Have you or someone you know been accused by a university of sexual misconduct? You're not alone. Studies show that 1 in 4 undergraduate women experience sexual assault while they are students.
These alarming statistics reveal that sexual misconduct is a widespread issue on college campuses across the country. To curb this behavior, schools enforce strict punishment on students found guilty of sexual misconduct.
Universities will frequently act fast in response to sexual misconduct allegations. To remain compliant with the United States Department of Education, schools will conduct investigations to determine a sexual misconduct violation. Failing to do so may result in the school losing federal funding.
In May 2020, the Department of Education announced new rules that change how universities respond to sexual misconduct. These rules impact the investigation process, but schools may also conduct investigations that fall outside the Department of Education's policy.
Sexual misconduct charges can have major ramifications for the students involved. Read on to learn more about college sexual misconduct cases and what to do if you're accused.
College Response to Sexual Misconduct
The Department of Education prohibits all sexual misconduct under the grounds of gender-based discrimination. According to the original Title IX text, “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.”
Although the text did not explicitly mention sexual misconduct, interpretations of the law found that it was a form of discrimination. Sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape, are forbidden from schools. To remain compliant with Title IX, schools must investigate all sexual misconduct complaints. If they fail to do so, they are subject to punishment, including loss of federal funds.
What is Considered Sexual Misconduct?
The Department of Education's new guidelines states that sexual misconduct includes sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and rape. It defines sexual misconduct as behavior that is “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive.”
The new definition excludes certain sexual misconduct behaviors that were previously prohibited. For example, the new Title IX guidelines no longer mention “sexual exploitation” or “improper conduct related to sex.” It also does not include “severe or pervasive” acts.
Although the Department of Education has a definition of sexual misconduct, universities may have their own interpretation. Other forms of sexual misconduct may be outlined in a school's code of conduct. Since schools are in charge of codes of conduct, they may punish misconduct violations that fall outside of Title IX guidelines.
Here are some examples of sexual misconduct that schools prohibit:
- Unwelcome touching
- Unwanted attempts to kiss or fondle
- Sexually suggestive comments or gestures
- Pressure for dates or sex
- Inappropriate sexual remarks
- Sexually demeaning images or illustrations
- Quid pro quo arrangements, such as offering rewards for sex
College Sexual Misconduct Laws in West Virginia
Universities across the country implemented the new sexual misconduct guidelines in August 2020. Schools in West Virginia revised their internal policies to remain compliant with the new laws.
West Virginia University's Board of Governors voted to amend its rules to match federal regulations. The board members approved the amended rules but also noted they would exist on an interim basis.
Based on this response, some West Virginia schools may adopt multiple sexual misconduct policies. Some colleges have revised their regulations and added additional restrictions for acts not covered by Title IX.
West Virginia schools may still punish student code of conduct violations that relate to sexual misconduct. Punishments can range from minor to severe, depending on the facts of the case and the school. Students may face suspension or expulsion from their school and affiliated organizations. They may also lose access to school housing, financial assistance, or scholarships.
Since college sexual misconduct is a serious charge, being found guilty of an offense can have long-lasting implications. Students may risk damage to their reputation, difficulty finding a job, or pursuing other educational programs.
The Benefits of Using an Experienced Attorney-Advisor
If your school investigates you for sexual misconduct, you have the right to select an advisor. It's pivotal to choose someone with the experience necessary to achieve a positive outcome.
Your university might offer you the chance to work with a student advisor. Using a school advisor may be convenient, but doing so is misguided as so much is at stake. It's also important to note that the university still employs them. They may relay the information you tell them to the school and its administrators. This can seriously threaten your case and harm your chances of being cleared of the allegations.
An experienced attorney is the best option for an advisor. They will guide you through every step of the case and provide valuable insights to defend your case. They can also ensure anonymity. Attorneys always have their client's best interests in mind and will not reveal damaging details about the case to the school or other parties.
In addition to their knowledge and experience, attorneys are also skilled in fighting back against universities. They can issue a litigation hold and ensure that you maintain all of your rights during the investigation. Schools move fast during sexual misconduct cases, often at the expense of the defendant. A lawyer will make sure that students will maintain their rights and not be subject to a biased determination.
West Virginia College Sexual Misconduct Advisor
If you attend a college or university in West Virginia and face allegations of sexual misconduct, it's crucial to consult with an attorney. The Lento Law Firm has gained a reputation as one of the country's top experts in student defense. Joseph D. Lento has spent many years fighting for students and pushing back against unfair treatment by universities in Title IX and college sexual misconduct cases. He has the knowledge and legal expertise to navigate complex cases and prepare for any scenario.
Give the Lento Law Firm a call today at 888-535-3686.
West Virginia 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:
- Alderson Broaddus College
- American Public University System
- Appalachian Bible College
- Bethany College
- Blue Ridge Community and Technical College
- Bluefield State College
- Bridgemont Community and Technical College
- Concord University
- Davis & Elkins College
- Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College
- Fairmont State University
- Glenville State College
- Huntington Junior College
- ITT Technical Institute Huntington
- Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College
- Marshall University
- Mountain State College
- Mountain State University
- Mountwest Community and Technical College
- New River Community and Technical College
- Ohio Valley University
- Pierpont Community and Technical College
- Potomac State College of West Virginia University
- Salem International University
- Shepherd University
- Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College
- University of Charleston
- Valley College Beckley
- Valley College Martinsburg
- Valley College Princeton
- West Liberty University
- West Virginia Business College Wheeling
- West Virginia Junior College Bridgeport
- West Virginia Junior College Charleston
- West Virginia Junior College Morgantown
- West Virginia Northern Community College
- West Virginia State University
- West Virginia University
- West Virginia University at Parkersburg
- West Virginia University Institute of Technology
- West Virginia Wesleyan College
- Wheeling Jesuit University
It is critical to make certain the college sexual misconduct investigation at your West Virginia 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 West Virginia 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.