Title IX: PROCEDURES FOR RESPONDING TO STUDENT SEXUAL MISCONDUCT
Rights of the Complainant and Respondent
The Rio Hondo College District does not discriminate based upon age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, national origin, veteran’s status, gender identification, or genetic information in administering District educational policies and procedures. The District complies with the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Students are entitled to a fundamentally fair process, including reasonable notice of allegations of violations of sexual misconduct, the opportunity for the student to be heard and to afford the student the opportunity to present evidence prior to the administrative determination of the alleged violations, except when immediate interim suspensions or restrictions are deemed necessary pending an investigation and determination of the matter. Any Sanctions imposed under this policy shall be appropriate to the nature of the violations, as determined by the College Disciplinary Officer or designee or panel.
Throughout this process, both the complainant and respondent have the following rights:
- To be treated with respect by District officials
- To take advantage of campus support resources, such as mental health services, special services, health services, etc. to help remedy and restore
- To experience a safe living, education, and work environment
- To have an advisor during an adjudication process
- To refuse to have an allegation resolved through conflict resolution procedures
- To be free of retaliation
- To have complaints heard in substantial accordance with procedures
- To fully participate in any process whether the injured party is serving as the complainant or the institution is serving as complainant
- To be informed in writing of the outcome/resolution of the complaint, any sanctions imposed, and the rationale for the outcome, when permissible.
The Student may have an interpreter attend the investigation meeting and the proceeding before the College Disciplinary Officer or Panel. An interpreter accompanying a Student to the proceeding before the investigator, College Disciplinary Officer, or Panel must provide evidence of his/her certification as a certified interpreter to the investigator and/or College Disciplinary Officer at least five days prior to the commencement of the proceeding. The interpreter may only interpret for the student, and shall not expand or enhance the student’s testimony. Likewise, the use of assistive technology must be reviewed and approved vetted by the investigator and/or College Disciplinary Officer at least five days prior to the commencement of the proceeding.
Student Right to Review Records
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education. FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level. Students to whom the rights have transferred are “eligible students.”
Parents or eligible students have the right to inspect and review the student’s education records maintained by the college. Colleges are not required to provide copies of records unless, for reasons such as great distance, it is impossible for parents or eligible students to review the records. Schools may charge a fee for copies.
Student conduct proceedings are not formal court hearings, but instead are administrative actions imposed by the District. Although District-related sanctions may be imposed, the process is intended to provide an opportunity of learning. Both the complainant and the respondent (student charged) may elect to be accompanied by an advisor (e.g. victim’s advocate, friend, family member, etc.) to any meeting(s) or interview(s). The advisor’s role is limited to observing and consulting with and providing support to the complainant or respondent. An advisor may not participate (speak) in the investigation and hearing processes on the student’s/complainant’s behalf. The advisor should also maintain confidentiality.
Presence of Legal Counsel (Not an Advisor)
An attorney duly licensed to practice in the State of California may accompany the student to any proceeding. The attorney shall not make any statements or presentations to the judicial panel, examine or cross-examine any witnesses, or present evidence or any written material to the panel. An attorney may not in any way disrupt or interfere with the panel’s process. Any violation of this section shall result in the immediate removal of the attorney. An attorney shall provide the College Disciplinary Officer with a retention letter confirming that he/she has been retained by the student at least five (5) days before the proceeding so that the necessary arrangements can be made for an attorney for the District to be present at the proceeding. The attorney’s retention letter shall include the attorney’s State Bar number and telephone number.
Declining to Participate
A complainant and/or respondent may decline to participate in the investigation and proceeding. In these cases, the investigation and adjudication process will continue and a determination of “responsible” or “not responsible” will be made without the benefit of the complainant’s and/or respondent’s input.
Reluctant to Make a Formal Complaint
As a complainant/victim of an incident of sexual misconduct, you may want to inform the college of the alleged violation and unwilling to participate further in any investigation and/or disciplinary action against the student(s) who has been accused. The District has an obligation to investigate to the extent of the information that is available and known. If during the investigation the investigator finds corroborating information, it may be determined that is necessary to move forward with the student conduct process without the involvement to the complainant or to implement other appropriate remedies. If a complainant does not wish to participate in the student conduct process, there is an obligation to document the incident. When a report is being documented, there will be no personally identifying information about the complainant. The complainant will be notified of any actions by the District, coupled with a letter stating the choice to participate in the investigation and/or student conduct process.
The purpose of impact statements is to allow the complainant and respondent, during the sanctioning process, to describe to the panel how this violation has had an impact on them. The panel only may use information from these statements to help determine an appropriate sanction(s).
Impact statements may provide information about damage to complainant/respondent that would otherwise have been unavailable to the panel. A complainant is not required to appear before a panel, but is empowered by the panel to convey their experience(s) in the case in written form.
The Title IX Officer, or designee, shall use best efforts to seek and resolve sexual misconduct reports within 60 calendar days of an initial report, not including appeals. The general timeline is as follows:
- Review and investigation process begins within 7 calendar days after the date of the initial report.
- Investigation is completed within 25 calendar days after the investigation begins.
- Hearing (if any) is held within 20 calendar days after the conclusion of the investigation.
- Determination of the hearing is issued within 7 calendar days after the completion of the hearing.
- Notice of Sanction(s) issued within 7 calendar days after the completion of the hearing.
- Notice of appeals filed by either or both complainant and respondent to the College Disciplinary Officer within 7 calendar days after the notice of determination and sanction(s).
- Appeal hearing is held within 20 calendar days after complainant and/or respondent’s notice of appeal was received.
- Determination of appeal hearing by the President, or designee, is issued within 7 days after the completion of the appeal hearing.
The Title IX Officer, or designee, will provide electronic mail notice to the involved parties with the following information:
- A description of the alleged violation(s);
- A description of the applicable policies;
- A statement of the potential sanctions/responsive actions that could result; and
- A required date, time, and location of the hearing, superseding all other campus and work activities.
If any party does not appear at the scheduled review, investigation, or proceeding, the meeting will be held in his/her absence. For compelling reasons, the Title IX Officer, or designee, may reschedule the meeting.
Time frames for reviews, investigations, and hearings may vary depending on the details of a case and at certain times of the academic year for possible violations that occur near, during, or after District holidays, breaks, or the end of an academic term, in which meetings will be held immediately after the end of the term or during the summer, as needed, to meet the resolution timeline followed by this policy and procedures.
Rio Hondo College District, through a trained Title IX Team, will investigate any and all reports of alleged violations of sexual misconduct. Anyone who believes the Student Code of Conduct on sexual misconduct has been violated should contact a mandated reporter at each District campus. The investigators will interview the complainant, respondent, and any witnesses (if appropriate). The investigator will also gather information, documents, and materials (if any) that is relevant to the case.
The College Disciplinary Officer makes a determination based on the investigation’s evidence. After the investigation, the investigator refers the findings of the case to the College Disciplinary Officer, or designee, and may recommend or impose a “responsible” or “not responsible” determination. The investigator may also recommend appropriate sanctions.
Informal Resolution Options
If appropriate, Rio Hondo College District’s Title IX Office may seek to resolve certain sexual misconduct cases through an informal process involving both the complainant and respondent:
The Respondent accepts the findings of the investigation and, if appropriate, sanctions by the Title IX Officer or designee.
As mutually agreed upon by the Title IX Officer, complainant, and respondent, a participatory mediation between all parties involved may occur to resolve the alleged violation. Sanctions may be determined in mediation, as outlined in the U.S. Department of Education’s “Dear Colleague Letter” (2011): http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201104.pdf
The Title IX Officer, the respondent, and/or when appropriate, the complainant, may request an administrative hearing through a single College designated administrator, typically a Title IX Officer or designee.
If an informal resolution process is not available, the District will convene a trained formal judicial panel to conduct and to make a determination of the alleged violation and to impose possible sanctions. The District shall make reasonable efforts to give the student(s) an opportunity to refute the accusation or otherwise provide relevant information to the panel regarding the incident(s) which led to the belief by the investigator, or designee, that the student(s) violated the Student Code of Conduct in a proceeding format.
Construct of the Judicial Panel
The proceeding is closed to all persons except the: 1) College Disciplinary Officer; 2) student charged; 3) advisor; An attorney or other professional, expert, or consultant retained by the District; 4) witness(es) (while testifying); 5) a court-certified interpreter at the student’s own expense; 6) selected members of the panel; and 7) any person to assist the hearing officer. In some cases, a Campus Security Officer may be present to ensure safety and security during the hearing. Likewise, the Title IX Coordinator, or designee, may be present to ensure a fundamentally fair process and compliance. Panel members for an appeal hearing will consist of Rio Hondo College District employees only. No students will be asked to serve on a hearing panel due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter.
If the student is a minor, the student’s parent or legal guardian must be present during the hearing.
Selection of the Judicial Panel
The following process determines possible members of a judicial panel. Members come from the Rio Hondo College District. All members participating on a judicial panel are oriented and trained to adjudicate a sexual misconduct case. The College Disciplinary Officer, in consultation with the Title IX Coordinator, or designee, will devise the panel. The panel will consist of 3 or 5 members.
a.Within thirty days of the beginning of the fall Semester, the Academic Senate of the College shall send a list of at least six faculty members who will be eligible to serve on a hearing panel to the College Disciplinary Officer. The list shall remain on file and in effect until a new list is provided.
b. Managers and Classified personnel members of the panel will be chosen upon interest and availability.
Members of the Panel and a Conflict of Interest
The panel shall be chosen by the College Disciplinary Officer except that the panel shall not include any person who was a participant in the event, out of which the disciplinary action arose, nor shall it include any person who has had a past association with the student or any other party to the hearing which could impede the individual’s ability to act in a fair and impartial manner. A panel member who is chosen must disclose any potential or actual conflict of interest.
Parallel Student Conduct Proceedings
Student Conduct Code proceedings are independent from court or other administrative proceedings. Discipline may be instituted against a student also charged in civil or criminal courts based on the same facts that constitutes the alleged violation of the Student Code of Conduct. The District may proceed before, concurrently with, or after any judicial or other administrative proceedings, except in cases involving sexual misconduct. In sexual misconduct cases, the District shall proceed without undue delay in accordance with federal and state law requirements, and District policies and procedures.
- The chair will call the proceeding to order, explain the procedures of the proceeding, and have all parties introduce themselves.
- The chair will present the guiding principles/norms of behavior in the proceeding to guarantee control of the proceeding, make certain that all parties respect the right of others to make statements, and to ensure confidentiality.
- The College Disciplinary Officer, and if applicable her/his witness(es), shall have up to forty-five (45) minutes to present relevant evidence conducted by the investigator and witnesses (if applicable) to support the determination by the College Disciplinary Officer of the investigation that a violation of the Student Code of Conduct has occurred.
- The respondent may question any witnesses presented by the College Disciplinary Officer. Members of the panel may also question any witness(es) presented by the College Disciplinary Officer. Questioning by the student or the committee shall not be considered part of the time allotted for presentation of the College Disciplinary Officer’s evidence. It is the discretion of the chair to impose a timeline on questioning.
- The student charged, and if applicable her/his witness(es), shall have up to forty-five (45) minutes, if necessary, to present relevant evidence bearing on the accusation. The College Disciplinary Officer may question any witnesses represented by the student. Members of the panel may also question witnesses. Questioning by the panel shall not be considered part of the time allotted for presentation of the student’s evidence. It is the discretion of the chair to impose a timeline on questioning.
- The College Disciplinary Officer, and then the student charged may make a closing statement to the panel. These closing statements shall be limited to a maximum of ten minutes each. The chair shall have the authority to extend the time limits, but must ensure equal time.
Once all information has been collected, the chair, or designee, will:
- Reiterate the alleged policy violation(s);
- Remind all parties involved of the Standard of Proof (Preponderance of Evidence);
- Remind all parties of confidentiality and of all imposed interim sanctions that are active and must be adhered to;
- Remind all parties to review Rio Hondo College District’s Student Code of Conduct (Board Policy 3540), Administrative Procedures (3540), and to understand their student rights and responsibilities;
- Inform all parties of the deliberation process and the projected timeline for notification; and
- Remind the respondent and the complainant, if applicable, that notification and all communication are via District email accounts.
Additional proceeding rules include:
- Information Regarding Romantic or Sexual History. The panel will not consider the romantic or sexual history of either the complainant or the respondent in cases involving allegations of sexual misconduct, except for testimony offered by one or the other about the complainant’s and respondent’s shared sexual history that the panel deems relevant. The existence of a sexual relationship between the complainant and respondent does not support the inference of consent to alleged sexual misconduct.
- Prior Conduct Violation. The hearing panel will not consider the respondent’s prior conduct violations, unless:
- The respondent was previously found to be responsible, and
- The previous incident was substantially similar to the present allegation(s) and/or the information indicates a pattern of behavior by the respondent.
- Use of Cell Phones and Recording Devices. Cell phones and recording devices may not be used in the investigation meetings and hearings.
Panel Determination/Standard of Proof
The panel will find a student either “responsible” or “not responsible” based on a majority vote. If a panel determines a student is “responsible” for violating the Student Code of Conduct, the matter will advance to the sanctioning stage.
In all cases involving alleged violations of the Student Code of Conduct, the standard of proof is the “preponderance of the evidence” standard as set forth in the definitions herein (e.g., more likely than not). This standard is also employed when making determinations regarding interim restrictions/actions.
How Sanctions are Determined
It is the commitment from the District that respondents found “responsible” for violating sexual misconduct policies are imposed of sanctions that are:
- Fair and appropriate given the facts of the particular case;
- Consistent with the College’s handling of similar cases;
- Adequate to protect the safety of the campus community; and
- Reflective of the seriousness of the sexual misconduct.
The relevant factors that are considered when imposing sanctions are:
- The specific sexual misconduct at issue (such as penetration, touching, unauthorized recording, etc.;
- The circumstances accompanying the lack of consent (such as force, threat, coercion, incapacitation, etc.);
- The respondent’s state of mind (intentional, knowing, bias-motivated, reckless, etc.);
- The impact of the offense on the complainant;
- The respondent’s disciplinary history;
- The safety of the campus community; and
- The conduct respondent’s conduct during the disciplinary process.
The following sanctions may be imposed for violation of this Student Code of Conduct. These sanctions are not exclusive and may not be appealed:
- Disciplinary Probation consists of written notice to the student by the College Disciplinary Officer that the student has violated this Student Code of Conduct (including a specified period of time) with conditions as imposed by the College Disciplinary Officer. Any subsequent violations of this policy by the student during the term of the probation or the student’s failure to comply with any condition of probation imposed by the College Disciplinary Officer will result in additional sanctions under this policy.
- District Restriction. The College Disciplinary Officer may for a specified period of time restrict the student’s access to parts or areas of the District and/or District property.
- Exclusion From District Activities prohibits the student from participating in any District co-curricular and/or extra-curricular activity(ies) for a period to be determined by the College Disciplinary Officer.
- Mental Health Clearance. Mental Health Clearance may be required before a student is readmitted to a particular class or allowed to come onto District property. The College Disciplinary Officer must receive a letter from a licensed mental health professional stating that in his/her professional judgment the student will no longer continue the behavior which gave rise to the College Disciplinary Officer taking disciplinary action against him/her or that the student’s continued presence on campus is not a threat to himself/herself or others. The mental health professional must be licensed by the State of California and the College District Administrator must verify that the mental health professional is credentialed to render a professional opinion. The student shall bear the cost and expense of obtaining mental health clearance.
- Restitution requires the student to repay the District or any person for the cost of replacing or repairing any property taken, destroyed or damaged by the student. This student may also be charged a service charge and/or collection fee under the College policy regarding service charges and collection fees.
- Restriction from Attendance at District Events. The College Disciplinary Officer may restrict the student from attending some or all District events for a specified period of time.
- Short Term Removal From Class for a period not to exceed four class meetings, may be imposed by any instructor on a student who is disrupting the class or otherwise interfering with the ability of other students in the class to learn. Before removing a student from class, an instructor shall first give or make reasonable efforts to give the student notice of his/her intent to remove the student and a reasonable opportunity for the student to modify his/her behavior. The instructor or program supervisor shall notify the College Disciplinary Officer, in writing, immediately following his/her removal of a student under this section, with a copy to the Dean of the academic division. The student may not return to the class until the student has met with the College Disciplinary Officer. The College Disciplinary Officer shall contact the student to arrange such a meeting.
- Short Term Suspension prohibits the student from attending classes or entering onto any District Property for a period of one (1) to ten (10) days as determined by the College Disciplinary Officer.
- Hold on Records which consists of the withholding of transcripts and/or other student records. This is imposed when a student fails to repay debts to the District, return District equipment or make restitution to the District. A hold on records may also be asserted if a student does not comply with requests such as, but not limited to, required meeting or appointments.
- Administrative Withdrawal from Class prohibits a student’s continued presence in the class if his/her behavior is disruptive of the class and interferes with the ability of other students in the class to learn or in any way endangers himself/herself or others. When this sanction is applied the student will be administratively withdrawn by College Disciplinary Officer.
- Grade Change from a “Withdraw” to a letter grade may be imposed where the College Disciplinary Officer, together with the instructor, determine this is an appropriate sanction.
- Written Warning is a written reprimand and warning to the student by the College Disciplinary Officer that he/she has determined that the student has violated this Student Code of Conduct and is on notice.
The following sanctions imposed by the College Disciplinary Officer or panel may be appealed:
- Expulsion prohibits the student from attending any classes or registering as a student in the District for an indefinite period of time but not less than ten (10) years. Expulsion prohibits the student from entering onto any District property without written permission of the District. Expulsion will be imposed immediately upon Board action. When expulsion has been recommended, the student shall be immediately suspended pending Board action.
- Long Term Suspension prohibits the student from attending classes, registering as a student or entering onto any District property without written permission of the College Disciplinary Officer for a period from eleven (11) days to three (3) years as determined by the College Disciplinary Officer and/or the College President. Long term suspension may be imposed immediately or at the end of the current term at the discretion of the College Disciplinary Officer.
Ongoing Accommodations for Complainant
Whatever the outcome of the informal resolution or hearing process, a complainant may request ongoing or additional accommodations. In consultation with other campus entities, a determination will be made on whether such measures are appropriate. Potential ongoing accommodations include:
- Providing an escort by Campus Security.
- Changing the complainant’s academic schedule.
- Adjusting the complainant’s on campus job work schedule.
- Allowing the complainant to withdraw from or retake a class without penalty.
- Providing access to tutoring or other academic support, such as extra time to complete or re-take a class.
The District institutions may also determine that additional measures are appropriate to respond to the effects of the incident. Additional responses for the benefit of the College community may include:
- Revision of the District’s policies and procedures regarding sexual misconduct.
- Additional training and education materials for students, faculty, and staff.
- Increased monitoring, supervision, or security at locations or events where the sexual misconduct occurred.
- Ensuring relevant climate surveys that focus on safety, security, inclusion are gathered to improve on developing a culture that is intolerant of sexual misconduct.
Either the complainant or the respondent or both may appeal the determination of the judicial panel and/or sanctions. Disagreeing with the finding of the sanction is not, by itself, grounds for appeals. Students are allowed one appeal. The decision of the appeal panel is final.
Specific Grounds for Appeal:
- A procedural error or omission occurred that significantly impacted the outcome of the hearing (i.e., substantiated bias, material deviation from established procedures, etc.).
- The sanction is excessive, insufficient, or significantly disproportionate to the violation.