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Title IX Investigations: Step-by-Step [2024]

Title IX Investigations: Step-by-Step [2024]

To avoid losing funding, every school needs a formal process for receiving, investigating, and resolving Title IX violations.

In 2022, Title IX marked 50 years and over the past five decades, there have been many gains in gender equity in education.

In 1971, only eight per cent of high school athletes were female. Now, five decades later, the participation rate for girls in high school sports has increased by over 1000%. Studies have repeatedly proven that Title IX has improved equality in sports, education, and employment opportunities.

What is Title IX in College?

Title IX, which applies to all federally funded educational institutions, prohibits sexual discrimination, harassment and assault, domestic violence, and stalking. Every institution experiences Title IX violations, but it’s the response and resolution that say the most about your school’s culture and leaders.

To ensure a just environment, and to see the endless benefits that come from one, it’s crucial to conduct Title IX investigations appropriately. This article breaks down each phase of a Title IX investigation, from the initial complaint to the appeal process, as well as common Title IX questions and answers . Continue reading to learn how to conduct an effective and compliant Title IX investigation.

When you mess up a Title IX investigation, your federal funding is in jeopardy.

Mitigate that risk with this free, downloadable Title IX Investigation Checklist.

Get the Checklist

Why Establish a Title IX Investigation Process?

All federally funded universities and colleges are responsible for complying with Title IX. One stipulation of the law is that all higher ed schools must investigate any report of a gender-based incident.

A Title IX investigation examines allegations of sexual discrimination, harassment and assault, domestic violence, stalking, or any other gender-based harm listed in the school’s anti-discrimination policy.

Because it examines policy violations, the investigation must occur independently of a legal investigation. It's the school's job to determine whether the incident violated school policy, whereas law enforcement’s job is to determine whether the incident violated the law.

The issue with higher ed’s administrative investigations is a lack of due process. Without a formal process, it’s tough for school officials to conduct a prompt, fair investigation that respects the rights of all parties, as required by Title IX.

Failing to respond to and remedy a discriminatory environment may mean a loss of federal funding. To mitigate this risk, every higher ed institution needs a formal, thorough process for receiving, investigating and resolving Title IX violations.

Before the Investigation

Assign a Title IX Coordinator

The threat of losing funding has led to the creation of a new role, a Title IX specialist often called the Title IX coordinator, or compliance officer.

In addition to developing an investigation process, bring on at least one Title IX coordinator. For larger schools, having more than one specialist working in this area is ideal.

This person’s job is to ensure compliance with Title IX final rule and related laws. They are the main point of contact for those with questions about Title IX. When necessary, the coordinator must work closely with law enforcement.

The coordinator may be tasked with monitoring enrollment and employment to identify disproportion. This person will also be responsible for monitoring investigations to prevent incidents from becoming a systemic problem. However, they are not allowed to conduct the investigations, nor make final decisions afterward.

The Title IX coordinator must know and understand school policies and participate in drafting, revising, and implementing new ones to ensure they comply with the law. The coordinator’s first task might be to draft a notice of non-discrimination.

Schools are required to post the Title IX coordinator's contact information on their website, as well as communicate it to students, staff, "applicants for admission and employment, parents or legal guardians of elementary and secondary school students, and all unions."

RELATED: Investigating Sexual Harassment on Campus

Distribute a Notice of Discrimination

Title IX requires all federally funded schools to draft, publish, and widely distribute a notice of non-discrimination.

The notice should explicitly state the school’s position on gender-based discrimination in all school activities, including education programs, employment opportunities, and athletics. The notice must also include contact information for the school’s Title IX coordinator(s).

The statement must be available and accessible for students, parents, employees, unions, and any other involved parties. Most schools include the notice in a handbook, code of conduct, or annual security report, and include a downloadable copy on the school’s website.

Establish and Announce Reporting Tools

Schools are legally required to inform students and staff, as well as applicants, parents, and unions, of their right, as a victim, witness, or confidante, to file a Title IX violation.

Title IX requirements include informing the school community of the reporting mechanisms offered internally and how to file a complaint with law enforcement. It’s in your school’s best interest to offer multiple reporting mechanisms including a hotline, webform, and/or in-person meeting.

One tool can help you track, manage, and prevent Title IX incidents.

Learn why schools across the country use case management software to conduct better Title IX investigations in our free eBook

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The Investigation Procedure

Title IX investigations are carried out similarly to any other. There is an informal process, where involved parties resolve their issues informally through mediation. This informal process is only appropriate in certain cases, but it’s alluring because it avoids the investigation, saving time and resources.

The formal investigation process is broken down into several phases:

  • Notify the involved parties
  • Gather the facts
  • Review and analyze the information
  • Determine whether a violation has occurred
  • Write the report
  • Notify the involved parties of the outcome

Each phase requires time and effort, but the Title IX investigator must be prompt in initiating the investigation. Unfortunately, the law does not specifically define the term “prompt”, however there is guidance that the investigator can reference. The first step in initiating the investigation is notifying the involved parties.


Notify Involved Parties

The Title IX Office, consisting of the coordinator and other personnel, must notify the involved parties that a complaint exists and an investigation will begin.

The notice should include information about the investigation process, the allegations at hand, the complainant’s and respondent’s rights, the policy that alleged behavior violates and contact information for the investigator.

This notice is also a good time to schedule the intake meeting, either in person or via phone, to discuss basic information about the allegations and determine the next steps of the investigation.


Gather Facts

The next step of the Title IX investigation process, if everyone has decided to proceed with it, is to gather information related to the allegations. Gather documents, files, audio and video recordings, social media posts, cell phone records, and more.

RELATED: What Does an EOAA Office Do for Higher Ed?

Interview the complainant and respondent. Ask each person to explain their side of the story and their relationship with the other party. Ask for the names of potential witnesses or any other details that may be pertinent to the investigation.


Review and Analyze Information

Once you’ve collected as much information as possible, provide both the complainant and the respondent at least 10 days to review the information collected. A review may help trigger their memory, or they may want to address a discrepancy.

Then, the investigator should review the information and see if there is enough evidence to determine whether a violation occurred. Review, weigh, analyze, and compare the information.


Determine a Violation

Finally, a separate decision-maker must determine if a violation has occurred. Schools may select to apply one of two standards of proof for this step, as long as they apply it consistently across all cases.

Option one, the preponderance of evidence standard of proof, means that the information gathered concludes that the allegations are "more likely than not" to be true, or more than 50 per cent likely.  The standard requires more convincing proof than “probable cause” and less than “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

The clear and convincing evidence standard of proof, on the other hand, means that the evidence points to the allegations being "substantially more probable to be true" than not, or well over 50 per cent likely.


Write a Report and Notify Parties of Outcome

After making a determination, put together the final investigation report. The report must contain the initial allegations, the policy violated, the parties involved, the evidence gathered, a summary of the interviews, and any other relevant information.

Schools must send a copy of the final report to each party at least 10 days before it is finalized, to give them the opportunity to respond.

After the outcome is finalized, send a shorter determination of the outcome to both parties. This notice should include information about the outcome, reasons supporting the determination and, depending on the conclusion, the next steps in the Title IX process.

A Title IX investigation report template can speed this phase up.

Download ours for free here.

Get the Template

After the Investigation

After notifying the complainant and respondent of the outcome, either or both parties may appeal the decision and request an administrative review.

In this situation, a higher management level will review the investigation process, the information gathered and the conclusion. This person will then issue a written decision that explains the outcome of the review.

If there is no appeal and the allegations are true, the decision-maker will determine a sanction for the perpetrator. Under the Clery Act, the Title IX office must advise victims of counseling resources, support services, and the option to pass the incident on to local law enforcement.

Other Title IX Compliance Requirements

Complainant and Respondent Rights

Title IX provides both the accuser and the accused with equal rights. Higher ed institutions must uphold these rights to ensure a prompt, fair, and impartial investigation.

The University of Texas, for example, awards both complainants and respondents the right to:

  • A prompt, fair, and impartial investigation
  • Receive information and ask questions about Title IX’s formal and informal processes
  • Have an advisor present during all meetings
  • An equal chance to participate, including the opportunity to identify witnesses and relevant evidence
  • File a complaint with local or campus law enforcement
  • Learn of and access to support services

In addition to assigning a coordinator, higher ed institutions must adequately train employees responsible for receiving and addressing Title IX complaints. Schools must publish this training on their websites.

Both the Clery Act and Title IX Guidance have provisions requiring that any employee with the authority to address sexual violence knows how to do so appropriately. For example, make sure school counselors or therapists know the extent to which they must keep an incident confidential.

Title IX processes may be conducted online. As a result, all Title IX personnel must be trained on relevant technology required for remote investigations and hearings.

Title IX Investigations: Tightening Up Your Process

When it comes to effectively handling Title IX investigations, the response is everything. You want people to have trust in your institution, and that trust is built on the confidence that when incidents do happen, they will be handled swiftly and appropriately.

Case IQ's investigation report template was created with this in mind. With prompts for school-specific details, this free Title IX investigation report template will help you write more consistent, compliant and accurate reports in less time.

Staying on top of your Title IX compliance can be tricky, especially with changing rules. To make sure you’re up to date with the proposed changes, keep an eye on the Department of Education’s website here. Prepare your organization for the changes by updating your institution’s sexual harassment (and any related) policies to fit the updates. You might also want to expand your support offerings if possible, to ensure you have plenty of options for complainants and respondents.

Finally, consider switching to case management software like Case IQ. A centralized case management system can improve your Title IX compliance by providing reporting form templates that meet the latest requirements, building investigation timelines into your workflows and keeping a time- and date-stamped record of all steps of your investigations in case you need to prove your process.


What does Title IX investigate?

Title IX investigates allegations of sexual discrimination, harassment, assault, domestic violence, stalking, unequal opportunities, or any other gender-based harm listed in the school’s anti-discrimination policy.

Can a Title IX investigator be the decision maker?

No, a separate decision maker must determine if a violation has occurred in a Title IX investigation. This reduces the risk of bias.

What is the burden of proof in Title IX?

The burden of proof for Title IX investigations was changed in 2020 to recommend the "clear and convincing evidence" standard, where the evidence substantially indicates the allegations are true. However, in the new final rule, institutions can choose that or the "preponderance of evidence" standard, where the allegations are more likely than not to be true, as long as they apply the same standards to complaints against staff and complaints against students.

How Case IQ Can Help

If you’re still simply reacting to Title IX incidents, you’re putting your organization, your students, and your staff at risk.

Case IQ’s powerful case management software lets you analyze historic case data so you can take preventive measures, reducing future incidents.

Case IQ is a flexible and configurable solution that can be integrated with your existing reporting systems and third-party hotlines, ensuring no reports slip through the cracks.

Learn more about how Case IQ can reduce resolution time and improve your organization’s investigations here.