Is A School Required To Use Separate Grievance Procedures?
The question of whether a school is required to use separate grievance procedures for sexual violence complaints in the context of an investigation by the Title IX office is an interesting one. The issue is relatively nuanced and complex, which is common in the Title IX arena.
In fact, most schools I have dealt with do have a separate investigation and grievance procedure for complaints that involve relationship violence, which most schools define as “domestic violence” or “sexual assault violence.” This is because issues related to sexual assault complaints are directly covered under Title IX. Although it might seem odd, most schools put more than just a straight sexual assault/sexual harassment Title IX violation under the umbrella of the office that investigates Title IX complaints. For example, the office at most colleges or universities that investigates these issues and complaints is called something like the “Office of Institutional Equity.” That office is charged with investigating complaints that fall under the school’s relationship, anti-bullying, anti-stalking, anti-domestic violence, and anti-sexual assault policy. If a complaint falls under the federal statute of Title IX, then certain Title IX protections for the accused kick in. In that case, the school will use a separate grievance procedure when the complaint by the accusing student falls under the definition of Title IX.
Pure sexual misconduct violations, which run the gamut from sexual harassment to touchy-feely type contact sexual assault, and up to penetration sexual assault, are all covered by Title IX. They are nearly always subject to this separate grievance procedure because they fall under the Title IX statute, whereas others such as stalking, harassment, etc., may not fall under the separate Title IX procedure if they do not involve gender. It is important to remember that to fall under Title IX, the allegation must have either occurred during a university function or on university property. So, if an incident occurs off-campus and that student makes a Title IX complaint, the Title IX investigation could determine it does not fall under the school’s Title IX grievance procedure because it happened at a non-university function off university property, at a place that is not controlled or affiliated with the university. Under those circumstances, the school could still investigate and issue a formal complaint under their relationship violence policy but determine that it does not fall under Title IX because it does not involve a university function, a university building, or is off campus. As a sidenote, when determining whether something falls under university jurisdiction, student organizations that are directly affiliated with the school, such as fraternity and sorority houses, are always determined to be part of the university and therefore, subject to Title IX.
When you examine places such as apartment buildings near campus where everyone living in a particular complex is a student at that university, you get to a much greyer area. So, the significant distinction here is whether it is being brought under the school’s general relationship violence policy, or their specific Title IX procedure. The distinction to separate this grey area is determining whether the violation falls under the previously mentioned three categories of assault.
If A Student Informs A Resident Advisor That They Were Subjected To Sexual Violence By A Fellow Student, Is That RA Obligated Then Under Title IX To Report The Incident To School Officials?
In Michigan (as well as most states that I’m aware of), RAs and assistant RAs are mandatory reporters. Mandatory reporters are people that are required by law to report any claim of child abuse, sexual abuse, and sexual misconduct to the police. Such people include police officers, doctors, nurses, psychologists, therapists, other medical personnel, and in this case, RAs. So, quite simply, if a student goes to an RA, that RA under the law is required to report that misconduct to the school, and the school is required to report it to the police.
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