clothing, phone records, receipts, audio files, or any other form of tangible proof. Additionally, the sooner you collect this evidence, the better, as it reduces the chance of the deletion or destruction of these items of proof before you can obtain and record them.
It is possible that the investigator may contact you or the Respondent and set up additional interviews to ask follow-up questions. Remember, you are allowed to have an attorney with you throughout every interview if you deem it necessary.
Once the investigator believes they’ve gathered enough statements through the interview process, they will send you a summary statement. A summary statement is a document with all the facts and information gathered during the interview process. It is critical that you review the entirety of this document to make sure everything is accurate, and the information presented is truthful.
After the investigator has received all evidence and statements from you, the Respondent, and the respective witnesses, they will compile a document known as the Evidence Review. This document will usually be a few hundred pages, but you must review as much of it as you can. This document may contain very triggering content that may be difficult for you to read, especially when reviewing the Respondent’s summary statement. In these cases, you may want to have a support person with you or someone to read the document for you, such as a trusted family member or friend.
After receiving the Evidence Review, you have a period of about three to ten days to write a written response to any facts, details, or statements. If you need more time, you can contact the Title IX office and ask for a brief extension of up to two weeks, but they cannot guarantee your extension’s approval. It is important to be as objective and factual as possible when responding to certain details. Focus on provable details or details that are blatantly false. You can be honest with your investigator if you get any portions of the timeline mixed up or remember new details—they understand that processing trauma is difficult and memories get mixed up. It is best to be truthful and contact them promptly to lessen any delays.
Once you and the Respondent have had the chance to make and correct your statements and go over the Evidence Review, the investigator will create a final investigation report. This report can include assessments from the investigator that summarize their understanding of credibility or a collection of evidence. The investigator may give you and the Respondent a chance to make final corrections to the investigative report, but they cannot guarantee this opportunity.
Afterward, the investigator will release the finalized investigation report and either set a hearing date or gauge your interest in mediation or alternative resolutions. Contact the appropriate legal counsel right away if you feel pressured by the Respondent or the investigator to pursue mediation.
Hopefully, this look into the procedures of a Title IX investigation from start to finish takes some of the fear out of filing a complaint and going through with the process of holding aggressors accountable. Contact the Law Firm of Tamara N. Holder today if you have more questions about these procedures or require the aid of professional legal counsel. We’ll put you in contact with one of our Title IX attorneys so you can discuss the details of your case privately and receive the legal advice you need.