It's no secret that sexual misconduct allegations are a serious matter. On college campuses across the country, students accused of sexual misconduct face severe consequences. They can be suspended, expelled, and may even be unable to pursue higher education at other schools.
For universities, the stakes can be just as high. Federal law requires universities to investigate sexual misconduct allegations, or else they risk the loss of federal funding. The Department of Education considers sexual misconduct to be a form of gender discrimination under Title IX. Recently, they announced new guidelines for dealing with sexual misconduct on college campuses. These changes impact how schools respond to Title IX violations.
Schools can also enforce separate sexual misconduct policies that fall outside Title IX. With so much at stake, it's common for schools to move swiftly during investigations. This often comes at the expense of the accused students—who face harsh penalties for their alleged actions.
If you or someone you know is facing a sexual misconduct allegation, it's essential to learn some basics. Here are some details about how schools in Hawaii handle sexual misconduct cases.
What is Considered College Sexual Misconduct?
The Department of Education requires all schools to investigate instances of sexual misconduct. But what constitutes sexual misconduct? The new Title IX guidelines alter the definition and the scope of the term.
According to the new Title IX policy, sexual misconduct refers to sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking. Any of these acts are considered unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex. The new definition also prohibits “quid pro quo” misconduct and conduct that is “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive”.
The federal guidelines on college sexual misconduct may be uniform, but the handling of allegations may vary from school to school. Universities may still enforce strict rules against sexual misconduct that falls outside the Department of Education's definition.
The University of Hawai’i, for example, prohibits all acts that threaten sex discrimination and gender-based violence. Under its policy and procedure, the following actions are not permitted and subject to punishment:
- Sex discrimination
- Sexual harassment
- Gender-based harassment, including harassment based on actual or perceived sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression
- Sexual exploitation
- Sexual assault
- Domestic violence
- Dating violence
College Sexual Misconduct Policies in Hawaii
The updated Title IX guidelines went into effect nationwide in August 2020. As a result, schools everywhere updated their sexual misconduct policies to remain compliant with the Department of Education.
Here in Hawaii, universities released new policies that alter the way they handle sexual misconduct cases. The University of Hawai'i System announced revised policies and procedures that relate to sex discrimination and gender-based violence. The University of Hawai'i System encompasses ten campuses, including universities, community colleges, and community-based learning centers around the state.
Under the new policy, schools in the University of Hawai'i System will use a live hearing process to address sexual harassment complaints. This system overhauls the grievance process. The schools also gave all students and employees updated Title IX training resources. The new regulations are not retroactive, meaning policy changes won't be applied to sexual harassment cases that began before the effective date.
Universities may still forbid sexual misconduct that falls outside Title IX. Student codes of conduct outline what behavior is prohibited and how schools may respond to violations. As a result, students who are accused of misconduct that does not meet the Department of Education's standards may still face consequences. It's important to meet with an advisor to review your case before determining how to proceed.
What to Do if You're Accused of Sexual Misconduct
If you've been accused of college sexual misconduct, your first step is to meet with an advisor. Students have the right to select an advisor to guide them through the live hearing process. Advisors can help you present your account of events and defend against the allegations.
Some students choose to use an advisor at their school. While these advisors may be convenient, they don't necessarily have your best interests in mind. The university employs school advisors, and its policies bound them. They can reveal anything you tell them to the school, which can threaten your chances of achieving a favorable outcome. Your best option is to select an experienced attorney to assist you.
Attorneys have the legal knowledge and experience to help you in the investigation process. Not only do they know have extensive trial experience, but they can also prepare you for the rigors of a live hearing or an investigation process. Attorneys can help you avoid making mistakes and pitfalls that can hinder their clients from achieving a favorable outcome.
An experienced attorney can also push back against the university. Many schools take advantage of students' ignorance of their rights. They might try to speed up the trial or not offer you a fair determination. An attorney can object to any unfair practices by issuing a litigation hold letter to the university. This letter informs the school that you can take legal action, should you be mistreated.
Unlike a school-sanctioned advisor, attorneys always practice discretion. They will not reveal any information to other parties. Since they are bound by client-attorney privilege, you don't have to worry about your conversations becoming public knowledge.
In serious matters like sexual misconduct cases, it's always best to have a legal professional on your side. Choosing an attorney can arm you with the knowledge and experience required to push back against unsubstantiated claims and unfair treatment.
Your Hawaii College Sexual Misconduct Advisor
Have you been charged with sexual misconduct at your college or university Hawaii? Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm are here to help. For many years, the Lento Law Firm has helped defend students facing misconduct charges. By relentlessly fighting for students' rights, the Lento Law Firm has established itself as one of the top experts on student sexual misconduct defense across the nation. Give the Lento Law Firm a call today at 888-535-3686.
Hawaii colleges and universities where Joseph D. Lento can help as your or your student's college sexual misconduct advisor during investigations, hearings, and appeals include, but are not limited to, the following schools:
- Argosy University Hawaii
- Brigham Young University Hawaii
- Chaminade University of Honolulu
- Hawaii Community College
- Hawaii Pacific University
- Heald College Honolulu
- Honolulu Community College
- Kapiolani Community College
- Kauai Community College
- Leeward Community College
- New Hope Christian College
- Remington College Honolulu Campus
- University of Hawaii at Hilo
- University of Hawaii at Manoa
- University of Hawaii Maui College
- University of Hawaii West Oahu
- University of Phoenix Hawaii Campus
- Windward Community College
It is critical to make certain the college sexual misconduct investigation at your Hawaii school is handled properly and that the accused student's interests are protected from as early as possible during the sexual misconduct investigative process. One major reason is because even at colleges and universities where a finding of responsibility for sexual misconduct charges is made at a hearing, the investigation will set the stage for what the hearing panel is provided prior to a hearing (and what the hearing panel will in large part rely on at a hearing), and at schools where the finding of responsibility is made solely through the investigative process, what takes place during the investigation itself will determine whether the accused is found responsible or not responsible for college sexual misconduct charges.
Unfortunately, some students, families, and college employees make the mistake of not taking the necessary precautions as soon as possible when accused of sexual misconduct at college. Some people will mistakenly believe that if they "just explain what happened," their college or university will be fair and impartial and will arrive at the truth. In a perfect world this may be the case, but in a perfect world, sexual misconduct cases would not exist.
Fighting passionately for the future of his clients at universities and colleges throughout the nation for many years, Joseph D. Lento knows how important it is to mount the strongest defense because he understands that an accused's academic and professional future is on the line. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph Lento is a licensed attorney in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, is admitted as an attorney pro hac vice in state and federal court if needed when representing clients nationwide, and serves as a college sexual misconduct advisor to students and others in academia facing sexual misconduct investigations and Title IX disciplinary cases in Hawaii and throughout the nation. Make certain your or your student's interests are protected - Contact National College Sexual Misconduct Attorney Joseph D. Lento today at 888-535-3686 or by completing our online form.