Since the 2011 Dear Colleague letter, Title IX has steadily transformed. While little to no guidance informed investigations at first, they’ve now become a prescriptive and rigorous process.
When current Title IX regulations were finalized in 2020, schools became legally bound to a reinvented investigation process. Investigations became more lengthy, complicated, and arduous than ever.
With new regulations still to be released under the Biden administration, it’s unclear whether investigations will become simpler overall. A widened scope of protections under Title IX may even prove the opposite to be true.
As Title IX Coordinators prepare for changes under new regulations, they can streamline their current investigations in a few ways.
Overcommunicate, especially at the start.
Today’s Title IX formal grievance process includes required steps that all contribute to a complex investigation.
After the intake and filing of a formal complaint, Title IX professionals must draft and send a Notice of Allegations to parties listing the charges to be explored in the case, explain the process timeline, and send meeting notices to parties.
Most Title IX policies are lengthy, legal-heavy documents that are less than user-friendly. Throughout any investigation, parties will likely need to be reminded of what’s next, how long it will take, and where they currently are in the investigation. Questions like “how many interviews are left?” and “how long does evidence review take?” and “when is my live hearing?” often arise. If Coordinators are not communicative, parties may start to feel like their case isn’t moving forward, or they’ve been forgotten.
Coordinators may start to feel like they are answering the same questions over and over again, but doing so will help parties understand and ideally feel more confident in their investigation.
Emphasize equal party rights.
Parties undergoing an investigation sometimes report that they feel penalized for participating.
Complainants express feeling emotionally drained, unable to focus, and even unsafe with the other party at school and wonder if their decision to come forward was “worth it.”
Respondents often express feeling “in trouble” or “guilty” before a decision and that their peers treat them differently after learning about the case.
When these issues arise, Title IX Coordinators should remind parties of their equal rights and that they’re assumed not responsible until a case is adjudicated. Coordinators can enforce this standard in several ways:
- Issue equitable supportive measures that are neutral in nature, such as changing classes, issuing mutual no-contact directives, or granting timeline extensions.
- Correspond with parties in a similar manner to avoid perceived bias. Keep consistent email tone and language as well as in-person correspondence.
- Refer to case details as “allegations,” reiterating that Title IX Coordinators are neutral facilitators who do not decide case outcomes.
Lead conversations with compassion.
While Title IX Coordinators should remind parties of their neutrality, compassion can help ease the strain of a case.
During an investigation, Title IX professionals can acknowledge the difficulty of the investigation process and remind parties that they have access to other resources, such as victim advocates and counseling.
Since investigations involve seemingly endless steps, details, and procedures, Coordinators should remind parties that they are available for questions, support, and referrals when appropriate.
How We Can Help
For up-to-date information on all Title IX changes and how they affect you and your institution, join us for Title IX Thursdays on the first Thursday of every month.
For more information about our Title IX consulting services, including advising, hearing adjudication, and investigation, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.