Explaining Due Process Under Title IX in Washington DC

When you are accused of a crime, you have certain rights under the due process clause to the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that protects you and provides you with fairness in your criminal proceedings.

A fundamental constitutional right is due process, or the right to be judged according to standardized rules and procedures designed to eliminate unfair bias. Explaining due process under Title IX in Washington DC, however, is quite different.

Although Title IX governs most colleges and universities, due process only applies to public institutions. As a result, the only due process rights for students accused of sexual harassment, assault, or violence under Title IX are found within the contract between the schools and the students, or the school handbook, rules, policies, and procedures.

A seasoned lawyer could help students in this position determine and protect their rights throughout any Title IX proceedings.

Criminal Proceedings and Due Process

In criminal cases, individuals have a guarantee of certain constitutional rights, including due process. For example, all individuals accused of crimes are entitled to representation by a lawyer in their criminal proceedings. This due process right is so vital that if individuals cannot afford to hire counsel, the court must appoint one for them if there is a risk of incarceration, which is a risk in most criminal proceedings.

Other fundamental principles of due process include:

  • The right to a trial before a jury of peers and an unbiased, neutral judge
  • The right to proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt
  • The right to present a defense
  • The privilege against self-incrimination

All these aspects of due process, among others, combine to protect individuals from unfounded accusations of due process that are unsupported by adequate evidence. If the state violates the due process rights of defendants, there are serious consequences, including cases in which a judge throws out evidence as inadmissible at trial or a guilty verdict is overturned by an appellate court.

Due Process in Title IX Proceedings

Explanations of due process under Title IX in Washington DC are far different than explanations of due process in criminal proceedings. Since these constitutional protections typically do not apply to students accused of sexual misconduct under Title IX, students may find it far more challenging to build a strong defense to the charges against them.

Due to the weakening and in some cases, the complete absence of due process protections in Title IX proceedings, students may end with harsh sanctions based on allegations of misconduct supported by little or no evidence.

More specifically, Title IX proceedings at most colleges and universities do not establish any right to legal representation, even though students may be facing suspension or expulsion from school, not to mention black marks on their academic records. In some cases, students may be accompanied by an “advisor,” but the rules of procedure may limit the role of that advisor.
For instance, the advisor may not be able to speak during any Title IX proceedings, ask questions, or do anything more than sit quietly next to the accused students.

Title IX proceedings do not typically utilize the rules of evidence, which can allow uncorroborated statements by accusers to operate as the sole decision-making factor in these cases.
Accused students are likely to be unable to confront their accusers; in many cases, the accusers are not required to appear at any Title IX proceedings or be subject to questioning by the accused.

Although these events never would occur in a criminal courtroom, they can form the basis for a finding that it is “more likely than not” that the accused students committed sexual misconduct in a Title IX case.

How an Attorney Can Explain DC Title IX Due Process Rights

While due process is a matter of fundamental and constitutional fairness in all criminal proceedings, explaining due process under Title IX in Washington DC, or the lack thereof is much more complicated. Due to the absence of due process protections, students can face extremely harsh consequences based on weak evidence. This evidence may be so thin that it does not support a criminal charge or conviction.

Due process problems with Title IX proceedings make the stakes for students accused of sexual misconduct much higher. Despite the potential for permanently adverse effects on their lives, students do not enjoy the same due process rights as those accused of criminal offenses, which only emphasizes the need for legal representation during Title IX proceedings.