With a reputation for high ethical and professional standards, Dizon & Shedden, P.C. is regularly upon to assist colleges, universities, and school districts by serving as hearing officers in Title IX and school disciplinary proceedings. As experienced attorneys and investigators, we have the background needed to objectively and impartially hear such matters, weigh evidence and make factual findings, determine issues of relevancy and credibility, and prepare well-reasoned decisions that are supported by a fair assessment of the facts. We are also adept at commanding control at hearings, ensuring that rules and expectations for decorum and procedures are followed.
A Title IX hearing is a formal proceeding overseen by a hearing officer or hearing panel to determine whether there has been a violation. The hearing usually consists of opening statements by each party, a summary of the investigation given by the Investigator, questioning of the Investigator, parties, and witnesses by the hearing officer or panel and parties’ advisors, and closing statements from each party. The hearing officer or panel, also known as the decision-maker, effectively functions as the judge.
The Title IX regulations require hearing officers to be trained in the definition of sexual harassment, the scope of the school’s education program or activity, conducting hearings, how to serve impartially, and issues addressing the relevance of questions and evidence during the live hearing. They must also be trained on any technology to be used at a live hearing.
Following the hearing, the decision-maker must deliberate and issue a written decision that, among other things, sets out the findings of fact supporting the determination, conclusions regarding the application of policy to the facts, and a statement and rationale for the result as to each allegation. If applicable, the decision-maker will also determine the disciplinary sanctions to be imposed.
In New York, K-12 students in public school districts may not be suspended for more than five days without first having an opportunity to be heard at a Superintendent’s Hearing. Oftentimes, the Superintendent will designate another person to hear the case on the Superintendent’s behalf. In some situations, it can be another school administrator, but in many other instances it may be an outside attorney who is appointed as the hearing officer.
At the disciplinary hearing, the hearing officer evaluates evidence to determine whether there was a rule violation, as it pertains to the school district’s Code of Conduct. Like a Title IX hearing, the hearing officer functions as the judge and listens to testimony and arguments from both sides (i.e. the District vs. the student). The hearing officer can question the student, school district representatives, and any witnesses. The law also authorizes the hearing officer to administer oaths and issue subpoenas in connection with the proceeding. After both sides have presented their case, the hearing officer makes findings of fact and, if guilt has been established, recommendations to the Superintendent as to an appropriate penalty. The hearing officer’s report is advisory only, and the Superintendent may adopt all or any party of the hearing officer’s recommendations.
The responsibilities of a hearing officer can be extensive. Identifying a qualified hearing officer with the time, training, and confidence to conduct an effective Title IX hearing or a school disciplinary proceeding can be challenging. Because a hearing officer must remain impartial, it can be beneficial to outsource hearing officer services to avoid the appearance of bias or impropriety. Outsourcing hearing officer services demonstrates a commitment to fairness and can streamline the process and ensure that the hearing is well-run and in compliance with the law.
At Dizon & Shedden, P.C., we have extensive experience serving as hearing officers in matters involving allegations of Title IX violations and violations of school disciplinary policies. We have conducted numerous investigations and served as hearing officers for school districts, colleges, and universities throughout the Hudson Valley and beyond. As lawyers with backgrounds and experience in education law and litigation, we know what it takes to conduct an effective, efficient, and unbiased hearing.
If your school needs an impartial hearing officer for a Title IX complaint or allegations of a violation of a school disciplinary policy, we can help. Experienced, thorough, and objective, we are focused on identifying the facts so your school can resolve allegations of a Title IX or Code of Conduct violation.
We invite you to meet our team and learn why clients choose us. Then contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss how we can help with any hearing needs at your school district or institution.