September 23, 2020
It was clear from the May 6th drop of the 2,033 page preamble and Title IX Regulations that the practice of investigating and resolving Title IX cases would become substantially more complicated on August 14, 2020. We knew it. We expected it. Now we are living it. I must say this process is even more “clunky” than I anticipated. The movement of a case from one stage to another involves multiple team members who may be located in different locations and serving in numerous other roles on campus. This can cause frustration and confusion for students and employees who are participating in the Title IX process.
In order to put your students and employees at ease, smooth transitions have never been more critical. When I reference smooth transitions, I mean the hand-offs from intake to investigation, investigation to review periods, review periods to hearings, and hearings to appeals. These transitions must occur while offering effective and flexible supportive measures. This can be exceptionally confusing, frustrating, and overwhelming.
Creating smooth transitions requires extensive coordination and communication between your entire Title IX Team and can be implemented through three essential steps.
1. Regular Meetings: Your team should be meeting regularly. These meetings should occur regardless of how many reports your institution or district receives on any given week, month, semester, or year. Create standing meetings on the calendar that are not moved or cancelled unless there is an emergency or significant conflict. The purpose of such meetings should include a review of the open cases, discussion of the next steps in each case and who is responsible for each step, table top exercises/case studies, questions regarding policy and process, and time to simply get to know and trust each other. Hint: Order food for your team, they will be excited to attend!
2. Setting Expectations: Set and manage expectations for the parties and witnesses by clearly explaining the process. Flowcharts and visual aids can be extremely beneficial and will simplify the process into manageable segments. Consistent referral to the flowcharts and visual aids as the case transitions from one phase to the next will be exceptionally helpful for the parties.
3. Identify a Point Person: Make sure each party has a “point person” to direct their questions and/or concerns. The parties may become confused about who they should contact for questions about supportive measures, investigations, hearings, violations of no contact directives, etc. If you can identify one staff member who will field questions and concerns and answer questions/connect the party with the proper team member, you will be able to limit confusion and create stability for the parties. This will prove vital when they are struggling through a complicated process.
Obviously, we will all get better at navigating the new regulations and new policies with time. But for now, practice is critical. Practice with your team. Talk it out. If it feels awkward for you, the parties will notice, and it will feel even more awkward for them. The only way to gain experience is to put in the work. By putting in the work and collaborating as a team, you can create smooth transitions to generate a process that is more manageable for everyone involved.