Title IX, as learned about in our last blog, Title IX has been around for a long time. However, just like life, it is continually adapting and changing with time. There are many ways to keep up to date and the most recent, significant changes include the implementation of a new role – the hearing officer/decision maker. This role is crucial to the reformed Title IX process and we are taking an in-depth look at the individual role as well as the hearing process itself.
In order to best understand the new role, it is necessary to comprehend what a hearing for Title IX complaints entails.
In 2020, the requirement for a live hearing concerning sexual harassment complaints was instituted. Prior to this amendment, a live hearing was optional.
K-12 institutions are NOT required to hold a live hearing, however, the opportunity for parties to submit written questions to one another IS required.
Title IX hearings are not legal or criminal hearings but only concern internal affairs and repercussions.
The hearings cover an in-depth look into the issues relevant to determining whether the policy was violated and is fairly conducted through listening to both parties.
Prior to the hearing, documentation and investigation will determine the scope as well as collect all necessary information for a fair trial.
Parties are now allowed to cross-examine one another, through the mediation of a third party. Parties can do so during the live hearing, or through written questioning, depending on the grade level.
Calling all Decision Makers
Since cross-examination is now allowed, a mediator is pertinent. In order to ensure the hearing goes smoothly, whether conducted in-person (web conferences if necessary), or via written transactions, a decision-maker/s is essential.
Comparable to a judge, a decision-maker is often more involved than one. These individuals will ultimately decide the outcome of the case by reviewing all necessary information as well as taking the time to listen to both sides. Unless otherwise defined, a decision-maker(s) will only oversee hearings relating to infractions of Title IX policies. The following are important to keep in mind when appointing a decision maker:
Decision maker(s) must be independent from the school/parties in question. Decision makers with any known conflicts of interest should recuse themselves. Schools may hire an external decision-maker if necessary.
The role can be fulfilled by one or multiple individuals. If one, this individual is often also known as a hearing officer.
Officers MUST be trained in Title IX regulations and understand the policy specific to the community they are serving – your community.
Officers act as a mediator between involved parties, receiving and asking questions from each side.
The officer must be impartial and understand it is not “right or wrong” but whether there has been a violation of the policy, even if they do not personally agree with the policy at hand.
The decision-maker should be given support from the school as well as full transparency and understanding of the district’s policy.
The implementation of a decision maker is one of the crucial reformations in being compliant with Title IX. McGrath Trainings and Consultations can help you to not only understand how to be compliant, but how to make the best decisions, policies, and hirings for your community and organization. Give us a call for a free consultation about the new Title IX regulations and training requirements.