If you are an Iowa college or university student under investigation for sexual misconduct, you could be facing an uncertain future, both academically and professionally. Schools across the nation face intense pressure to pursue all allegations of sexual misconduct in accordance with federal rules, and failing to do so could result in a loss of federal funding. Additionally, recent changes in the rules for processing cases under Title IX have convoluted the disciplinary process in many schools, making it even more likely that the falsely accused student may receive unfair discipline or be denied due process. In such cases hiring an attorney-advisor could significantly improve your chances for a better outcome. Here's what you need to know to ensure your rights are protected.
How the Rules Have Changed
Title IX guarantees protections for students from being discriminated against on the basis of sex. This definition has been interpreted to include incidents of sexual harassment and assault, as well. However, in May 2020, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) instituted some rule changes that may dramatically change the way schools address sexual misconduct allegations. These changes took effect for the 2020-21 school year. The most notable changes are as follows:
- Schools must implement a single investigative process for sexual misconduct allegations for faculty, staff, and students. This process is to include live hearings and cross-examination of witnesses. Any witness who chooses not to participate in the hearings will not have their testimony included in the investigation.
- Off-campus jurisdictions have been redefined. Colleges and universities are now only responsible for investigating allegations of sexual misconduct occurring at locations and events where the school exercises “substantial control.” Off-campus fraternity and sorority housing fall under this definition; other types of off-campus housing do not. Additionally, schools are not responsible for alleged incidents that happen with students participating in study programs abroad.
- Schools must have “actual knowledge” of alleged incidents. Previously, colleges and universities could be penalized for failing to pursue Title IX sexual misconduct allegations about which they should have “reasonably known.” With the new language, schools are now only responsible for incidents about which they have “actual knowledge.”
“Sexual Misconduct” Redefined
One change destined to be far-reaching in its impact is how the DOE has redefined what it considers sexual misconduct under Title IX. Previous interpretations classified sexual misconduct as any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. With the new rule changes, sexual misconduct only falls under the scope of Title IX if it qualifies as one of the following:
- Sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, or stalking;
- Incidents of quid pro quo harassment (e.g., attempting to trade favors for sex); or
- “Unwelcome conduct so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it denies someone equal access to education.”
Critics of the rule changes have expressed particular concern over the terms “objectively offensive” and “equal access,” because they believe they could substantially narrow the scope of incidents that qualify for Title IX protections. For example, if a school effectively argues that a certain alleged incident did not deny the alleged victim “equal access,” that incident may not qualify for a Title IX disciplinary investigation.
What This Means for the Accused
On the surface, these rule changes may seem like welcome news for those who have been accused of sexual misconduct because the expressed intent is to make it easier to defend oneself or “weed out” more false accusations. However, the confusion surrounding the rules' implementation may actually make things more precarious for the accused, rather than easier. Two reasons for this:
First—Schools have the right to revise their own policies. The new DOE rules change how schools process sexual misconduct allegations under Title IX. Still, they cannot stop schools from modifying and enforcing their own disciplinary policies regarding sexual conduct. As a result, some schools (including, possibly, some in Iowa) have already begun rewriting their student conduct policies to favor the alleged victims of sexual misconduct. Thus, an accused student may no longer face discipline under Title IX, but may still face punishment under the school's own policies.
Second--the new rules face an uncertain future. At least 18 state Attorneys General (plus the District of Columbia) have already filed legal challenges to the new DOE rules, so there is a chance they could be struck down. It is also widely assumed that if a Democratic administration is voted into office during the next election, that administration will almost certainly revisit these rules.
Why You Need an Attorney-Advisor
The more uncertainty there is regarding the rules, the higher the likelihood that schools will unfairly punish the innocent. At this time, there are so many potential variables in play that Iowa students accused of sexual misconduct have a much greater risk of being denied due process or disproportionately disciplined—putting their reputations and their future careers into jeopardy. However, accused students are allowed to hire an attorney-advisor to assist with misconduct investigations, and doing so could greatly improve the student's chances for a fair and positive outcome. A skilled attorney-advisor will have a full grasp of the latest rules on Title IX protections, along with the current disciplinary policies of the specific school in question. They can also help gather evidence and arrange witnesses to help with your defense. The very presence of an attorney (even in an advisory role) helps ensure the school stays true to its own policies and procedures, providing a better guarantee of the student's due process rights.
Iowa College Sexual Misconduct Advisor
If you're a student in Iowa currently facing a sexual misconduct investigation, it's in your best interest to hire an attorney-advisor as quickly as possible. The Lento Law Firm has extensive experience with student discipline defense cases, and Joseph D. Lento has successfully helped hundreds of students defend themselves against unfair accusations and disproportionate punishments. Don't be a victim of convoluted policies and procedures; take control of your future today. Give the Lento Law Firm a call at 888-535-3686 for a consultation.
Iowa 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:
- AIB College of Business
- Allen College
- Briar Cliff University
- Brown Mackie College Quad Cities
- Buena Vista University
- Central College
- Clarke University
- Coe College
- Cornell College
- Des Moines Area Community College
- Divine Word College
- Dordt College
- Drake University
- Eastern Iowa Community College District
- Ellsworth Community College
- Emmaus Bible College
- Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary
- Graceland University Lamoni
- Grand View University
- Grinnell College
- Hamilton Technical College
- Hawkeye Community College
- Indian Hills Community College
- Iowa Central Community College
- Iowa Lakes Community College
- Iowa State University
- Iowa Wesleyan College
- Iowa Western Community College
- ITT Technical Institute Cedar Rapids
- ITT Technical Institute Clive
- Kaplan University Cedar Falls Campus
- Kaplan University Cedar Rapids Campus
- Kaplan University Council Bluffs Campus
- Kaplan University Davenport Campus
- Kaplan University Des Moines Campus
- Kaplan University Mason City Campus
- Kirkwood Community College
- Loras College
- Luther College
- Maharishi University of Management
- Marshalltown Community College
- Mercy College of Health Sciences
- Morningside College
- Mount Mercy University
- North Iowa Area Community College
- Northeast Iowa Community College Calmar
- Northwest Iowa Community College
- Northwestern College
- Palmer College of Chiropractic Davenport
- Saint Ambrose University
- Simpson College
- Southeastern Community College
- Southwestern Community College
- St Luke's College
- University of Dubuque
- University of Iowa
- University of Northern Iowa
- University of Phoenix Des Moines Campus
- Upper Iowa University
- Vatterott College Des Moines
- Waldorf College
- Wartburg College
- Western Iowa Tech Community College
- William Penn University
It is critical to make certain the college sexual misconduct investigation at your Iowa 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 Iowa 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.