College Sexual Misconduct Investigations

Misconduct Allegations

Many colleges and universities maintain sexual-misconduct policies that prohibit and punish more student sexual activity than federal Title IX requires. For colleges and universities to retain their federal funding, Title IX requires schools to prohibit only quid-pro-quo and hostile-environment sexual harassment, and sexual violence in the form of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking. Colleges and universities, though, very often also prohibit non-Title IX sexual exploitation, defined to include invasion of privacy, voyeurism, exposure, sex blackmail, prostitution, infecting another with a sexual disease, and using alcohol or drugs to get sex. Under these expansive policies with their vague definitions, students can face a minefield of potential false, exaggerated, surprising, confusing, and unfair sexual-misconduct charges.

How Investigations Start

Colleges and universities publish elaborate procedures for resolving their non-Title IX sexual-misconduct charges. Those procedures often do not provide the accused student with the protections that Title IX regulations require, like the right to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses with the help of an expert attorney like national academic attorney Joseph Lento. Those procedures do, however, typically provide basic due process, including notice to the accused student of the charges and evidence, as well as some opportunity for the accused student to tell that student's side of the story at a meeting, conference, or hearing. The accused student's limited participation in the school's investigation is typically a part of those procedures.

Who Investigates

One might think that colleges and universities rely on local police to investigate sexual misconduct. That is not generally so. Except in the most serious cases involving allegations of things like forcible rape, supported by credible evidence, colleges and universities tend to investigate, using their own personnel, the many less serious sexual-misconduct allegations that their broad and vague policies support and spawn. When the school's student-misconduct coordinator receives a complaint alleging qualifying misconduct, one that the coordinator cannot resolve informally, the coordinator will likely appoint an investigator or co-investigators. Those investigators are typically school administrators having other duties but with at least some investigation training or experience.

What Happens in an Investigation

Interview of the Accused Student. While policies and practices vary from school to school and investigator to investigator, an investigation commonly begins with notice to the accused student. The student should already have learned from the school of the charges. Investigators, though, commonly contact the accused student to arrange an interview. That contact may include substantial information about the investigator's supposedly independent role, school responsibility, and the inquisitorial nature and prosecutorial purpose of the interview, or it may not. The investigator should at least inform the accused student that the investigator is not the student's advisor or representative. In practice, though, investigators may use a cordial approach to disarm the accused student from any caution or care in the interview, despite that anything the student discloses can and will be used against the student.

Other Actions. The investigator will likely have taken several other substantial steps before interviewing the accused student. Those steps will likely have included the accuser's interview and interview of witnesses whom the accuser identifies as supporting the accusations. Investigators commonly encourage witnesses to sign written statements that the investigator prepares or helps the witness prepare based on the witness's information. Investigators also gather and review documentary evidence. That evidence could include surveillance or cellphone video, photographic images, clothing and other personal effects, emails, text messages, social media posts, handwritten cards and notes, and anything else bearing on relevant events. In short, accused students should know that investigators will have a one-sided but detailed impression of events before approaching the accused student who may know relatively little.

Investigation Files and Reports. Colleges and universities expect their assigned investigators to produce two things: an investigation case file and an investigation report. The investigation case file holds and organizes the witness statements and documentary evidence. The investigation report summarizes that evidence. Although policies and practices vary, many colleges and universities expect the investigation report to include investigator findings on the charges. The report may not simply be a helpful summary for the eventual decision maker but instead a die-cast toward a probable or sure conclusion.

What an Accused Student Can Do

Retain an Attorney Representative. Do not face an investigation alone. Students charged with college sexual misconduct need expert representation from national academic attorney Joseph Lento. A sexual-misconduct investigation is not the time to sit back and let things happen. Attorney Lento has helped hundreds of students nationwide take proactive and effective steps to defeat confusing and frightening sexual misconduct charges. Students facing charges have everything at stake, including their education, career, and reputation. Students also don't have the strategic approach and litigation skills to use investigation procedures to disprove false and exaggerated charges. Retain national academic attorney Joseph Lento to help you manage your investigation to best effect.

Prepare for Interview. An accused student can work with attorney Lento to prepare effectively for the student's investigation interview. An interview is an opportunity to share accurate and complete information exonerating the accused student and mitigating any potential offense. The accused student must prepare thoughtfully and earnestly to do so. An interview is also an ideal opportunity to direct the investigator to exonerating and mitigating evidence. The accused student should be ready to identify helpful witnesses, their names and contacts, and their relevant information. The accused student should also have collected, analyzed, organized, and summarized documentary and other exhibit evidence to share with the investigator at the interview. National academic attorney Joseph Lento helps accused students do exactly these things to make the interview work as it should, telling the full and accurate story from the student's perspective.

Respond to Investigation Files and Reports. College and university sexual misconduct procedures often grant the accused student the right to review and supplement the investigation case file. That right, when present, is the accused student's ideal opportunity to further document the student's side of the story with any witness statements or documentary evidence that the investigator has carelessly or deliberately omitted. Procedures sometimes also grant the accused student the right to review and respond to the investigation report. Once again, that opportunity, when present, is a great way to ensure that the investigator has given the decision-maker an accurate, balanced, and complete picture of what happened. National academic attorney Joseph Lento helps accused students make these reviews, responses, and supplementations for the best possible outcome.

An investigation is a critical step in college sexual misconduct procedures. Your investigation participation and response can be your make-or-break difference in the outcome of sexual-misconduct charges. Retain national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today by calling 888.535.3686 or going online.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.

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