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) therein. If 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:
- ALBRIGHT COLLEGE
- ALLEGHENY COLLEGE
- ALVERNIA UNIVERSITY
- ARCADIA UNIVERSITY
- BRYN MAWR COLLEGE
- BLOOMSBURG UNIVERSITY
- BUCKNELL UNIVERSITY
- CABRINI UNIVERSITY
- CAIRN UNIVERSITY
- CALIFORNIA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
- CARLOW UNIVERSITY
- CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY
- CEDAR CREST COLLEGE
- CENTRAL PENN COLLEGE
- CHATHAM UNIVERSITY
- CHESTNUT HILL COLLEGE
- CHEYNEY UNIVERSITY
- CLARION UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
- DELAWARE VALLEY UNIVERSITY
- DESALES UNIVERSITY
- DICKINSON COLLEGE
- DREXEL UNIVERSITY
- DUQUESNE UNIVERSITY
- EAST STROUDSBURG UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
- EASTERN UNIVERSITY
- EDINBORO UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
- ELIZABETHTOWN COLLEGE
- FRANKLIN & MARSHALL COLLEGE
- GANNON UNIVERSITY
- GENEVA COLLEGE
- GETTYSBURG COLLEGE
- GROVE CITY COLLEGE
- GWYNEDD MERCY COLLEGE
- HARCUM COLLEGE
- HAVERFORD COLLEGE
- HOLY FAMILY UNIVERSITY
- IMMACULATA UNIVERSITY
- INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
- JUNIATA COLLEGE
- KEYSTONE COLLEGE
- KING'S COLLEGE
- KUTZTOWN UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
- LACKAWANNA COLLEGE
- LAFAYETTE COLLEGE
- LAKE ERIE COLLEGE OF OSTEOPATHIC MEDICINE
- LA ROCHE COLLEGE
- LASALLE UNIVERSITY
- LEBANON VALLEY COLLEGE
- LEHIGH UNIVERSITY
- LINCOLN UNIVERSITY
- LOCK HAVEN UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
- LYCOMING COLLEGE
- MANSFIELD UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
- MARYWOOD UNIVERSITY
- MERCYHURST UNIVERSITY
- MESSIAH COLLEGE
- MILLERSVILLE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
- MISERICORDIA UNIVERSITY
- MORAVIAN COLLEGE
- MOUNT ALOYSIUS COLLEGE
- MUHLENBERG COLLEGE
- NEUMANN UNIVERSITY
- PEIRCE COLLEGE
- PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY
- PHILADELPHIA COLLEGE OF OSTEOPATHIC MEDICINE
- PHILADELPHIA UNIVERSITY
- POINT PARK UNIVERSITY
- ROBERT MORRIS UNIVERSITY
- ROSEMONT COLLEGE
- SAINT FRANCIS UNIVERSITY
- SAINT JOSEPH'S UNIVERSITY
- SAINT VINCENT COLLEGE
- SETON HILL UNIVERSITY
- SHIPPENSBURG UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
- SLIPPERY ROCK UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
- SUSQUEHANNA UNIVERSITY
- SWARTHMORE UNIVERSITY
- TEMPLE UNIVERSITY
- THIEL COLLEGE
- THOMAS JEFFERSON UNIVERSITY
- UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
- UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH
- UNIVERSITY OF THE ARTS
- UNIVERSITY OF THE SCIENCES
- UNIVERSITY OF SCRANTON
- URSINUS COLLEGE
- VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY
- WASHINGTON & JEFFERSON COLLEGE
- WAYNESBURG UNIVERSITY
- WEST CHESTER UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
- WESTMINSTER COLLEGE
- WIDENER UNIVERSITY
- WILKES UNIVERSITY
- YORK COLLEGE OF PENNSYLVANIA
It is critical to make certain the college sexual misconduct investigation at your Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania 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.