- Title IX Issues Continue to Beset Higher Ed
- August 24, 2016 | Authors: Caroline J. Berdzik; Dove A. E. Burns; Christopher P. Maugans; Kristin Klein Wheaton
- Law Firms: Goldberg Segalla LLP - New York Office; Goldberg Segalla LLP - Buffalo Office; Goldberg Segalla LLP - Hartford Office; Goldberg Segalla LLP - Buffalo Office
Over the past few years, sweeping regulations relating to Title IX have imposed obligations on colleges and universities to implement robust policies relating to investigations and corrective action to be taken when confronted with complaints by victims of sexual assault. Baylor University made recent headlines after demoting its president and terminating the head football coach and associate athletic director amid allegations that sexual assault allegations relating to football players were mishandled. The university had hired a law firm to conduct an independent investigation into the matters and the ensuing report and recommendations led to the termination of the senior staff members.
One of the terminated staff members - who is threatening litigation alleging he was fired without reason - has now filed a petition in a state court in Texas seeking to compel Baylor to disclose the full investigative report completed by the law firm. The former staffer is also seeking subpoenas to depose members of Baylor’s Board of Regents regarding their knowledge of the events and his termination. The university is also facing a Title IX lawsuit from alleged victims who claim they were sexually assaulted and that the university was deliberately indifferent to allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment on campus.
Whether Baylor will have to disclose the information or whether the Board of Regents will be subject to deposition remains to be seen. However, the case spotlights the difficulties institutions face in complying with their Title IX obligations - and the sensitivity and caution that must be exercised in handling these matters. Navigating a Title IX complaint requires legal guidance to ensure that the rights of the victims, accused, and obligations of the institution are met.
We anticipate increased litigation as institutions continue to adopt and enforce policies compliant with recommendations from the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. Earlier this year, courts in California, Tennessee, and Massachusetts ruled in favor of students who were disciplined as a result of alleged Title IX violations, noting that the students were not provided adequate due process during the disciplinary proceedings by the universities.