We confess – we have mixed feelings about spring break. On one hand, we know that when done right, spring break is a great way for students to relax and decompress, which is particularly important after a semester of stress and anxiety that worsens during final exams. On the other hand, as lawyers who represent students involved in sexual misconduct cases, we also know that one night of too much fun after the beach can bring torrents of unanticipated problems. We see how painful it is when students think that they are going on spring break for a fun escape, only to have their dream vacation destroyed by involvement in non-consensual sex or being accused of sexual assault.
Title IX Covers All School Related Programs
In the past, we have warned students that if they are accused by another student at their college or university, they could return to find a Title IX complaint against them. Indeed, many colleges report an uptick in Title IX reports filed right after spring break. Title IX covers all school related programs, even those activities that occur off-campus. While there are jurisdictional limits on the application of Title IX, Title IX generally applies to all college sponsored programs that occur in the United States, such as sporting events or even Greek activities that occur off campus.
The Title IX regulations ensure that students receive certain protections when involved in a situation where Title IX applies. These regulations strive to provide support for survivors, such as having the right to decide whether to file a complaint, the right to be free from retaliation and the right to supportive measures to make complainants feel safe during the Title IX process. Likewise, accused students have the right to select an advisor of their choice, the right to receive proper notice of allegations and the right to have a live hearing where the advisor can conduct cross-examination on witnesses. What is more, schools now have the flexibility to conduct hearings remotely, which can reduce the anxiety for both complainants and respondents who become anxious at the thought of having to see each other during a live hearing.
Title IX Does Not Apply to Spring Break Unless the Assault Happened at a School-Sponsored Event
However, unless the assault occurred at a program or event somehow affiliated with the institution, Title IX does not apply to spring break – even if the sexual assault allegations involve two students at the same university. Institutions understand that, under the regulations, there is no jurisdiction to those activities unconnected to the university’s education or extracurricular activities. Instead, colleges and universities are applying the regular student code of conduct to those very same allegations that would have otherwise fallen under Title IX.
We have cases that fall under the regular code of conduct that leave the accused with little to no rights. Some codes of conduct do not allow accused students to have a live hearing, force students to select an advisor who is affiliated with the university and deprive students of any ability to conduct cross-examination. Indeed, these students are left with less procedural safeguards than if the allegations fell under the Title IX policy.
Either way, whether a matter falls under Title IX or the student code of conduct, we always return to our first maxim: be careful, be mindful and be responsible on spring break. For fear of sounding like a broken record, our advice remains the same: don’t get too drunk, have a designated “sober” friend or buddy system and, most importantly, if you do hook-up, consent, consent, consent!
For more information or assistance with your situation, don’t hesitate to contact our Student & Athlete Defense / Title IX Attorneys Susan Stone at email@example.com or Kristina Supler at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us here.