Zweiback, Fiset & Coleman has extensive experience with the Title IX process and other academic disciplinary proceedings and skillfully guide our clients through these complex matters. We have represented clients in administrative hearings before school boards, in negotiations with universities and high schools, and in related civil proceedings. Our attorneys understand how highly personal and sensitive academic disciplinary and Title IX proceedings are for all involved, and we work closely with clients and their families to make the process swift, effective, and discrete.
It is critical to respond to a potential or current Title IX or other academic disciplinary proceeding as quickly and effectively as possible. Although a disciplinary proceeding pursued by an educational institution may initially appear to be less serious than one pursued in a civil or criminal proceeding, the ultimate short-term and long-term consequences to a student, faculty member, administrator or school employee can be devastating. In addition to the possibility of being expelled or suspended from a university or other academic institution (without the ability to recoup tuition and fees), a finding of misconduct in a Title IX or other academic disciplinary proceeding can further result in a costly civil lawsuit against the individual and potential criminal penalties such as jail or prison time, fines, and a criminal record that can damage one’s reputation and career interests for decades to come. Thus, our attorneys make it our mission to zealously defend our clients’ interests in all Title IX and other academic disciplinary proceedings to protect and promote their current academic standing and future endeavors.
What is Title IX?
Title IX is a federal civil rights law enacted in 1972 that people commonly associate with the obligation of educational institutions to provide equity in sporting activities on the basis of sex. While that is one aspect of the law, Title IX additionally has, over the years, applied to the actions of private individuals attending educational institutions, creating massive legal and reputational risks for accused students, faculty, and administrators accused of misconduct in disciplinary proceedings. Indeed, academic institutions are required to pursue disciplinary proceedings when certain allegations are made, such as those relating to sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, gender discrimination, and domestic violence.
Unlike typical criminal investigations, Title IX proceedings often are pursued by academic institution employees rather than law enforcement, and those facing discipline may not necessarily be provided the same due process and other civil rights protections required in criminal investigations. For example, a student or administrator may not be provided with a defense attorney or advised to seek out legal counsel to assist in responding to the proceedings. At the same time, universities and other academic institutions often face great internal and external pressure to quickly assign blame and impose harsh disciplinary measures against alleged offenders even where conflicting or seemingly insufficient evidence of wrongdoing exists.
Other Academic Disciplinary Proceedings
In addition to Title IX violations, students and others can face disciplinary proceedings from academic institutions related to alleged misconduct. This can include proceedings against a student or faculty member for alleged:
- Academic misconduct including plagiarism and cheating
- Theft of research and trade secrets
- Violations of drug and alcohol policies
- Physical assault
- Professional misconduct
As with Title IX violations, colleges, universities, and high schools may pursue such disciplinary proceedings against students and faculty members outside of the legal system in prosecutions led by university officials but which may not provide those facing discipline with the due process protections that they deserve, despite the fact that those targeted in disciplinary proceedings may face severe immediate and collateral consequences as a result.
The Consequences of a Title IX or Other Disciplinary Proceeding
Because a Title IX or other academic disciplinary proceeding may not appear to be as formal as a criminal or civil litigation proceeding, some make the mistake of not engaging with experienced defense counsel to effectively respond to the disciplinary proceedings. This may be due to a fear that retaining defense counsel implies guilt, a misconception about the seriousness of the consequences of a Title IXor other disciplinary proceeding, or any other concern that it would be ineffective or inappropriate to work with counsel in responding to such proceedings.
Failing to obtain effective defense counsel in a Title IX or other disciplinary proceeding, however, can have profound, negative consequences for the immediate and future prospects of a student, administrator, faculty member, or employee. An expulsion, suspension, or termination can result in an inability to recover costly fees, difficulty in enrolling at another academic institution, and a disciplinary record that can damage future employment and other opportunities. Additionally, a finding of misconduct can form the basis of a civil lawsuit alleging significant financial damages or a criminal proceeding where jail or prison time is sought. Furthermore, Title IX and other academic disciplinary proceedings – which often proceed very quickly before an individual has time to appreciate the consequences – can be very difficult to later appeal. Thus, it is critical to engage with experienced defense counsel in academic disciplinary proceedings where there is the potential for significant consequences.
Responding to a Title IX or Other Disciplinary Proceeding
The attorneys of Zweiback, Fiset & Coleman provide comprehensive counsel and zealous representation on behalf of students, faculty, administrators, and employers who are currently facing Title IX or other academic disciplinary proceedings, or who are concerned that they may soon face such proceedings.
Whether our attorneys are providing confidential counsel to clients and their families to assist in responding to potential proceedings or are actively engaged in directly defending clients in front of academic tribunals, we will take all necessary steps to promote our clients’s interests, including but not limited to: collecting and analyzing information and evidence to determine the weight of the allegations and potential responses; advising clients on communications with academic officials, other interested parties, law enforcement, and others; negotiating directly with school representatives to work towards positive outcomes; ensuring that clients receive due process protections and that institutions abide by relevant procedural policies; and directly representing clients in disciplinary and courtroom proceedings.
Contact one of our Experienced Title IX Attorneys
If you or a member of your family is facing or may potentially be facing the prospect of a Title IX disciplinary proceeding based on allegations of sexual misconduct, professional misconduct, academic misconduct, code of conduct violations related to drug or alcohol use, discrimination, or other violations, it is important to take decisive action to protect your interests. The approach of attempting to “go it alone” in the hope that the issue will be quietly resolved in a positive manner without the help of experienced counsel and guidance can result in irreversible negative consequences that can impact a person’s educational and professional life for decades to come.
The attorneys of Zweiback, Fiset & Coleman understand the stress, anxiety, and fear that comes with a Title IX disciplinary – or even the threat of such a hearing – and we provide zealous counsel and representation to help our clients avoid negative outcomes and move on with their lives. If you or a family member are facing an academic disciplinary proceeding, contact our office to speak with an experienced defense attorney regarding your situation today.