How Long Can a Title IX Investigation Take?

Nov. 4, 2019 By Andrew Miltenberg

How Long Can a Title IX Investigation Take?

There is no hard and fast rule on how long a Title IX investigation can take. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) issued guidance saying there is “no fixed time frame” under which a school must complete a Title IX investigation. Previously, OCR indicated that a typical investigation should take approximately 60 calendar days following receipt of the complaint. Today, the timeline can be anywhere from 45 days to six months or more, depending on the timing and complexity of the case.

Typically, students aren’t told the full scope of the process at the beginning.  However, a preliminary investigation likely will be conducted by a university official, often the school’s Title IX Coordinator.  A more formal process may follow an investigation and hearing conducted by a panel of college staff or faculty and a hearing chair reporting to the Dean of the College. This process includes participation in multiple interviews, providing testimony from supporting witnesses, and providing other evidence such as emails, text messages, and any audio or video communications relevant to the events.

The accused student may also have to provide written responses to an investigative report from the preliminary investigator. These reports often exceed 100 pages in length. Disabled students are at a significant disadvantage if they do not request or receive reasonable accommodations such as extended time to submit written responses and appeals, or assistance during interviews and hearings.

Many schools “rush to judgment” and do not offer the accused student the opportunity to review all documents or cross-examine the complainant or the complainant’s witnesses prior to concluding the Title IX process. This denial of due process can be a basis to reverse the school’s decision in a federal court lawsuit, but that procedure likely will take a longer time to resolve.

For example, a Michigan State part-time graduate student who was playing in the NFL was exonerated from a Title IX complaint while he was an undergraduate. However, the complainant appealed the decision while he was away from school and the school notified him only by sending an email to a prior email address he no longer used. The school then quickly found him responsible for policy violations of sexual misconduct without him even knowing until it was too late.  It took over two years to successfully resolve a Title IX lawsuit in federal court resulting in overturning the conviction. By this time, the student had lost his job in the NFL and been effectively blacklisted by other teams as a result of the university’s conviction.

Many schools will impose interim suspensions while the process is ongoing or exclude students from sports that can adversely impact scholarships. Once a negative finding is made, it is important to determine if the school will stay the sanction while an appeal is pending. Most, but not all, schools permit an appeal to the President of the College or other senior officer.

To effectively navigate these procedures, it is important to have a Title IX defense lawyer involved as soon as possible after a Title IX complaint is filed against you or your child. Title IX defense lawyers are skilled in identifying university bias in both its procedures and its Title IX process. They will either correct them or preserve the record so that a federal court can overturn a conviction by reason of the university’s shortcomings in procedures or its conduct of the investigation and Title IX hearing.

Our attorneys are Title IX defense specialists and we have helped hundreds of accused students across the country who have been treated unfairly by their schools. We are parents too. Call us at 212-736-4500 or contact us as soon as a complaint is filed and we will be there aggressively protecting your rights, ensuring a fundamentally fair process, or establishing the deficiencies that will lead a court to reverse the school’s adverse findings. There is no fee for a private consultation.

If you believe your due process rights have been violated, let’s talk.