In early May 2020, the United States Department of Education announced new rules regarding sexual misconduct in colleges and universities that require live cross-examination, alter the definition of sexual harassment, and narrow the scope of complaints that schools can consider.
According to the original text of Title IX, "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." The policy did not mention sexual harassment or sexual assault.
But based on various interpretations of the law over the years, sexual misconduct in all of its forms – sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape – became considered gender-based discrimination. This required federally funded schools to investigate complaints of sexual misconduct and conduct hearings to find out whether an alleged perpetrator was guilty.
How Have Sexual Misconduct Laws Changed?
Law changes mean schools no longer bear the responsibility of taking "effective action to prevent, eliminate, and remedy sexual harassment" by "changing the culture." The focus has shifted to the schools' responsibility to address individual cases of serious sexual misconduct. The new rules also redefine what constitutes sexual harassment and require live hearings allowing cross-examination when adjudicating sexual-misconduct complaints.
As an example of how law changes will impact students, let's look at Princeton University's policies. To comply with the Department of Education's new regulations, Princeton University Title IX policy no longer applies to any conduct that occurs outside of the U.S. or in any location where the university does not exercise "substantial control over the respondent."
Additionally, due to more limited federal definitions, what the university considers "improper conduct related to sex" and "sexual exploitation" also now fall outside of Title IX, no matter where issues occur or the circumstances of the offenses. "Quid pro quo" sexual harassment and "severe and pervasive" sexual harassment still fall under Title IX, but "severe or pervasive" harassment does not.
Instead, these occurrences are now encompassed by the university's new sexual misconduct policy, which "will include conduct associated with university-sponsored activities outside of the U.S.; conduct involving the use of university computing, network resources, and email accounts; and sexual misconduct that occurs within eating clubs or elsewhere in the local vicinity."
What Sexual Assault Law Changes Mean For Students
If Princeton's approach is any indication, the new Title IX rules create what amounts to two separate processes, where Title IX previously covered everything. Based on early reactions among colleges and universities, it seems likely that most institutions will take an approach similar to Princeton's. Princeton states explicitly in its new policy that conduct that was prohibited last year will remain prohibited, meaning the law change will not discourage the school's enforcement, it will simply be done differently.
This means that in many sexual misconduct cases, Title IX will no longer apply. However, accused students still may need a lawyer to protect their rights, especially since the Department of Education has required that Title IX investigations include live hearings and live cross-examinations of witnesses. A lawyer will have the expertise to handle these sensitive processes.
The new policies also highlight an "informal resolution process," which is entirely optional. After a formal complaint has been issued, students can select this "voluntary, remedies-based process designed to provide parties with an option to resolve disputes with other students in a forum that is separate and distinct from the university's formal grievance processes under the sexual misconduct policy."
The Benefits of Choosing an Experienced Attorney
When facing sexual misconduct or sexual assault charges, it's important to choose an attorney who has experience in Title IX and other similar code of conduct cases. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has handled hundreds of sexual misconduct cases under Title IX. Sexual misconduct cases falling under new policies are different only in name, meaning Mr. Lento already knows how to navigate this complex legal environment. Other benefits of selecting a skilled advisor include:
Attorneys have acquired trial experience and legal expertise that will be extremely useful to you as an accused student. They will help you find and interview witnesses and draft a statement that is consistent with your account of events.
You could choose anyone to assist you throughout these processes, but none of them are less likely to disclose confidential information than a lawyer. If they haven't already, school authorities will recommend a Title IX advisor that supposedly has extensive training in the school's policy and processes – but keep in mind that the school employs this individual. Though they are supposed to represent you, their loyalty lies with their employer, and the information you disclose could be used against you in a hearing or even a criminal trial. You won't have to worry about an attorney turning on you. Their primary duty is to ensure that your rights are protected.
New Jersey College Sexual Misconduct Attorney
If you attend a New Jersey college or university and have been accused of sexual misconduct, it is imperative you speak with an attorney. Make certain your or your student's interests are protected - Contact National Sexual Misconduct Attorney Joseph D. Lento today at 888-535-3686 or by completing our online form.
New Jersey 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:
- Bloomfield College
- Caldwell University
- Centenary College
- The College of New Jersey (TCNJ)
- College of Saint Elizabeth
- Drew University
- Fairleigh Dickinson University
- Georgian Court University
- Kean University
- Monmouth University
- Montclair State University
- New Jersey City University
- New Jersey Institute of Technology
- Princeton University
- Ramapo College
- Rowan University
- Rider University
- Rutgers University
- Saint Peter's Univerity
- Stevens Institute of Technology
- Stockton University
- Thomas Edison State University
- William Paterson University
It is critical to make certain the college sexual misconduct investigation at your New Jersey 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 New Jersey, Pennsylvania, 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 New Jersey 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.