Procedures for Handling Complaints Involving Students

In most, if not all, instances the Title IX Coordinator will assign responsibility for implementing the following procedures for students pursuant to the Interim Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct Policy to the Office of Student Conduct (the OSC Title IX Team). The Title IX Coordinator provides overall oversight of Title IX compliance and works in partnership with the OSC Title IX Team. The procedures described below are made under the assumption that the OSC Title IX Team is handling the complaint; the complainant and respondent will be informed if another person or office will be handling the complaint. All University personnel involved in the resolution of sexual misconduct, intimate partner abuse, or stalking complaints must have sufficient training or expertise in their respective capacities to engage in any stage of the following procedures.

Gallaudet community members and third parties who believe they are directly affected by conduct of students in violation of the Interim Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct Policy may request information or advice, including whether certain conduct may violate this policy, seek informal resolution (remedies based resolution), or make a formal complaint (discipline based resolution). These options are described below.

Individuals affected are encouraged to bring their concerns and report the conduct in violation of this policy to Title IX Coordinator. Members of the OSC Title IX Team will communicate with the Title IX Coordinator about any reports made directly to them. If the respondent or alleged harasser is not a student, the report should be directed to the Title IX Coordinator. Upon receipt of a report, the University will generally proceed as described below.

IMMEDIATE RESPONSE

As part of the initial assessment of facts, the University will:

  • address immediate physical safety and emotional well-being;
  • notify the complainant of the right to contact law enforcement;
  • notify the complainant of the right to seek medical treatment at the Washington Hospital Center (WHC);
  • notify the complainant about resources available at the University and elsewhere that provide counseling and support;
  • notify the complainant about the steps involved in pursuing informal, remedies based resolution or formal, discipline based resolution; and
  • conduct a Title IX Assessment (described below).

TITLE IX ASSESSMENT

The OSC Title IX Team will consult further with the complainant to gather information and to discuss his or her interest in participating in an investigation. Ordinarily, the initial review will be concluded within one week of the date the complaint was received. Based on the information gathered from the initial review the OSC Title IX Team will determine whether the allegation(s), if true, would rise to the level of Prohibited Conduct and would constitute a violation of this policy such that an investigation is warranted, or whether the information warrants an administrative closure (i.e. dismissal of the complaint or referral for adjudication in a different department if the alleged violation is a Student Code of Conduct violation not covered by this policy). This determination will be shared with the complainant and the Title IX Coordinator. The complainant may request reconsideration of the decision to close a case administratively to the Title IX Coordinator within seven business days on the grounds that there is substantive and relevant new information that was not available at the time of the decision and that may change the outcome of the decision. The Title IX Coordinator will consider requests for reconsideration and inform the complainant of the outcome, ordinarily within one week of the date of the request.

In addition, this assessment will consider the nature of the report, the safety of the individual and the campus community, and the complainant's expressed preference for resolution, and the necessity for any interim remedies or measures designed to eliminate the reported hostile environment and protect the parties involved. Interim measures may be imposed regardless of whether a formal complaint is sought by the complainant or the University in order to ensure the preservation of the complainant's educational experience and the overall University environment.

The University reserves the right to take whatever measures it deems necessary in response to an allegation of gender-based or sexual misconduct in order to protect student's rights and personal safety. Interim remedies or accommodations include, but are not limited to:

  1. access to counseling services and assistance in setting up the initial appointment;
  2. referral to health and/or victim services;
  3. education to the community;
  4. implementing contact limitations between the parties;
  5. limits on access to certain University facilities or activities;
  6. change in student's residence hall assignment;
  7. course schedule alterations, adjustment to academic deadlines, or class reassignments, including the ability to transfer course sections or withdrawal from a course without penalty, and a change to independent study, if the option exists;
  8. interim suspension from the University; and
  9. any other remedy or action which would stop the prohibited conduct, prevent its recurrence, and redress its effects.

During the course of an interim suspension, a student may be denied access to the University campus and this restriction includes classes and all other University activities or privileges for which the student may otherwise be eligible. At the discretion of the Dean of Student Affairs and Academic Support and with the approval of, and in collaboration with, the appropriate Academic Dean and/or academic department, alternative coursework options may be pursued to ensure as minimal an impact as possible on the respondent.

The University will seek action consistent with the complainant's request where possible. If the complainant requests confidentiality or asks that the report of sexual misconduct, intimate partner abuse, stalking, or other Prohibited Conduct not be pursued, the OSC Title IX Team, in consultation with the Title IX Coordinator, will determine, based on available information and its dual obligation to provide a safe and non-discriminatory environment on campus, whether or not the investigation should nonetheless go forward. In some circumstances a request for confidentiality may mean an investigation cannot go forward or can be appropriately resolved without further investigation and without revealing the complainant's identity. In other circumstances a decision may be made to go forward without the complainant. The balancing test as provided by the Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights' April 4, 2011 Dear Colleague Letter will be utilized in making that determination. Balance factors include:

  • the seriousness of the alleged harassment;
  • the complainant's age;
  • whether there have been other harassment complaints about the same individual; and
  • the respondent's right to receive information about the allegations if the information is maintained by the University as an "educational record" under FERPA.

Following this assessment the University may seek a remedies-based resolution that does not involve disciplinary action against a respondent, or may seek a discipline-based resolution by initiating an investigation to determine if disciplinary action is warranted.

Each resolution process is guided by the same principles of fairness and respect for all parties, through a process that protects the rights of both the complainant and the respondent.

Informal Resolution

REMEDIES-BASED RESOLUTION

The remedies-based resolution is designed to eliminate a hostile environment without taking disciplinary action against the respondent. The University recognizes that in some limited circumstances remedies-based resolution may be an appropriate means of addressing some behaviors reported under this policy. Mediation is never appropriate in sexual assault cases. It may also be an option for complainants or third parties who are seeking confidentiality or for those whom pursuing formal disciplinary action may be a barrier to reporting or moving forward. Complainants may make a request, either verbally or in writing, for informal resolution to the OSC Title IX Team. Participation by the complainant and respondent in informal, remedies-based resolution is voluntary and either party can withdraw from participating at any time. The request should identify the alleged harasser (if known) and describe the allegation with specificity. The OSC Title IX Team will assess the severity of the alleged harassment or misconduct and the potential risk of a hostile environment for others in the community in order to determine whether informal resolution may be appropriate.  

Upon determining that informal resolution is appropriate, the OSC Title IX Team will consult further with the complainant, inform the person who is subject to the allegations, and gather additional relevant information as necessary from the parties and others to the extent necessary. Interim measures may be put in place at any time. The OSC Title IX Team will attempt to aid the parties in finding a mutually acceptable resolution. The complainant is not required to resolve the problem directly with the respondent. The University may offer mediation or other restorative justice approaches for appropriate cases (mediation, even if voluntary, may not be used in cases involving sexual assault or violent behavior is involved). In every instance the University will not compel a complainant to engage in such mediation or any particular form of informal resolution/remedies-based resolution, or to directly confront the person who is subject to the allegations. Participating parties must have voluntarily elected to pursue informal resolution process without pressure or compulsion from others, and will be advised that they can withdraw from the process at any time. In addition, the respondent must acknowledge the substance of the underlying events and that the complainant and/or other affected parties have reported experiencing harm as a result.

The resolution will be deemed satisfactorily resolved when both parties expressly agree to an outcome that is also acceptable to the OSC Title IX Team. At any point prior to such an expressed agreement in writing the parties may request to end the informal resolution.

The informal, remedy based resolution will ordinarily be concluded within three weeks of the date of the request. Circumstances that may extend this timeline are further described under "Time Frames" in this policy.

Once the informal, remedies based resolution is concluded the matter will be considered closed. The agreed upon outcome between the parties is not appealable. The OSC Title IX Team will maintain records of all reports and conduct referred for informal, remedies-based resolution. The University will take immediate and corrective action through the imposition of individual and community remedies designed to maximize the complaint's access to the educational, extracurricular and employment activities at the University and to eliminate a hostile environment.

Formal Resolution

INITIATING A DISCIPLINE-BASED RESOLUTION COMPLAINT

A complainant may request a formal complaint of an alleged violation of this policy by a University student through a formal, discipline-based resolution process, to the OSC Title IX Team. The formal complaint should be in writing, signed and dated (video statements are acceptable - see below). It should state the name of the alleged harasser, if known, and describe with reasonable specificity the incident(s) of alleged violation(s) of this policy, including the date and place of such incident(s). The complaint must be in the complainant's own words, and may not be authored by others, including family members, advisors, attorneys, or other students. In lieu of a formal written complaint the complainant may make a verbal and/or signed statement to the OSC Title IX team. The verbal and/or signed statement will be summarized and the complainant will have the opportunity to review the formal complaint document before signing and dating the complaint. The complaint should also include sources of information (witnesses, correspondence, text messages or other written records, etc.), if available, that the complainant believes may be relevant to the investigation.

The University will not investigate a new complaint if it has already adjudicated a formal complaint based on the same circumstances or if the parties and the University have already agreed to an informal, remedies-based resolution based on the same circumstances.

The OSC Title IX Team will implement interim remedies or accommodations, which may be applied to the complainant and/or the respondent to the extent reasonably available and warranted by the circumstances.

INVESTIGATION

When the initial review concludes that an investigation is warranted and disciplinary action may be appropriate, the OSC Title IX Team will notify the respondent in writing of the allegations. The respondent will have five (5) business days to submit a written statement in response to the allegations. The statement must be in the respondent's own words, and may not be authored by others, including family members, advisors, attorneys, or other students. In lieu of a formal written complaint the respondent may make a verbal and/or signed statement to the OSC Title IX team. The verbal and/or signed statement will be summarized and the respondent will have the opportunity to review the document before signing and dating it. Attached to the statement should be a list of all sources of information (witnesses, correspondence, text messages or other written records, etc.), if available, that the respondent believes may be relevant to the investigation.

If the decision is made to begin an investigation in a case where the complainant is unwilling or unable to participate but the University has assessed the severity of the harassment and potential risk for a hostile environment for others in the community and has determined to proceed, then, for the purpose of these procedures, the University will be considered the complainant.

The OSC Title IX Team will request individual interviews with the complainant and the respondent, and, as appropriate, with other witnesses, which may include those identified by the parties, by the University, or others. When identifying potential witnesses, the parties should understand that the purpose of interviews is to gather and assess information about the incident(s) at issue in the complaint. Witnesses must have observed the acts in question or have information relevant to the incident, and cannot participate solely to speak about an individual's character. The OSC Title IX Team will also gather any available and relevant information as appropriate. The complainant and the respondent will have an equal opportunity to be heard, to submit information, and to identify witnesses who may have relevant information. The OSC Title IX Team may request individual follow-up interviews with the complainant and respondent to give each an opportunity to respond to the additional information gathered during the investigation.

CONFIDENTIALITY

When a complaint is made the University will take reasonable steps to protect the privacy of all involved. Only the people who need to know will be told, and information will be shared as necessary with investigators, witnesses, and the respondent. The circle of people will be kept as limited as possible, to preserve the complainant's and respondent's rights and privacy.

The complainant, respondent and any witnesses will be notified of the potential for compromising the integrity of the investigation by disclosing information about the case and the expectation that they keep such information, including documents they may review, confidential. They will also be notified that sharing such information may be construed as retaliatory.

Students sometime ask that their names not be disclosed to the individual(s) involved in an alleged violation of this policy or ask that no investigation or disciplinary action be pursued to address the alleged sexual violence. The University will honor such requests and at the same time it will limit its ability to respond fully to the incident, including pursuing disciplinary action against any individual. While the University supports such requests for confidentiality there are situations that necessitates the University override a student's request for confidentiality in order to meet its Title IX obligation to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students. The Title IX Coordinator will evaluate such requests as described in the Title IX Assessment section (above).

It should be noted that compliance with the Violence Against Women's Act (VAWA) or the Clery Act does not violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The University can disclose to complainants the final determination of any investigation or disciplinary process involving a "sex offense", including any sanction that is imposed against the respondent.

INVESTIGATION CONCLUSION AND FINAL REPORT

At the conclusion of the investigation, the OSC Title IX Team will prepare a written report that summarizes the information gathered and synthesizes the areas of agreement and disagreement between the parties and any supporting information or accounts. Before the investigative report is finalized, the complainant and the respondent will have the opportunity to inspect and review the written draft of the investigation report, including their own statements, and a summary of other information collected during the investigation, including the statements of the other party and any witnesses. The complainant and respondent may submit any additional comment or information to the OSC Title IX Team within five (5) business days of the opportunity to review the relevant portions of the report.

NOTICE OF OUTCOME

Upon receipt of any additional information by the complainant and respondent, or after the five (5) business day comment period has lapsed without comment, the OSC Title IX Team will consider any additional comment or information, consult with the Title IX Coordinator, and make an outcome determination of the investigative report. The outcome determination will be one of the following findings:

  • the respondent is responsible for violating this policy;
  • the respondent is not responsible for violating this policy; or
  • there is insufficient information to determine whether the respondent is responsible for violating this policy.

All outcome determinations will be based on the preponderance of the evidence standard, meaning it is more likely than not that this policy was violated. The OSC Title IX Team will share the University's written determination with the respondent and the complainant simultaneously. The University neither encourages nor discourages the subsequent disclosure or sharing of the written notification by either person.

ADJUDICATION OF SANCTIONS

If a determination is made that the policy was violated, the OSC Title IX Team will refer the final report including the written determination to an Adjudicator who is responsible for determining the appropriate sanction or sanctions that are designed to eliminate the misconduct, prevent its recurrence, and remedy its effects. Sanctions may also serve to promote safety or deter individuals from similar future behavior.

The Adjudicator is a designated University administrator appointed by the Title IX Coordinator who has sufficient training and experience to serve in this capacity. The Adjudicator will not modify the findings of the investigative report and will address only what sanctions/interventions are appropriate. The complainant and respondent may submit an impact statement for consideration by the Adjudicator within five (5) business days after receipt of the letter from the OSC Title IX Team.

Upon receipt of any impact statements by the complainant and respondent, or after the five business day impact statement period has lapsed without comment, the Adjudicator will impose a sanction or sanctions deemed appropriate after consideration of all of the relevant information, including the respondent's relevant past disciplinary history, and notify both parties simultaneously. The complainant will be informed of any sanctions issued to the respondent that directly relate to the complainant. The letter will also provide each party with their appeal options.

A respondent's disciplinary history and prior record may be considered a factor for more severe sanctions, if appropriate. If, in the past, a respondent was found to have violated the Interim Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct Policy, the information related to the past violation may be considered by the Adjudicator if:

  1. the previous violation was substantially similar to the present complaint; and
  2. the previous violation indicates a pattern of behavior and substantial conformity with that pattern by the respondent. 

The Adjudicator may consult with the Title IX Coordinator, the OSC Title IX Team, and/or a panel of individuals from the University with sufficient experience and training in making the determination of appropriate sanctions. The imposition of sanctions will take effect immediately and will not be stayed pending the resolution of the appeal.

APPEAL

Either party may appeal the outcome determination by the OSC Title IX Team and/or the sanctions imposed by the Adjudicator. The appeal must be in writing and submitted within seven business days of the date of the letter to the Dean of Student Affairs and Academic Support, or his/her designee based on the following grounds:

  • a procedural error occurred which resulted in an unfair outcome. Deviations from designated procedures will not be a basis for sustaining an appeal unless significant unfairness results;
  • there is new or newly discovered information that could not have been produced during the investigation that may change the outcome of the decision. In order for the Dean of Student Affairs and Academic Support or his/her designee to consider new information sufficient to alter a decision, or other relevant facts not brought out during this process, such information and/or facts must not have been known at the time of the investigation or sanctioning process by the appellant; and/or
  • the sanction imposed was excessive or insufficient and not appropriate for the violation.

The appeal must provide a rationale for the appeal and adequate information, including documentation, in support of the grounds for appeal. The Dean of Student Affairs and Academic Support or designee, will provide a copy of the written appeal and any supporting documentation to the other party, and the other party may submit a written response on the appeal within five business days of the date the appeal was sent to the party. A copy of this response will be sent to the appealing party.

The Dean of Student Affairs and Academic Support or designee will consider the merits of an appeal only on the basis of the three available grounds of appeal. Except as required to explain the basis of new or newly discovered information that was unavailable during the investigation, the review of the investigation will be limited to the written investigation report and all supporting documents. The Dean of Student Affairs and Academic Support or designee, at his or her discretion, may meet individually with any party involved in this matter. The Dean of Student Affairs and Academic Support or designee may consult with the Title IX Coordinator, the Adjudicator, the OSC Title IX Team, and/or a panel of individuals from the University with sufficient experience and training in making the appeal determination.

The Dean of Student Affairs and Academic Support or designee, can affirm the original findings, alter the findings, and/or alter the sanctions, depending on the basis of the requested appeal. If the appeal is based on a procedural error, the Dean of Student Affairs and Academic Support or designee can ask that a new investigation occur. In the case of new or newly discovered information, the Dean of Student Affairs and Academic Support or designee can recommend that the case be returned to the OSC Title IX Team to assess the weight and effect of the new information and render a determination after considering the new facts.

Ordinarily the Dean of Student Affairs and Academic Support or designee will strive to complete review of the appeal fifteen (15) days from the date of the submission of all appeal documents by either or both parties (see Time Frames section below), and the parties will be informed out the outcome in writing to the extent permitted by provisions of FERPA and as required by the Clery Act. The decision of the Dean of Student Affairs and Academic Support is final; no administrative process otherwise available to students may be used to further appeal the appeal decision.

ADVISORS

The complainant and respondent can be accompanied by an advisor of their choice or may choose to proceed without an advisor during the entirety of this process. Advisors may not be persons already directly involved in the process (for example, as a complainant, respondent, or witness) and cannot speak on behalf of the advisee.

Advisors may assist a party with understanding the investigation process and preparing for interviews and meetings, attend interviews and meetings, provide emotional support, and otherwise assist and support the party as the party moves through the process. Advisors may view a redacted version of the complaint or other documents provided to the parties. The parties are expected to present his/her own information, ask and/or respond to questions on their own behalf, without representation by their advisor. The advisor may not make a presentation or represent the complainant or respondent at any time during the resolution process. The advisor may consult with their advisee quietly or in writing, or outside during breaks, but may not speak on behalf of the advisee.  

A student should select an advisor whose schedule allows attendance at scheduled meetings, as the University must resolve the complaint within the stated time frames of the process. Delays will not be considered due to the scheduling conflicts of an advisor. The University has the right at all times to determine what constitutes appropriate behavior on the part of the advisor.  Any advisor who steps outside of this defined role for advisors will be given a warning, and a subsequent violation will result in the advisor being removed from further participation by the University official directly involved in the process at that time.

PRIOR SEXUAL HISTORY

In general, a complainant's prior sexual history is not relevant and will not be considered as relevant information during an investigation. Where there is a current or ongoing relationship between the complainant and the respondent, and the respondent alleges consent, the prior sexual history between the parties may be relevant to assess the manner and nature of communications between the parties. The mere fact of a current or previous dating or sexual relationship, by itself, is not sufficient to constitute consent or preclude a finding of sexual violence. Any prior sexual history of the complainant or respondent with other individuals is typically not relevant and will not be permitted.

TIME FRAMES

The University's overall goal is to resolve complaints under this policy within 60 calendar days from receipt of a report, and to resolve appeals within 15 days from receipt of all appeal documents. Circumstances may require extensions of this overall 60-day time frame, the appeal time frame, or any individual time frame. The University reserves the right to extend these time frames in its sole discretion. Examples of reasons why time frames may need to be extended include the complexity of the case, the number of witnesses involved, the availability of the parties or witnesses, arranging reasonable accommodations (i.e. interpreters), the effect of a concurrent criminal investigation, delays due to semester and holiday breaks, inclement weather, and other unforeseen circumstances. Exceptions to these time frames will be communicated to the complainant and respondent.

CONSOLIDATION OF INVESTIGATION

The University has the discretion to consolidate multiple reports against a respondent into one investigation if the information related to each incident would be relevant and probative in reaching a determination on the other incident. 

GROUP INFRACTIONS

When members of a student group, organization, or team or individuals acting collusively act in concert in violation of this policy, they may be charged as a group or as individuals, and an investigation may proceed against the group as joint respondents or against one or more involved individuals as appropriate given the available information and the circumstances.

A student group, organization, or team's officers and membership may be held collectively and individually responsible when violations of this policy by the organization or its members take place at organization sponsored events, have received the consent or encouragement of the organization or of the organization's officers, or was known or reasonably should have been known to the membership or its officers.

In any such action, individual determinations as to responsibility will be made and sanctions may be assigned collectively and individually and will be proportionate to the involvement of each individual.  

INFORMATION THAT DOES NOT TRIGGER INVESTIGATIONS

Public awareness events such as "Take Back the Night" or other forums including classroom discussions at which students disclose experiences with sexual violence are not considered notice for the purpose of triggering an individual investigation unless the person initiates a complaint.  Students should feel free to participate in preventive education programs and access resources on campus.

RECORDS

The OSC Title IX Team will retain records of all reports, allegations and complaints, regardless of whether the matter is resolved by Title IX assessment, remedies-based resolution, or discipline based resolution. Complaints resolved by Title IX assessment or remedies-based resolutions are not part of a student's disciplinary file maintained by the Office of Student Conduct. Affirmative findings of responsibilities in matters resolved through the discipline based resolution are part of a student's disciplinary file maintained by the Office of Student Conduct. Such records will be used in reviewing any further conduct or in developing sanctions.

EFFECTIVE DATE: JUNE 30, 2015
UPDATED: JULY 27, 2015