In a move that critics deem controversial and even self-preserving, Asheville School has reportedly hired a New York City-based private investigation firm in response to several allegations made by alumni that they were sexually assaulted on the school campus.
At least four alumni of the school have recently filed complaints alleging sexual assault on the campus, some dating back as far as the early 1970s. The school has referred at least one of the alleged victims to the PI firm to handle the complaint, claiming that the firm had been hired both to assist victims and to explore Asheville School's history of processing such complaints. However, skeptics distrust the motives of school authorities on the belief that the PI firm may actually be involved to shield the school since they are the ones paying them.
When PI Firms Get Involved with School Misconduct Allegations
What does it mean, particularly for students accused of sexual misconduct, when a private investigator is retained by the school? In truth, it's unclear. Federal rules under Title IX offer clear guidance for schools on how to process allegations of sexual harassment and assault, and while schools aren't prohibited from bringing in third-party oversight, it can potentially cloud the issue and make it more difficult for accused students to determine a course of action for their defense.
Whether PI involvement is good or bad for accused students may depend largely on the motives of the school itself. If the purpose of hiring the firm is to shield the institution, the investigators will be more interested in looking for evidence that exonerates the school from any responsibility, and there may be a move toward downplaying the circumstances, which in a roundabout way could work to the advantage of someone accused of misconduct. On the other hand, if the purpose of the PI firm is to investigate on behalf of the school, this could pose additional problems for accused students. Colleges and universities have their own policies and procedures for investigating misconduct claims, but private firms may give themselves fewer restrictions regarding their methods for gathering evidence. As a result, accused students may find themselves facing an overwhelming body of evidence without having sufficient opportunity to prepare a response.
An Attorney-Advisor Can Help
If you're facing allegations of sexual assault or other forms of misconduct on a school campus, the presence of a private investigative firm could make a difficult situation even more uncertain for you. In such cases, it's essential to give yourself every possible advantage to make sure the playing field stays level and that you have a fair chance to defend against the allegations. This is where an attorney-advisor is critical. An attorney skilled in student discipline advisement will understand how the school's disciplinary policies work—and where a PI firm does or does not fit within those parameters—so you will be better equipped to make a compelling defense to clear your name.
Don't go into a school disciplinary investigation or hearing unprepared or unequipped. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have a long track record of success in defending students accused of Title IX and other types of misconduct. Call us at 888-535-3686 to see how we can help.