Whitworth University Title IX
Students accused of sexual harassment may inadvertently waive important rights if they do not fully understand Whitworth University’s Title IX policy and procedures. At Blair & Kim, PLLC, we understand Title IX investigation processes and the potential consequences for accused students. Our knowledgeable Washington Title IX defense attorneys can advise accused students through the investigation and disciplinary process and fight to protect their rights.Title IX
Title IX of the Education Amendment Act of 1972 (“Title IX”) prohibits sex-based discrimination, including sexual harassment, in education programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.Whitworth University’s Title IX Policy
Whitworth University’s Title IX and Sexual Harassment Policy (“Policy”) prohibits sexual harassment, defined to include quid pro quo sexual harassment, hostile environment sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking, in the university’s education programs and activities. The Policy does not apply to sexual harassment occurring outside the United States or “off-campus, in a private setting, and outside the scope of the university’s Education Programs and Activities.” Sexual harassment that is not subject to the Policy may be subject to the code of conduct or other policies.Preliminary Assessment
Upon receiving a report of sexual harassment, the Title IX coordinator conducts a preliminary assessment to determine if the alleged conduct could fall within the scope of the Policy and if it could constitute sexual harassment as defined in the policy. If the alleged conduct is outside the Policy’s scope or does not constitute sexual harassment, the Title IX coordinator closes the matter, but may refer it to be resolved under another policy. If the alleged conduct could come within the Policy’s scope or constitute sexual harassment, the Title IX procedures continue.Interim Removal
The Title IX coordinator may temporarily remove a student from education programs and activities based on an individualized safety risk analysis. They must give the respondent an opportunity to meet with them within 24 hours and challenge the interim removal.Title IX Investigation
If a formal complaint is filed by a complainant or the Title IX coordinator, the Title IX coordinator must give written notice of the formal complaint to the parties within five days.
An investigator then begins the investigation. According to the Policy, the parties are given equal opportunity to be interviewed and present witnesses and other evidence. The investigator may limit witness interviews if their testimony would be “unreasonably cumulative” or “categorically inadmissible.” Pursuant to the policy, if a party is aware of and has the opportunity to present particular evidence or identify a specific witness during the investigation and fails to do so, they are prohibited from introducing it during the adjudication unless they can show “mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect.”
The investigator provides the parties copies of the evidence directly related to the allegations and gives them 10 days to submit a written response. Following the 10 day period, the investigator completes the investigation report and provides a copy to the Title IX coordinator, the parties, and their advisors.Informal Resolution
The Title IX coordinator sends a notice advising the parties of the hearing and informal resolution processes. The notice states that the hearing process will be used unless the parties agree to administrative adjudication by returning a signed consent form within three days. A party who does not timely return the signed consent is deemed not to have consented.Hearing
If either party does not consent to administrative adjudication, the hearing process begins. The hearing officer provides written notice to the parties at least 10 days before the pre-hearing conference and the hearing. The notice includes the deadline for any written response to the investigation report.
The written response must include certain information specified in the Policy, including any arguments disagreeing with the investigation report, any argument for the categorical exclusion of evidence, a list of the witnesses the party wants to be called to the hearing by an attendance notice, a list of the party’s other witnesses, any objection to the hearing procedures, any request for physical separation of the parties, and the name and contact information of the party’s advisor or a request that the university provide an advisor.
The default process is a virtual pre-hearing conference with the parties participating simultaneously, but separate meetings may be allowed at the request of a party.
The hearing officer sends notices of attendance to any employee or student who is requested as witness. The university must either excuse the witness from any conflict or provide another accommodation to allow them to attend the hearing.
The parties may be put in different rooms at the hearing with technology allowing them to participate simultaneously upon request of a party. The hearing officer also has the discretion to hold a virtual hearing.
Each party may directly address the hearing officer and respond to questions. The advisors may ask relevant questions of the other party and the witnesses. The hearing is closed, and witnesses, except the investigator and the parties, are sequestered.
The determination is based on a preponderance of the evidence.Discipline
If the hearing officer determines the respondent violated the Policy, they consult with a university official with disciplinary authority and with the Title IX coordinator, who will make determinations regarding ongoing support measures.
The Policy provides for the following range of sanctions: educational sanctions, suspension in abeyance, behavioral suspension, and expulsion.
The hearing officer sends a written determination to the parties.Administrative Adjudication
If the parties agree to an administrative adjudication, each meets separately with an administrative officer answer questions and make their arguments. The administrative officer resolves disputed facts by a preponderance of the evidence standard and makes a determination on whether the facts supported by the preponderance of the evidence constitute a Policy violation. The administrative officer consults with a university official and the Title IX coordinator and then sends the written determination to the parties.Appeal
Appeals of a determination or dismissal are permitted only on the following grounds specified in the Policy: procedural irregularity affecting the outcome; new evidence that could have affected the outcome; and a conflict of interest or bias on the part of the Title IX coordinator, investigator, hearing officer, or administrative officer that affected the outcome.
Appeals must be submitted in writing to the Title IX coordinator within seven days of receipt of the notice of dismissal or determination or within three days of the other party appealing. If the appeal is timely and based on permitted grounds, the appeal officer gives the other party written notice and seven days to submit a written opposition. The appeal officer sends a written decision including the rationale to the parties.Informal Resolution
The parties may consent, with the Title IX coordinator’s approval, to engage in informal resolution at any time between written notice of the formal complaint and the resolution of any appeal. If the parties reach a resolution that the Title IX coordinator agrees is not clearly unreasonable, it is reduced to writing and signed by the parties and the Title IX coordinator. If resolution is not reached within 21 days without an extension, the informal resolution process is terminated and the formal complaint will go through the investigation and adjudication procedures.Call a Skilled Washington Title IX Defense Attorney
Whitworth’s Title IX Policy includes strict timelines and failing to identify evidence in the investigation stage could prevent a party from presenting that evidence at the hearing. An experienced Washington Title IX defense attorney understands Title IX processes and procedures and can protect the rights of students who have been accused of sexual harassment. Blair & Kim, PLLC is experienced in criminal defense as well as Title IX defense, so we can also help our clients with any related criminal cases.