Getting into college is a dream come true for most students. You have worked so hard to ensure your place on campus, but if you are accused of sexual misconduct or violating Title IX, that dream can be shattered in the blink of an eye. If you've been accused of sexual misconduct, it can feel overwhelming. But don't stress. There are several steps you can take to help guarantee the best possible outcome, including working with an experienced attorney-advisor, and attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have years of experience helping hundreds of students across the country defend themselves against sexual misconduct allegations. You don't have to weather this storm alone; the Lento Law Firm can help.
What is Title IX?
Title IX is a federal regulation that creates a specific standard that all federally funded colleges and universities must uphold when managing sexual discrimination and sexual violence on their campus. These standards include:
- Clear and immediate procedures for sexual misconduct allegations
- Designated personnel to handle instances of sexual violence
- In Title IX hearings, the standard of evidence should be “more likely than not” or “preponderance of evidence”
- Both parties involved should have access to the same procedures – advisors, appeals, and presentation of the evidence
- Retaliation protection
Mississippi State University prohibits discrimination and sexual misconduct, which they define as sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual exploitation, or stalking, with the goal being to not only keep faculty, staff, and students safe but to uphold their civil and constitutional rights.
What Happens After an Allegation of Sexual Misconduct at Mississippi State University?
After the university's Title IX Coordinator receives notice of a complaint of alleged sexual misconduct, and either they, or the complainant, have signed a formal complaint, the university will notify the accused student of the accusations and next steps. The Title IX Coordinator will select an appropriate person to then begin an official investigation into the allegations.
At the end of the investigation, the Title IX Coordinator will prepare a report that summarizes the undisputed facts, disputed facts in question, and all potentially relevant evidence that will be introduced at a hearing. The Title IX Coordinator may all make specific recommendations as to what evidence may be presented, but the adjudicator has the final say. This report will be distributed to the parties no less than 21 days before the hearing.
During the hearing, both parties will have the opportunity to tell their side of the story and present relevant evidence and witness testimonies. Both parties have the right to have advisors present during every stage of these proceedings to help, but it is imperative to have one at your side during the hearing as advisors are the only individuals who can conduct cross-examination of the witnesses. It is your responsibility to hire the advisor and secure their attendance at these meetings.
Once both sides are heard, the presiding adjudicator will determine the sanctions to be placed on the accused student. Sanctions differ based on the specific facts of the complaint and include:
- Expulsion: full removal from the university without the possibility of being readmitted
- Suspension: removal of the student from the university for a temporary period of time
- Conduct Probation: an official warning that if there is another allegation the student will be expelled or suspended
- Loss of campus housing
- Restrictions on campus
- A warning
- Withholding or revoking of a degree or certification
There are certain instances where students may wish to follow an informal resolution process instead of the one outlined above. If this is so, the students will participate in a mediation process with the Title IX Coordinator. Either student has the right to withdraw from the process at any time, and the Title IX Coordinator will jump back into the formal complaint to hearing pipeline immediately.
Appealing a Sexual Misconduct or Title IX Violation Decision
Both parties can appeal the hearing decision within seven days of the written determination being issued, but only if one of the following grounds for appeal is present:
- Procedural error that affected the outcome
- New evidence is present that wasn't reasonably available before that will affect the outcome
- There is evidence of a conflict of interest or bias for or against the complainant or accused student
Written appeals will be adjudicated by individuals who were not present in any part of the hearing or investigations. The appellate adjudicators will either affirm the decision, sanction, or remedy in full or in part, reverse it, and/or make a final decision on responsibility, sanctions, or remedies. Appeal decisions will be made within 90 days of filing the formal complaint and are final and cannot be appealed further after the fact.
How an Attorney-Advisor Can Help
If you are accused of sexual misconduct or other Title IX violation by Mississippi State University, the time to act is now. The stakes are high, and the consequences of being found responsible are extremely detrimental. You may be removed from labs or classes you are taking with the victim or complainant, altering your schedule and autonomy on campus. Harsher sanctions include suspension and expulsion, tarnishing your transcripts for years to come. Navigating the disciplinary process while maintaining your academic load, without missing a crucial deadline, is an incredible burden. This is why working with an attorney-advisor from the moment you learn of these accusations is so important. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm aim to create a strategic defense that will avoid these negative consequences. Call 888-535-3686 today to schedule a consultation.