(INDIANAPOLIS) – Attorney General Curtis Hill Friday joined a coalition with 14 other state attorneys general in support of a Title IX rule that protects students from discrimination on the basis of sex and does not infringe on their constitutional rights to free speech and due process.
The U.S. Department of Education’s new Final Rule requires educational institutions to investigate and, when proven, punish allegations of sufficiently severe, pervasive and objectively offensive sexual harassment. The rule affirms a culture of accountability within the contours of constitutional liberty.
“Nothing could better advance the cause of eradicating a culture of sexual harassment than ensuring that those who are punished are truly blameworthy,” the coalition wrote in an amicus brief filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The Final Rule protects both students accused of sexual misconduct and their accusers. It requires live hearings, direct cross-examination and neutral fact-finders as part of investigations into alleged misconduct. These due-process protections are constitutionally necessary and do not subject accusers or witnesses to uncomfortable or intimidating situations.
Without these safeguards, academic institutions can and have eschewed due process and imposed negative consequences on accused students without affording them a fair opportunity to defend themselves. Those consequences can include expulsion, academic suspension, loss of tuition, loss of scholarships and increased difficulty in finding a job.
“The Department of Education’s rule is fundamentally about fairness and protecting the rights of the accused and the accusers. It is axiomatic in our legal system that the accused are presumed innocent; that accusers have some control over the process after filing a complaint; that individuals can have representation. No one denies the urgent need to prevent and punish harassment,” Attorney General Hill said. “But serious accusations deserve serious inquiries, and it is wrong to impose life-altering punishments onto students who are not given a real opportunity to defend themselves against the accusations. This rule ensures fairness for all parties involved in sexual harassment cases at educational institutions.”
A copy of the amicus brief is attached here here.