Thorough, Trauma-informed Investigations in Higher Education Settings.
When incidents of misconduct are reported on campus, it is critical for institutions to launch thorough and impartial investigations to ensure a safe and inclusive educational environment and to maintain the community’s trust.
Attorney Djuna Perkins has worked on a broad range of case types with college and university clients. We have completed more than 100 trauma-informed, OCR-compliant investigations for colleges and universities, and our investigations have been reviewed by both the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
Specific areas of expertise include:
Schedule your consultation to discuss your university’s investigatory needs.
Under Title IX laws, all colleges and universities are required to investigate and address sexual assault and other sex crimes that occur on campus. Many institutions also choose to investigate and address sexual misconduct that occurs off campus, and sexual misconduct that does not violate Title IX (e.g., sexual harassment that does not include unwanted touching). Title IX investigations must be conducted by individuals with training and expertise in investigating sexual misconduct. Some institutions train and use internal staff for investigations; others hire highly experienced external investigators like Djuna. Other critical requirements include providing advisors to students participating in a Title IX investigation, and holding a hearing at which the parties’ advisors have the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses.
Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, skin color, sex, nationality, religion and other protected classes. Title VII also prohibits sexual harassment and all other forms of harassment based on membership in a protected class. Sexual harassment, which can, but need not include unwanted physical contact, is a form of gender discrimination.
Title IX requires anyone who investigates a Title IX allegation to be trained in conducting sexual misconduct investigation, and it’s a good idea for anyone who conducts investigations of sexual misconduct or discrimination, regardless of the setting, to have training and experience. Sexual misconduct and discrimination cases are notoriously difficult to investigate and analyze because there are usually no direct witnesses, conflicting versions of events, and little tangible evidence. The fact that most of us are uncomfortable talking about sex, and that we may have implicit biases makes it even more challenging to investigate sexual misconduct fairly and thoroughly. Gathering and analyzing evidence and weighing credibility in these circumstances takes significant skills and experience. If no one in your institution has the requisite training and experience, you need someone who does.
Sometimes it’s especially important that the investigator is impartial such as when the accused is a high-level manager, the case has received media attention, or the institution anticipates a lawsuit. In those situations, the perception of impartiality warrants using an outside investigator.
Sometimes, there just isn’t enough time for one person to do it all. In many educational institutions, administrators wear multiple hats, and a single sexual misconduct investigation can upend all other priorities for months. In those situations, hiring an outside investigator can save time and money.