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How to Conduct a Thorough Title IX Investigation

At CUPA-HR’s annual conference last fall, two Title IX coordinators from Rosemont College — Jane Federowicz and Matthew Baker — shared their outline for training Title IX investigators on campus (you can read about that in this blog post).

Here, they continue the conversation and share the steps they take when investigating Title IX claims on campus.

Assessing a Report
When doing an initial assessment of a report of sexual misconduct, the Rosemont team:

  • Reviews the initial facts reported, deciding whether or not it falls under the purview of Title IX and whether or not there’s been a violation of the school’s sexual misconduct policy.
  • Responds immediately by deciding if the victim needs medical treatment and if there’s a threat to the victim or other parties involved.

Planning and Investigating
After the initial assessment, the Title IX coordinator assigns the investigators (usually a lead investigator and a secondary one). Once investigators are in place, the team:

  • Discusses and creates a plan with the Title IX coordinator.
  • Develops an investigative timeline.
  • Gathers initial information and evidence.

All investigators communicate regularly with the Title IX coordinator throughout the investigation.

Notification
When the investigation begins, the investigator contacts the complainant to:

  • Explain the process for investigation.
  • Advise of the right to have an advisor of choice.
  • Review the privacy and confidentiality policies.
  • Emphasizes= the non‐retaliation policy.
  • If appropriate, remind the complainant of the institution’s policy against false complaints.
  • Encourage medical treatment, if needed.
  • Offer counseling services.
  • Offer reporting to local police.
  • Explain steps to preserve evidence.
  • Ask/determine if any accommodations such as no-contact orders, housing changes, academic changes, etc. are needed.
  • Provide a copy of the Survivor’s Bill of Rights.
  • Explain that he or she will be kept up to date on the progress of the investigation.
  • Ask for information on the outcomes the complainant desires (without making any promises to the outcome).

Conducting Interviews
Next, the investigation typically includes interviews with the complainant, witnesses, respondents and other involved parties. During this phase, the team obtains written statements from everyone interviewed, using those statements as a tool to discover what occurred.

During the complainant interview, the Rosemont team suggests these practices:

  • Have the complainant tell you what happened, giving the individual time to do so at his or her own pace.
  • Provide a journal book for the complainant to write down things as he or she remembers, and allow for up to five sleep cycles to allow time for the individual to remember everything that happened.
  • Use sensory questions to aid the individual in filling in the gaps.
  • Allow time for silence in the conversation to give the individual time to process and think.
  • Reassure the complainant.
  • Ask questions to get additional details.
  • Clarify any unknown terms used.
  • Use proper phrases.
  • Don’t blame the victim.
  • Provide contact information.

When interviewing the respondent, consider these practices:

  • Before the interview, have a plan that includes the use of open‐ended questions.
  • Build trust with the respondent by avoiding accusations and avoiding arguing.
  • Maintain control over the interview by allowing time for full discussion, repeating specific points and asking for clarification.

Finishing the Investigation
After the interviews, the team:

  • Gathers any additional evidence.
  • Completes an investigative report including all necessary documents.
  • Submits the report to the Title IX coordinator for review (the coordinator then decides how to proceed).

To learn more about Title IX investigations, check out the CUPA-HR Knowledge Center toolkit and the April 4 webinar “The Intersection of the Clery Act (VAWA) and Title IX: Implications for Sexual Misconduct Complaints and Institutional Response.”

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