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May 8 2018

Wall Street Journal: Title IX Could Become a Scarlet Letter

by Charlotte Hays

Imagine being unfairly accused of sexual misconduct and convicted without due process--and then having your name publicly released.   

That is what might happen if a North Carolina judicial ruling is upheld. It has national implications.  

The University of North Carolina would be forced to make public the names of anyone “who, since January 1, 2007, has been found responsible of rape, sexual assault, or any related or lesser included sexual misconduct.”

The release of the name of anyone convicted of sexual misconduct in a court of law is customary and correct. The public deserves to know these people's names. But the people in the North Carolina case have not been found guilty in a court of law.

They have been found guilty by tribunals that many regard as kangaroo courts. Obama era guidance made these tribunals even more dangerous for the falsely accused. A Wall Street Journal  editorial ("A Scarlet Title IX Letter") explains:  

The problem isn't North Carolina’s commitment to transparency. It’s the underlying Title IX policy. The Obama Administration’s 2011 “Dear Colleague” guidance forced universities to establish Title IX systems in which amateurs investigate and adjudicate alleged sexual assaults. The accused often lack legal counsel and may not get the chance to present exculpatory evidence. Instead of “guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” the Title IX system relies on the much weaker “preponderance of evidence” standard. A 50.1% tilt of evidence proves guilt.

Though this isn’t the case at UNC, many universities appoint students as Title IX adjudicators, granting them awesome power before they're old enough to drink or rent a car. Title IX judges often go through “trauma-informed” training, which teaches that when an accuser’s testimony is inconsistent or contradictory, even about key details, the explanation is likely emotional distress caused by the sexual assault, not dishonesty.

More than 225 accused students have sued their schools over Title IX decisions and, under real legal scrutiny, the rulings of these university kangaroo courts have sometimes crumbled. There have been roughly 50 rulings favorable to the accused students, and in many other cases the universities have settled. Nonetheless, the North Carolina ruling opens the door for the Title IX equivalent of a sexual offender registry.

The university would not have the legal right to release the evidence in the case (presumably to protect the privacy of others involved) so that the public could read it and make its own judgments. Students found to be guilty in a tribunal have access to these documents but are legally banned from making it public.

The Trump Education Department is on the process of providing new guidelines that uphold the right of due process. This would do a lot to make sure that Title IX doesn't become the grantor of scarlet letters.

But here is another suggestion: sexual misconduct accusations should be handled by cops and courts who know about collecting and weighing evidence, not by kangaroo courts that deny the accused due process.

If somebody is convicted in a court of law, by all means release the bum's name.

But being convicted by possibly biased amateurs who don't give the accused the chance to defend himself is another matter.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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