In this episode, Mike speaks directly to parents and guardians about the other topic they need to talk to their kids about in addition to drinking, drugs, texting and sex. This episode informs parents and guardians of college students what they need to know about Title IX to protect their student and his or her rights.
Jordan Rich: Welcome to In Your Court. Today’s Episode is “A Crash Course in Title IX” Attorney Mike Conant explains Title IX and why it’s so important today that college students know the law and are educated on the potential serious consequences of being accused of a Title IX violation. This is Jordan Rich and I’m pleased to introduce you to Mike Contant an attorney whose firm, Contant Law, specializes in criminal defense and Title IX defense, protecting the rights of the accused in Massachusetts. Mike, good to see you
Mike Contant: Nice to see you, Jordan
JR: OK, Let’s talk about title IX and a bit of the history of it; some people may have the impression that it is only about sports and athletics and it’s not. Give us a little background.
MC: So, Title IX came out in 1972. It basically requires any educational institution receiving federal assistance any type of federal funding to give everyone equal educational benefits. It was originally, most people understand it to be originally used to make sure there’s equal funding in women’s sports.
JR: Right, Right. And it has to do with civil rights initially, right?
MC: It does, yeah.
JR: We’re addressing young people who are either students now or about to be students in college, let’s say. Why is this so important? Why should they know about this going in?
MC: Title IX it can be very serious it can have a very adverse effect on your college career if you don’t understand the system and how it works. These days, Title IX has shifted and basically since the late 1990s ah, they shifted the focus away from just women’s sports and things like that and started using it as a disciplinary procedure for anyone accused of either sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating violence or otherwise discriminating against someone on the basis of sex. They found that it essentially deprives someone of equal access to education if they are somehow being discriminated this way, harassed or otherwise assaulted in this way.
JR: So, Title IX, is “invoked” when something like this happens on campus?
MC: That’s correct, it’s a violation of Title IX for these things to occur. Which has been the interpretation like I said, really starting in about 1997.
JR: Now, before we talk about how we can help people when they’re caught up in this, what can happen to a student?
MC: It’s a disciplinary procedure it can go anything from a probationary period all the way through expulsion. It does appear on the student’s permanent record; so, if they apply to other schools, so for instance this applies oftentimes to people who are seeking grad school, you know, medical, law school, etc. it’s going to show up in their college transcript as well as in their educational record. It’s denied a lot of people the opportunity to seek that type of advanced education. It also can affect their prospects to obtain jobs if they were to do a background check into their college record.
JR: SO the future can be dramatically altered with just one incident?
JR: OK. That’s why we’re gonna focus on what you can do about it and what you can provide. Wed love an example of a recent case – no names of course – but talk us through the processes and how it works.
MC: Sure. The processes are interesting because most people think of alright so there’s a disciplinary procedure I’m gonna receive a full report exactly what the person said like I might if this were a criminal matter, because oftentimes we are dealing with these cases involving an alleged sexual assault, or a rape, dating violence things like that. So people expect to get the full story, thought the notices would say that. The notices don’t say that. Oftentimes, it’s very bare bones information who the other person is, when it approximately it occurred, and basically it may say something along the lines of, “you have been alleged to have entered into nonconsensual sexual contact with this person, at this place at this time” they may get no other information initially. It’s hard to formulate a defense for something like that when you don’t have the information available to you.
JR: So give us an example as stated about how it may have affected one of your clients.
MC: Sure. We’ve had a number of these cases. One such case, it’s actually a fairly recent case, it wasn’t even a student it was an employee of the college. Interestingly enough, this gentleman went to a different school comes back to the point where these can be brought at any time there’s no real statute of limitations to bring them. So about two years earlier he had met a girl at a particular downtown Boston college on Tinder. They met up consensually. He was invited to her dorm room he went there. They had this encounter which according to accounts essentially was consensual and at some point she wanted to stop the encounter. She didn’t specifically say so. She did begin crying which prompted him to ask, “Do you want me to stop?” she said something to the effect of, “Just get it over with.” or “Just keep going.” That’s really a point of contention. Fast forward two years later he’s working at the same college. He hadn’t gone there but he’s working there.
JR: As an employee.
MC: As a school safety officer at this point in time. He’s not a police officer but school security. He’s a non-sworn officer. What happens is he sees this particular girl on campus. They see each other from across the quad. He had been working at this place for about six months or so. He had an exemplary record so far. He gets called up to his lieutenant’s office to be told that it’s being alleged that he sexually assaulted this person about two years earlier. So, it comes out of the blue for him.
JR: It’s a ricochet it just hits him, and then he has to decide, “Oh, my God what’s my next step here.”
MC: He found us, and we were able to help him through the process. Now the particular school in question was a private school. There is a distinction between private and public schools and what their process can be. They are all required to have a Title IX policy and each policy can be a little bit different. They all have to have certain things within them concerning notices and the type of the process and tell people what they should expect. The distinction between private and public school is in a private school you are not entitled to actual what they call due process. Ah, you are not required to have a full hearing like you might think of as a trial or something along those lines. It can very much be what it was in this case which was what they call a single investigator model. That’s where one person, in this case it was a she, a lawyer who was hired by the college to do this investigation.
JR: We haven’t talked about alcohol but that’s a huge factor in anyone’s college experience as we know. People have to be aware that that is something to think about when you are getting ready to go to school or when you are in school because that can lead to other issues.
MC: Alcohol is an issue in most Title IX cases particularly things happen after. People get very drunk in college it happens a lot. It happens at parties they get into these encounters – hookups happen all the time at these parties and the problem is alcohol almost plays into most of these cases if someone in the college realm or the Title IX realm if someone is drunk to the point of intoxication many times they don’t have the ability to consent to any type of sexual contact under the policies of Title IX
JR: Alright, so if Title IX happens to somebody who is listening to this or in the future happens to somebody what’s their first step? What should they do?
MC: Well the first thing they’re going to receive a notice from the college. That notice is going to have some bare bones details about what happened, time, place and person, it may also indicate to them that they are to refrain from certain things, they call them interim measures, so have no contact with the accuser or sometimes have no contact with certain witnesses. In certain cases, if they are living on campus they might be asked to move off of campus these are called interim measures. These are to insure theoretically to make sure that everyone in the process is safe and there is no retaliation. So they are going to receive that notice. If they receive that notice or if they even have a hint that it is coming they should contact a lawyer who specializes in Title IX such as ourselves.
JR: Right, exactly. One of the things that is obvious is the tenor of the times. The me-to movement. The victims are coming forward and rightfully so. There’s probably not been a more charged environment than the one we have right now. Am I right?
MC: I agree. So, back when they first started using Title IX in this way what was happening is everyone remembers in the 80s and 90s where they refer to it now as a rape culture where no one was considered a to be rapist unless they were jumping out of the bushes and pulling you in and ripping your clothes off and having their way with you. And so, the pendulum has swung way far in the other direction to the point where anything even contact which may have been consensual or seemingly consensual even regretted later on is now people stepping forward and saying, “Well that’s sexual assault; I feel assaulted; I feel harassed; I feel abused in some way.” So, the pendulum has swung very far the other way.
JR: Finally, Mike, the bottom line, there is help for people who are accused and there is a defense and you represent that kind of help.
MC: Certainly. And that’s what we help the person to do. Keeping in mind that as an attorney we are able to be what they call an advisor for a person. You don’t have to be an attorney to be an advisor. Our job in the current state of Title IX is – we’re not allowed to act in our usual capacity. It’s not like we are in court, we don’t get to cross-examine witnesses, we don’t get to present the defense for them. But essentially what we are doing is helping them complete an investigation to try to get their side out, helping them to write any position statements that are necessary, attending interviews, attending hearings. If their school has a policy that allows them to have a full hearing before a board or before a tribunal, we are able to go with them and advise them in that capacity at that type of a hearing.
JR: So, you want someone who has the knowledge and the experience if you are going into Title IX on a Title IX issue somebody like yourself to be there by your side.
MC: Title IX is something that is fairly new to our office, however, I have been a criminal defense attorney for more than 20 years. I’ve handled many sexual assault cases. When I started doing Title IX cases a few years ago it was something that resonated with me. It was similar to a lot of the sexual assault cases we’d dealt with where with the charged environment the Me-too Movement and all that we’re also dealing with, you know, there’s less of an innocent until proven guilty mode as opposed to guilty until proven innocent. We assist people in helping them to present their side of the story in such a way that we can actually show there are defenses and help them through the process and hopefully have them exonerated at the end.
JR: Mike thank you so much that could be the most important crash course a college student takes. For more information about Contant Law and Title IX defense visit www dot Contant dash law dot com, follow Contant Law on Facebook, Twitter and connect with them on LinkedIn. For specific questions, email at info@ Contant dash law dot com. We hope you found this episode informative. Please rate and review this episode and subscribe for additional episodes to stay informed and protect your rights and your record. Share the episode with your friends so they better understand the current Title IX laws. Thank you for listening, this episode is available on all platforms. We look forward to your listening to future episodes.