College Sexual Misconduct Attorney in Pennsylvania

Are You Facing a College Sexual Misconduct Investigation?

Chances are, if you're reading this, either you or a loved one is currently facing a college sexual misconduct allegation in Pennsylvania. The school may already have started the investigation, or maybe you were only just notified of the charges. Regardless of the stage of the disciplinary proceeding and investigation, it's essential to understand a few things as you face the allegations. Depending on the burden of proof the school has chosen, your rights may be at stake and your future at risk. An experienced attorney can assist with you navigating these challenges.

How Do the New Title IX Guidelines Impact College Sexual Misconduct Allegations?

Before August 2020, these types of cases fell under the Title IX investigative process at each university and college in Pennsylvania that receives Federal funds. However, in May 2020, the Department of Education, under Betsy DeVos's guidance, issued new Title IX guidelines. Many of the new guidelines were designed with the intention of better protecting the accused’s right to due process. The updated guidelines narrow the definition of sexual misconduct and also limit the location to on-campus only, rather than including off-campus events or study abroad. Robert Shibley, executive director of FIRE(Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), stated in a press release, “Today, we won an important victory….We will continue to fight to ensure that students are afforded the rights now guaranteed to them when they return to campus this fall.”

In response, many colleges and universities, such as the University of Pennsylvania, have revisited their own Code of Conduct and Student Handbooks and made changes. 

The University of Pittsburgh, for example, in its revised procedures, states:

“If a Formal Complaint contains allegations that do not constitute Sexual Harassment as defined in Policy CS 27 or otherwise does not meet the requirements of Policy CS 27, the Formal Complaint or individual allegations therein will be “dismissed” under this Policy. A Formal Complaint or individual allegations therein may be “dismissed” under this Policy for reasons including, but not necessarily limited to the following: • if the conduct alleged does not constitute Sexual Harassment; • if the conduct alleged was not within or otherwise related to a University Education Program or Activity; • if the conduct alleged did not occur against a person in the United States; or • if the Complainant notifies the Title IX Coordinator in writing that the Complainant wishes to withdraw the Formal Complaint or allegation(s) thereinIf a Formal Complaint or individual allegations therein are “dismissed,” the allegation will still be examined to determine whether it is appropriate to adjudicate under a separate University policy (including University Policy CS 20 (formerly 06-05-01) Sexual Misconduct and University Policy CS 07 (formerly 07-01-03), Nondiscrimination, Equal Opportunity, and Affirmative Action).” Note the bolded and italicized portion: if a complaint filed under Title IX is dismissed because it doesn't fall within the parameters, the school will still consider if it falls under its other (updated) policies.

Villanova University took a different approach and included Title IX underneath the umbrella of its policy:

“This policy applies to all on-campus conduct, as well as any off-campus conduct, that has an adverse impact on any member of the University community or the University. All conduct outlined below is prohibited under this policy and, in some instances, may also constitute behavior prohibited under Title IX.” In this example, they follow the narrowed scope of Title IX, but broadened the reach of what they included in their own policy. The policy further outlines how they'll approach college sexual misconduct charges.

How to Protect Yourself Against College Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Here are a few key steps you can take if your school is investigating college sexual misconduct allegations that involve you.

Reach out to a college sexual misconduct attorney as soon as possible
A skilled attorney who's supported students in hundreds of instances of code of conduct cases and Title IX cases will be able to ensure that your rights are protected. Although they cannot always speak in hearings, they can advise you on the entire process.

Look over your school's Code of Conduct or Student Handbook
Each school has its own policies and procedures of governance. Your Student Handbook will detail these, and you'll be able to understand what the process for your hearing and the investigation will be.

Don't communicate with your accuser
Under no circumstances should you communicate with your accuser. Resist the temptation to reach out. Communication can be used against you in the hearing.

Don't discuss your situation with anyone at the school
Although you might want to talk about the allegations with your best friend at school, please don't do it. If campus officials (public safety, campus police) ask you questions about the incident, you are not obliged to answer them. Respectfully tell them no.

Document and record everything that happens
Keep track of everything that happens along the way. Gather documents and evidence. Keep a log of communication from the university or college contact. Share these with your attorney. Their wisdom and experience mean that they can evaluate whether evidence can assist your defense or weaken it. This sort of preparation will leave you ready to fight at the hearing.

Choosing a Pennsylvania Attorney as your College Sexual Misconduct Advisor

If you're facing college sexual misconduct allegations, the impact on your future can be vast. Disciplinary action could include suspension or expulsion, which might impact your financial aid at a minimum in addition to future opportunities.  Depending on the findings, the school might add the allegations to your permanent academic record; this could negatively impact your ability to attend graduate school or acquire internships and professional employment.

The stakes are incredibly high when it comes to college sexual misconduct, so it's essential to consider an attorney like Joseph D. Lento who has a proven track record in sexual misconduct cases at colleges and universities not only throughout Pennsylvania, but across the United States . He has unparalleled Title IX experience and Code of Conduct experience over the course of many years. Students and parents want the best fighting for them when their future is at risk. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.

Pennsylvania 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: