It’s Back to School month and parents will be having some serious conversations with their children as these young adults embark on their first year of college or begin another year of studies: “Work hard and watch your grades!” “Be smart.” “Don’t drink and drive (and that includes your bike)!” Navigating the university system can present its own challenges.
It’s an unfortunate reality that educating young adults about sexual harassment and violence is high on a parent’s list these days. The #MeToo movement has called national attention to sexual harassment and assault, and the news is constantly buzzing of high-profile politicians and celebrities who have been accused of sexual misconduct. But what many students are not aware of are legal rights and responsibilities given to them while they attend college.
Title IX (of the Education Amendments of 1972) provides students on campus with some very important protections against sexual violence. But the same rules that protect those students alleging sexual misconduct can heavily impact those students accused of sexual misconduct. Title IX refers to the federal laws and supporting court cases that prohibit sexual discrimination in schools receiving funding from the federal government.
Title IX is a complicated topic, but as you return to your university classes this fall, it’s imperative that you understand what it means for you. You may not be aware that many behaviors can constitute Title IX violations, and that universities take these claims extremely seriously. Protect your reputation and prevent yourself from accidentally engaging in misconduct.
Every year I handle a number of Title IX Violations and accusations of sexual assault occurring on college campuses. Here are some important points all university students should be aware of when they attend college this fall.
Some common behaviors classified as Title IX violations include:
- Texting or calling someone against their stated wishes
- Making jokes at the expense of another’s sex or gender
- Publicly exposing someone for their sexual behavior or choices
- Sending inappropriate or explicit pictures over text
- Using threatening language, even in a joking manner
It’s important to note that university-held Title IX hearings are not equivalent to criminal proceedings: You cannot be jailed if you are found guilty. That being said, these charges are often filed at the same time as a real criminal prosecution begins, and even on their own, they can represent substantial obstacles to your educational success.
School officials vary in their application of Title IX rules, but all are afraid of mishandling an investigation and losing federal assistance. Because of this, penalties can be exceptionally harsh and include:
- Permanent expulsion from your school
- Suspension, either temporary or long-term
- Administrative penalties and fines
- Limits to participation in school and extracurricular programs
- Receiving sex offender status
- Losing your degree or past university credits
The most obvious rule is that you should avoid sexually threatening, discriminatory, or inappropriate conduct of any kind, and treat others with respect. However, there are many cases where you could be accused of a Title IX claim, even if you have behaved perfectly according to your recollection. In these cases, you need to be aware of your rights, and how to prepare a solid defense.
If you have been accused of sexual misconduct or violence on campus, the first step is to contact a Florida criminal defense attorney for advice. These issues are just as serious as criminal charges even if such charges haven’t been brought against you. I am available 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. Call me at (561) 425-8229 or visit our website at www.misdemeanorclinic.com.