Before colleges or universities begin investigating a claim of sexual assault or other misconduct, they typically act to isolate the parties and, ideally, to protect them and the evidence during the investigation. These measures are usually called “interim measures.” Some schools call them “interim actions.” New regulations proposed by the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Education have now introduced the term “supportive measures.”
Whatever they are called on your campus, it is important to understand policies covering interim measures. You should think of them as part of the investigation. Any violation—including inadvertent ones—can undermine your credibility.
One of the most common is the “no contact order.” Campus security, the Title IX office, and other administrators will issue no-contact orders with little or no standards for why or how they should be imposed. Students who request no contact orders are not required to justify their request in the same way they would be for a criminal or civil restraining order.
Colleges and universities commonly use no contact orders to keep parties from interacting, whether in person, via phone, or through written or online means.
Schools may also forbid contact through a third person. If you receive a no-contact order, this can have the unintended consequence of holding you responsible for the actions taken by your friends, whether or not your friends contacted the other student on your behalf.
Interim measures should not but can interfere with contacting the witnesses you need to make your case, whether you are reporting sexual misconduct or accused of it.
Other typical interim measures include adjustments to class schedules or extracurricular activities to separate students. Most allegations arise within the same friendship circles, and this can be very disruptive to all involved.
The school may also order students to switch dormitories or restrict other living arrangements, such as who can visit the cafeteria, gym, library, or other common areas and when.
Universities have broad authority to impose interim measures. They typically put measures in place even if without a request to do so. The school determines what is appropriate, how long the measures should last, and how to enforce them.
The measures should be, but sometimes are not, adjusted so parties can continue their education. But a school may temporarily suspend a student pending full resolution of a complaint. This can mean forfeiting a semester’s tuition (or more). If this occurs, a leave of absence may be preferable but is not guaranteed.
Title IX coordinators will usually work with students to tailor measures to individual needs. Nevertheless, interim measures can sometimes be vague, difficult to understand, and impractical. At worst they are inconsistently enforced and can lead to knock-on charges. For example, a no-contact order may prohibit you from being “in the vicinity” of another student. But what does that mean? Different students have wildly different understandings of their “vicinity.” Students have reported each other when they see each other in the same dining hall or from across the street.
Students have even been reported for no contact violations when they were unaware that the other student was near them. This is another issue that experienced counsel can help you with by working to safeguard your rights. Counsel can also work with your school at the outset to clarify workable expectations and ward off “knock on” violations.
Under recent Title IX guidance, interim measures must be symmetrical. Colleges and universities may not discriminate when applying interim measures, and the same measures made available to one party must also be available to the other. The burden should not fall entirely on one student alone.
The most recent Title IX rules revisions, direct schools to adjust interim measures according to changing needs, without relying “on fixed rules or operating assumptions that favor one party over another.”
There is usually (but not always) a procedure for appealing to the dean of students or to a similar administrator to have interim measures relaxed. These appeals seldom work to lift the interim measures, but they can make them more manageable.