If you are a college student in Kentucky facing allegations of sexual misconduct, you may face an uncertain academic and professional future. Most colleges and universities rely on federal funding, and as such, they are under intense pressure to pursue all allegations of sexual misconduct among faculty, staff, and students. Failure to do so could result in a loss of funding. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education recently implemented new rules regarding the investigation of sexual misconduct. This move has added more confusion into the mix as schools adapt their policies. The result is that accused students have an increased risk of being unfairly disciplined or denied due process. Here's what you need to know to ensure your rights are protected.
Changes in Title IX Policies Regarding Sexual Misconduct
For many years, Title IX has served to protect students across the country from suffering from discrimination on the basis of sex—and these protections generally extend to incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault. However, in May 2020, the Department of Education (DOE) announced some significant changes in the rules for administering these protections, to be enacted for the 2020-21 school year, with possible far-reaching implications for both accusers and the accused. Among the most notable changes:
- Schools must implement a single investigative process for faculty, staff, and students accused of sexual misconduct. The process must now include live hearings and cross-examination of witnesses, and if a witness does not participate in the hearing, their testimony is not included in the investigation.
- Schools are responsible for some incidents off-campus. Under the new rules, colleges and universities must investigate alleged incidents of sexual misconduct occurring not just on campus, but at any place or location where the school exercises “substantial control.” This definition extends to off-campus sorority and fraternity houses, but not to other types of off-campus housing. Schools are also not responsible for alleged incidents occurring with their students participating in overseas study programs.
- Schools must have “actual knowledge” of the incident. The new rules make schools responsible only for allegations of misconduct about which they have “actual knowledge.” Previously, they could be penalized for failing to investigate incidents about which they should have “reasonably known.”
Redefining Sexual Misconduct
Another significant change is how schools will now define “sexual misconduct” incidents concerning Title IX. Previously, sexual misconduct comprised any unwelcome contact of a sexual nature. Effective fall 2020, Title IX interprets sexual misconduct only as it falls under one of the following three categories:
- Instances of sexual assault, dating violence, stalking, or domestic violence
- Incidents of quid pro quo (i.e., faculty or staff attempting to barter favors for sexual acts)
- Unwelcome conduct which is “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it denies someone equal access to education.”
It is this third category that may become troublesome or confusing for schools that struggle to identify whether a specific action is "severe", whether a specific action is "pervasive", and whether a specific action is “objectively offensive” that it denies the alleged victim “equal access", as all requirements need to be met. The implication here is that if an unwanted act of sexual misconduct doesn't hinder a student's equal access to education, it might not qualify for Title IX protections.
Changes in Kentucky School Policies
On the surface, these DOE rule changes are designed to afford more protections for students accused of sexual misconduct and reduce the number of false accusations. However, several ambiguities remain, which may actually make things more troublesome for the accused and increase their risks for an unfair outcome. Here's why:
First—the new DOE rules have redefined the parameters of Title IX protections for college/university students. Still, they do not stop individual schools from establishing or enforcing their own sexual misconduct policies. Many schools, including some in Kentucky, are now revisiting their student conduct policies regarding sexual misconduct to close the gaps left open by the new DOE rules. Thus, an accused student may no longer be subject to a Title IX investigation but may still be subject to discipline under the school's own policies.
Second—there are concerns that the new DOE rules may be reversed. Attorneys General from at least 18 states have filed suit challenging the rule changes. It is widely assumed that an incoming Democratic administration would revisit and possibly rescind these rule changes.
The result for accused students is that between the ambiguity of the new rules, the implementation of new school policies, and the future of the rule changes themselves, there are just too many variables in play. Students accused of sexual misconduct in Kentucky have a higher risk of being unfairly punished, putting their academic future in jeopardy, and possibly thwarting their career ambitions.
Why Hire an Attorney-Advisor
For students accused of misconduct, the best solution to navigating these uncertain waters is to hire an attorney-advisor to assist them during the disciplinary process. An attorney-advisor understands the current interpretations of Title IX provisions as well as any policy changes the individual school may put into effect. From this information, the advisor can help you take the proper steps to ensure your rights are protected. In addition, the advisor can gather evidence in your favor as well as obtaining witnesses to vouch for your character and innocence during a live hearing as well as the appeals process. Finally, the involvement of an attorney, even in an advisory role, provides a layer of accountability for the school to make sure it follows its own policies to the letter, ensuring you due process. Taken together, these advantages can make the difference between a positive and a negative outcome for your case.
Kentucky College Sexual Misconduct Advisor
To give you the best advantage when facing sexual conduct allegations in Kentucky, you should reach out to an experienced attorney-advisor as soon as possible. The Lento Law Firm has a long track record of success, helping accused students navigate Title IX and college sexual misconduct cases and disciplinary proceedings. Joseph D. Lento's extensive experience with these cases has made him one most knowledgeable attorneys in the area of student discipline.
Don't let a false accusation of sexual misconduct derail your future. Give the Lento Law Firm a call at 888-535-3686 to see how we can help.
Kentucky 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:
- Alice Lloyd College
- Asbury University
- Ashland Community and Technical College
- ATA College
- Beckfield College Florence
- Bellarmine University
- Big Sandy Community and Technical College
- Bluegrass Community and Technical College
- Brescia University
- Brown Mackie College Hopkinsville
- Brown Mackie College Louisville
- Brown Mackie College Northern Kentucky
- Campbellsville University
- Centre College
- Clear Creek Baptist Bible College
- Daymar College Bellevue
- Daymar College Bowling Green
- Daymar College Louisville
- Daymar College Louisville
- Daymar College Madisonville
- Daymar College Online
- Daymar College Owensboro
- Daymar College Paducah Main
- Daymar College Scottsville
- DeVry University Kentucky
- Eastern Kentucky University
- Elizabethtown Community and Technical College
- Gateway Community and Technical College
- Georgetown College Georgetown, Kentucky
- Hazard Community and Technical College
- Henderson Community College
- Hopkinsville Community College
- ITT Technical Institute Lexington
- ITT Technical Institute Louisville
- Jefferson Community and Technical College
- Kentucky Christian University
- Kentucky Mountain Bible College
- Kentucky State University
- Kentucky Wesleyan College
- Lincoln College of Technology Florence
- Lindsey Wilson College
- Madisonville Community College
- Maysville Community and Technical College
- MedTech College Lexington Campus
- Mid Continent University
- Midway College
- Morehead State University
- Murray State University
- National College Lexington
- Northern Kentucky University
- Owensboro Community and Technical College
- Saint Catharine College
- Simmons College of Kentucky
- Somerset Community College
- Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College
- Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College
- Spalding University
- Spencerian College
- Spencerian College Lexington
- Sullivan College of Technology and Design
- Sullivan University
- Thomas More College
- Transylvania University
- Union College
- University of Kentucky
- University of Louisville
- University of Phoenix Louisville Campus
- University of Pikeville
- University of the Cumberlands
- West Kentucky Community and Technical College
- Western Kentucky University
It is critical to make certain the college sexual misconduct investigation at your Kentucky 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 Kentucky 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.