Case Studies: Title IX Sexual Misconduct

Senior Student Avoids Dismissal After Showing Complainant's Ulterior Motive for False Title IX Allegations

A small public university in the Northeastern United States dismissed our client, a senior student needing to complete just one more term to graduate, on Title IX allegations that our client had sexually assaulted a former girlfriend in on-campus housing. The university suspended our client in the middle of his last term, and barred our client from campus without a hearing, based solely on the complainant's allegations. Our client promptly retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to gain access to campus to complete his coursework while contesting the false charges. After a swift and thorough investigation, including obtaining witness statements, texts, and emails, we helped our client appeal the banishment from campus, showing that he presented no threat to any student, including the complainant. Our presentation included information tending to show that the allegations were the result of a complex set of intimate relationships involving not only our client and the complainant but two other parties, in which the complainant had threatened to blackmail our client and others in manipulation of those relationships. Disciplinary officials granted our student's request, both because of presentation and due process violations the school had committed during its investigation and banishment of our client. Our client completed his courses, earning all credits necessary to graduate, while the Title IX proceeding continued. The complainant failed to appear at the formal hearing of the case. Our client's testimony at the hearing and presentation of the other evidence we helped our client to gather and organize resulted in the hearing panel's dismissal of all charges. We subsequently ensured that the university removed all records of any misconduct or allegations from our client's university record, as a result of which our client graduated with honors.

Cross-Examination of Graduate Student's Title IX Accuser Results in Favorable Hearing Outcome

A local campus of a large public university system on the West Coast charged our client, a graduate student in a liberal arts program, with Title IX sexual misconduct. The charges alleged that our client had forced non-consensual sexual activity, including touching and fondling on the complainant after the complainant had indicated that their romantic relationship had ended. Our client attended the university disciplinary official's informal conference before retaining the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, only then realizing that the disciplinary official intended to suspend and dismiss our client over the charges out of a bias in favor of putative sexual assault victims. Our client then retained us to defend and defeat the charges. Our investigation identified and produced reliable evidence of a relatively long consensual intimate relationship between our client and his accuser. We helped our client ensure that he properly invoked the university's formal hearing procedures. The university's Title IX procedures permitted attorney cross-examination of all adverse witnesses. Our cross-examination of the complaining witness revealed inconsistencies in her account and important admissions tending to corroborate our client's account that all conduct between them had been consensual in nature. Our text, email, and other electronic and documentary evidence also supported that the complaint occurred only after a relationship breakdown that was well after the alleged incident. The hearing panel agreed with our client's position, finding on the basis of the documentary evidence and the complainant's admissions that our client's account was the accurate account of the alleged incident. The decision dismissed all charges, without further proceedings, leaving our client with a clean record.

Fraternity Leader Successfully Defends Title IX Sexual Misconduct Allegations

A prominent public university in the Southeastern United States served our client, a fraternity brother and officer, with Title IX sexual misconduct charges arising out of a party the fraternity had held earlier in the school year. The university charged several other fraternity members in the same incident. The charges against our client did not allege that our client had committed a sexual assault or other sexual misconduct directly but that our client had instead facilitated and enabled sexual assaults and misconduct by other fraternity members whom the university had also charged. The charges attracted substantial attention and adverse publicity across the university, including in the student newspaper. The fraternity had previously held the respect of students and university officials up until this incident. When the student fraternity leader retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, our investigation showed that neither our client nor other members of the fraternity had supplied the alcohol that had contributed to the misconduct allegations. We obtained statements showing that our client had actively tried to discourage alcohol possession and use at the party, to no avail. University disciplinary officials conducted an informal conference at which our client was able to share this evidence, resulting in the dismissal of the charges against our client. Our client subsequently resigned from the fraternity to continue his university education with a clean record. The university proceeded to discipline some of the students against whom it had alleged direct Title IX sexual misconduct.

Medical Student Avoids Dismissal Over Title IX Sexual Harassment Charges in Clinical Course

A private medical school in a territory just outside the continental United States brought Title IX sexual harassment charges against our client, a fourth-year student in the program. Our client was completing the clinical coursework in the medical program under faculty supervision, working alongside other medical students. One of those medical students was our client's study partner and friend. After a party the program's staff held for the clinical students around the holidays, our client made sexual advances toward his study partner and friend, believing that his friend had invited and welcomed those advances. No physical contact or non-consensual sexual activity occurred between them, and our client promptly and fully accepted his friend's indication that she had no interest in a romantic relationship. Our client's friend subsequently refused to work in the clinic with our client. When clinic faculty supervisors insisted on learning why she refused, she disclosed our client's sexual advances. The medical school's disciplinary officials then charged our client with Title IX sexual misconduct, maintaining that his romantic advances constituted sexual harassment, even though our client's friend had not alleged any such misconduct. When our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, we obtained a written statement from our client's friend clarifying her factual account of their interaction that evening. We then analyzed the medical school's Title IX policy and definitions, preparing to show the school's disciplinary officials that our client's conduct did not constitute a policy violation. The medical school dismissed the charges during the course of our communications with them after we presented the witness statement and its analysis. Our client continued with his clinical coursework with a clean school record.

Junior International Student Avoids Discipline Following Title IX Sexual Misconduct Charges for Classroom Comments

A private liberal arts college in the Northeastern United States charged our client, an international student in his junior year, with Title IX sexual harassment relating to comments he made in a classroom during a class discussion. The college's charges alleged that his comments had created a severe and pervasive offensive sexual environment that interfered with the education of the class's female students. Two female students had, in fact, complained to the class's instructor and, when the instructor did not initiate a charge, to the college's Title IX coordinator. The Title IX coordinator then prepared and served the charge on our client, who promptly retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to contest the charge. Our investigation confirmed that although our client had shared comments that others could construe as involving sexual stereotypes, our client had done so in the context of class discussion on related sex role issues. The comments, in context, were not severely offensive and could not, in a single class discussion, have created a pervasive harassing environment. Our analysis of Title IX law as applied to the confirmed facts showed that our client's comments could not constitute sexual harassment of the hostile environment form. We communicated our analysis to the college's Title IX coordinator in correspondence and emails while preparing our student to present the same information at an informal conference the Title IX coordinator scheduled. The coordinator indicated her intent to dismiss the charges at the beginning of the informal conference, spending the conference explaining her rationale to the two complaining students based on our legal analysis. Our client suffered no discipline and retained a clear record under which to continue his education.

High School Student Avoids Alternative Placement Over Title IX Sexual Misconduct Charges

A large suburban high school outside a Midwestern metropolitan area charged our client with Title IX sexual misconduct relating to our client's alleged interest in a group of girls in his class. The disciplinary officials maintained that our client's interaction with the girls was too frequent and persistent after the girls had indicated their preference not to interact with our client. The girls had shared their discomfort with teachers and school staff but had not complained of sexual harassment or other sexual misconduct and did not indicate that they feared or even disliked our client, only that he made them uncomfortable. The disciplinary officials also alleged that our client's interaction was sexually motivated and sexually offensive, and threatening, although school officials did not allege any sexual slurs, innuendo, or contact. The school had not yet removed the student from the school but had threatened in its charges to do so and threatened to send our client to an alternative placement, when our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team. Our investigation confirmed the relatively innocuous and non-threatening nature of our client's conduct and further confirmed the absence of explicit sexual content in anything our client said or did. Our appearance on our client's behalf, and our diplomatic but firm communications with school officials invoking the school's protective due process procedures, convinced the school to dismiss the charges. Our client agreed in the course of the dismissal to participate in a school learning activity focusing on improving the quality of personal interactions. The school removed all records of potential discipline from our student's file.

College Student Successfully Reduces Dismissal to Suspension Over Title IX Sexual Misconduct Charges

A private college located in a Central Plains state dismissed our client after witnesses indicated that our client had engaged or was suspected of having engaged in several sexually deviant acts that, though private in nature, other students and staff at the college claimed to have discovered evidence. Our client was a senior student in a liberal arts program at the college whose goal was to earn his degree and then travel. When our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, we documented that our client had a diagnosed psychiatric condition, the symptoms of which included private aberrant behaviors. We further documented that our client had experienced medication issues resulting in gaps in controlling his behaviors. Our requests to the college to review its evidence before the formal hearing on the charges gave our team the data to confirm that no witness had reliable evidence that our client's suspected behavior was, in fact, sexual, threatening, harassing, or otherwise falling within Title IX definitions of sanctionable misconduct. Our research further established that our client's psychiatric diagnosis could qualify as a protected disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. As we invoked our client's disciplinary procedures rights, we also communicated and negotiated with the college's general counsel. Before the formal appeal hearing, our client and the college agreed to reduce our client's dismissal to a suspension covering the semester that our student had already been out of school seeking treatment and correcting his medication management issues. Our client was able to return to the college to complete his senior year and earn his degree.

Student Sexual Misconduct Victim Holds Assailant Responsible While Preserving Educational Career

A male student committed a serious sexual assault constituting criminal rape against our client in our client's first year of her undergraduate program. Our client was highly reluctant to jeopardize her education with the embarrassment and uncertainty of sexual misconduct complaint against her attacker. But she needed to hold her attacker responsible if she was to continue her education, recover from the attack's mental and emotional effects, and protect other female students from similar attacks. Our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to stand by her side through the proceeding while advising her on how best to conduct herself to protect her reputation, interests, and rights. Our patient and clear counsel helped our client anticipate and prepare for each stage of the proceeding, including the informal conference, interview, and hearing, so that she suffered the least possible ill effects. Our counsel confirmed for our client and her concerned parents that she was pursuing the proper course while best invoking the school's protective procedures. We also advised our client of alternative courses that she could pursue but, in her specific case, wisely declined to pursue, including criminal charges, no-contact orders, and civil liability. Our support and preparation of our client helped our client overcome the initial reluctance of school officials to treat the matter with the seriousness it deserved. Ultimately, the school found the male student responsible for Title IX sexual misconduct and disciplined that student appropriately, enabling our client to continue her education, having handled her challenge in the best possible manner for the best possible outcome.

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