Title IX: Safety and Security on College and University Campuses

We help colleges and universities provide a safe and secure learning environment, which affords students the protections they are entitled to under Title IX

Our approach

Title IX transformed the postsecondary landscape for millions of students by enhancing academic, financial and athletic benefits. Its focus is to ensure students have a safe setting in which to pursue their education.

The failure of some colleges and universities to properly police themselves according to the dictates of Title IX and the “Dear Colleague” letter has resulted in a proliferation of federal government action, legislation, private lawsuits and other causes of action with the potential for large damage awards. To avoid these unwanted scenarios, colleges and universities must carefully coordinate Title IX compliance with the mandates of other applicable federal laws, including the Clery Act, Campus SAVE Act, FERPA and HIPAA.  And they need to comply with state law as well.

We offer unique experience and knowledge through an interdisciplinary team of attorneys and former high level state and federal elected and appointed officials, who’ve worked all sides of these issues.

  • Establishing, implementing and monitoring Title IX compliance programs
  • Counseling on risk management best practices and correcting course on processes that are out of compliance
  • Defending institutions involved with litigation

Our Campus Safety & Educational Services for Colleges and Universities include:

  • Specialized safety and security training programs for college security and safety chiefs focusing on and addressing sexual harassment and violence, assault, domestic and relationship violence and allegations of Title IX violations
  • Internal meetings with campus leadership including but not limited to security directors, human resources, legal departments, faculty heads, Title IX coordinators and other administrators to ensure proper protocols, procedures and policies are in place
  • External meetings with campus leadership and external partners including local police departments and prosecutors
  • Internal training sessions for campus leadership including but not limited to all responsible for Title IX compliance
  • External coordinated training sessions with local police departments and prosecutors
  • Training presentations and programs on internal workplace culture and environment including issues related to safety and security
  • Programs aimed at safety among students including driving, substance abuse and relationship violence
  • Mentoring and internship programs to provide better service to those who lack an adequate voice and opportunity to be heard in the process

We work with

  • Research universities
  • Public universities
  • Small private colleges
  • Professional schools
  • Medical schools
  • Schools of the performing and visual arts

Recent experience

  • Defended institutions in claims arising out of alleged faculty-on-student and student-on-student sexual harassment or assault.
  • Advised institutions on the remedial measures and investigative procedures to ensure Title IX compliance when an alleged incident is reported.
  • Counselled educational clients on proper steps in student disciplinary processes and defended institutions in lawsuits brought by students challenging the disciplinary determinations.
  • Represented a university at all phases of an OCR Title IX athletics equity case. Our representation included early resolution negotiations with counsel for complainants and OCR and participated in settlement hearings. We also received and coordinated client response to OCR’s data requests, prepared witnesses and participated in all interviews of the client’s personnel. In addition, we monitored all of OCR’s open activities on campus, including facilities and equipment inspections and drafted client rebuttal to issues raised by OCR, advocating on behalf of non-traditional, emerging women’s sports programs. We responded to OCR’s final report and rebuttal of same.
  • Represented universities and prepared athletic directors, administrators, coaches, trainers and staff for OCR investigative interviews and have participated in those interviews.
  • Presented evidence to OCR to counterbalance complaints.
  • Represented a college athletic conference in connection with various labor and employment matters, including drafting of employment contracts and offer letters.

Gender discrimination claims vs RISD dismissed

Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly | May 19, 2022

This article discusses a judge’s dismissal of hostile work environment and disparate treatment claims against the Rhode Island School of Design, finding that the plaintiff’s lawsuit failed to put forth plausible allegations of gender-based discrimination. Providence partner Steven Richard, leader of NP’s Higher Education and Title IX teams, and department attorney Caitlyn Smith, both of the Construction & Real Estate Litigation group, are representing RISD in the case.

Transgender student rights under Title IX – the still-evolving and shifting landscape

Rhode Island Bar Journal | January 10, 2022

Providence partner and leader of the Higher Education and Title IX teams Steven Richard and department attorney Caitlyn Horbert, both of the Complex Commercial Disputes practice, contributed this article on a much-debated and evolving Title IX question of whether discrimination against a transgender student in an education program or activity constitutes discrimination “on the basis of sex” subject to the statute’s protections.

Hold off or proceed?

Inside Higher Ed | March 26, 2020

Providence Complex Commercial Disputes partner Steven Richard says the lack of a fixed time frame for the completion of Title IX investigations has created uncertainty for colleges and universities during this public health crisis.

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