If you or a loved one are facing allegations of a code of conduct violation due to cyberstalking, you may be concerned about the implications of the accusations or the process your university will use to adjudicate your case.
In today's age of information, cyberstalking has become more and more common. In fact, people often refer to “Facebook stalking” or “Googling” potential boyfriends or girlfriends, or even potential roommates. Students at a college or university might check out someone's IG and slide into their DM's or watch their TikTok videos. Is this the same as cyberstalking? Nope. Cyberstalking is different, and, at the collegiate level, it can arise from misunderstanding or miscommunication. Many colleges and universities have taken action and explicitly listed cyberstalking as a code of conduct violation in an attempt to curtail the behavior and protect the community. But what happens when there's an allegation of cyberstalking?
What is Cyberstalking?
If we're clear on what cyberstalking isn't, what does actually qualify as cyberstalking? There isn't a specific definition, but generally, it's using online technology to harass, intimidate or cause severe emotional distress to someone else. The end result is that an individual feels afraid for their own safety or the safety of others. It can include threatening tweets or DMs, excessive emails, “revenge porn,” and more. The Bureau of Justice Statistics' Special Report on the National Crime Victimization Survey found that “approximately 1 in 4 stalking victims reported some form of cyberstalking such as e-mail (83%) or instant messaging (35%).”
Allegations of cyberstalking are incredibly serious and should not be underestimated or ignored. Even though your school's code of conduct is not the same as federal or local laws, the school's disciplinary process could lead to a formal reprimand on your permanent academic record.
How Can an Attorney-Advisor Help Me?
If you've received notice of an allegation of cyberstalking, you should reach out to an attorney-advisor immediately. It's not the type of situation you should try to navigate on your own. Often, they can be the result of a misunderstanding between two individuals, and with the assistance of an attorney-advisor, the situation may be more smoothly remedied.
An attorney-advisor can examine the details of your case and help you plan out a strategy that can effectively address the allegations. It's important that you speak with an attorney-advisor as soon as you receive the notice, rather than waiting until later in the process. They can also assist you with looking through your school's code of conduct or handbook so that you understand what the process will look like. Many schools will allow you to bring an advisor with you to the hearing, and although advisors aren't always able to ask questions during hearings, they can still advise you and assist you with the hearing. Having someone with significant national experience to stand by your side allows you to focus on your future.
Cyberstalking and Title IX Violations
Cyberstalking may also intersect with Title IX charges at a school or college sexual misconduct allegations. The reason they often coexist is that an individual may allegedly use social media, text messaging, or other electronic means to allegedly harass another individual.
Title IX violations and college sexual misconduct allegations have severe ramifications and can affect significant and meaningful areas of your life beyond your college career. Title IX proceedings can be complex and often fall under a separate process than other incidents at your college or university. If this is the case, it's imperative that you consult with an attorney-advisor immediately.
What Penalties Might Occur After Code of Conduct Cyberstalking Violations?
There are two main categories of penalties that could affect your future if your college or university's disciplinary hearing finds that the allegations were more likely to be true than not: collateral consequences and sanctions. The sanctions come from the university or college—and can usually be found in your school's code of conduct or student handbook. The collateral consequences are what happens as a result of the sanctions and the emotional and reputational toll.
If you've received a notice of allegations, you should pull out your code of conduct and find what sanctions your school may impose. If the school finds you guilty, the sanctions can be severe. The hearing board or committee will decide what is appropriate based on the seriousness of the allegations.
The potential sanctions could be a formal reprimand on your permanent academic record, which could have the collateral consequence of affecting an application to graduate school or to a potential employer. Medical school and law school are both incredibly competitive, and a mark on your academic record could impact your ability to be accepted to the program of your choice. In turn, that could affect your earning potential and your future career. That's just one example of how sanctions and collateral consequences are intertwined.
If your school decided that suspension or expulsion was a more appropriate sanction, then the time away from the school could change your standing as a student. As a result of that, you could lose your financial aid or scholarships if you are not enrolled in the correct number of credits.
What if My School Prohibits Attorney-Advisors?
Sometimes schools prohibit attorney-advisors from attending the hearing. If that's the case, does it still make sense for you to work with an attorney-advisor? Yes, it does. Even if the attorney-advisor can't accompany you to the hearing, they can help you prepare for it. They can help you gather evidence and prepare for the looser evidence standard that the school most likely has (preponderance of the evidence). The lower evidence requirement makes it easier for the school to find you guilty than a higher standard such as “beyond a reasonable doubt.” You want to have an attorney-advisor to help you plan and defend yourself.
Best Code of Conduct Cyberstalking Violation Attorney-Advisor
If you or your loved one is facing allegations of cyberstalking at your university or college, it's imperative that you find an attorney-advisor who can fight beside you and protect your rights. With so much at stake, you don't want to underestimate the potential seriousness of your school's disciplinary proceedings. If you wait until after the hearing to consult an attorney-advisor, there may already be repercussions.
An experienced attorney-advisor can help you navigate the specific process your school has and will be able to identify what could strengthen your case and what might weaken it. Being prepared ahead of time ensures you won't be caught by surprise during the hearing. Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have helped countless students and their families across the nation as they faced similar challenges. They bring heart and dedication to every case they work on and won't give up until they get the best possible outcome for you. Call 888.535.3686 today for a consultation about your cyberstalking violation or reach out online.