Title IX and Local Law Enforcement Coordination: The State’s Template Memorandum of Understanding Attempts to Help California Colleges Coordinate Their Title IX Compliance Efforts with Local Law Enforcement

One of the most difficult areas of Title IX compliance is coordinating Title IX investigations with local law enforcement agencies.  If coordination is handled correctly, local law enforcement can provide vital assistance to colleges in their efforts to comply with Title IX, and the Clery Act by sharing information and resources.  However, violations of Title IX often occur when colleges allow police investigations to unreasonably delay or completely replace their Title IX compliance efforts.  Thus, the Office of Civil Rights suggests entering into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with local law enforcement and other outside groups to establish the protocols and procedures for addressing allegations of sexual violence.  However, there is little guidance as to what specifically should be addressed in an MOU to deal with the coordination issues that often arise.

In an effort to assist California colleges address these coordination issues, California Attorney General Kamala Harris released a Model Memorandum of Understanding to serve as a toolkit for MOUs between colleges and local law enforcement.  The Model, which includes a How-To Guide and Template MOU, provides a summary of the main issues that can be addressed in an MOU along with suggested language to help ensure the MOU accurately reflects the requirements and obligations of Title IX.  The Model suggests five main areas that can be addressed in the MOU:  1) report sharing, 2) victim assistance, 3) investigation coordination, 4) prevention measures, and 5) campus outreach.

For report sharing, the Model suggests establishing a procedure to ensure any report of sexual violence received by either the college or the local law enforcement agency is shared quickly with the appropriate contact person. All report sharing procedures should address the confidentiality requirements of Title IX and applicable law, which is summarized in the Model.  To provide victim assistance, the Model provides detailed suggested procedures to ensure complainants receive immediate and adequate services. This procedure includes establishing a uniform procedure for victim communications so all alleged victims receive accurate, timely, and complete information.  To facilitate smooth and concurrent investigations, the Model suggests an MOU that addresses how evidence is secured, maintained, and preserved as well as how interviews are conducted to comply with all applicable law.  The Model also provides practical suggestions, such as trying to conduct joint interviews when possible so the victim is not required to repeat and relive the experience multiple times.  Preventative measures as well as campus outreach can be addressed by pooling resources to coordinate the spread of information about sexual assault and the protections and rights provided through Title IX and local law enforcement. Colleges and local law enforcement can also develop cooperative training programs to reduce cost and ensure the same information is provide to the individuals who may be involved with addressing sexual violence on campus.

While the Model acknowledges that every higher education institution is different and may have unique needs and challenges, the Model offers a detailed summary of the topics that can be addressed by an MOU, including, but not limited to, the main issues discussed above. Colleges are encouraged to review the Model and tailor the suggestions it provides to design a MOU that meets its unique needs and circumstances.

Tags: Title IX

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