What New Sexual Misconduct Laws Mean For Accused Students in Wyoming
In early May, 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, generally either through an investigative or hearing process or hybrid model, 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 the policies of one major university. To comply with the Department of Education's new regulations, the respected institution's 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 and objectively offensive” sexual harassment still fall under Title IX, but "severe and pervasive" and “severe or pervasive” harassment does not.
Instead, these occurrences will now be likely encompassed by newly created college and university sexual misconduct policies, which will likely include: alleged sexual misconduct that does not fall under the Title IX Final Rule, both on and off-campus, including in off-campus apartments and residences; conduct associated with university-sponsored activities outside of the U.S. (and even possibly conduct not associated with university-sponsored activities) ; conduct involving the use of university computing, network resources, and email accounts; and sexual misconduct that occurs anywhere outside how schools interpret the jurisdiction of the Title IX Final Rule.
What Sexual Assault Law Changes Mean For Students
Based on early reactions among colleges and universities, it seems likely that most institutions will take a similar approach, including the University of Wyoming. According to many new sexual misconduct policies, conduct that was prohibited last year will remain prohibited, meaning the law change will not discourage enforcement. It will simply be done differently.
This means that in many sexual misconduct cases, Title IX will no longer apply. However, students should absolutely have 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. According to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, this guarantees “due process” to accused students, although such a characterization is far too simplistic.
According to the school's website, the University of Wyoming seeks to achieve an environment that is both free of sexual misconduct and consistent with constitutional protections and personal freedoms. The university has a well-defined process for investigating reports of sexual misconduct and procedures for adjudicating cases of sexual misconduct.
According to sexual misconduct policies, the University of Wyoming is committed to maintaining a respectful, safe, and non-threatening environment for its faculty, staff, students, contractors, and visitors and will address and resolve all complaints of sexual misconduct. Their definition defines sexual misconduct to include dating violence, domestic violence, hostile environment sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, stalking, and any other conduct of a sexual nature that is nonconsensual.
Additionally, the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act requires the university to disclose statistics for certain crimes that occur on campus, in open public areas immediately adjacent to or running through the campus, and at certain non-campus facilities, including Greek housing and remote classrooms.
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 across the United States. Sexual misconduct cases falling under new policies are different only in name, meaning Mr. Lento already knows how to navigate this complex legal and high stakes 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.
With so much at stake including a respondent's academic and professional future, you need a college sexual misconduct advisor solely dedicated to protecting your rights and interests and in achieving the favorable outcome you need to move forward. Only an experienced professional can effectively service this role and they should be involved from as early as possible in your Wyoming college sexual misconduct case.
Wyoming College Sexual Misconduct Advisor
If you attend a Wyoming college or university and have been accused of sexual misconduct, you must speak with an attorney.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped hundreds of students and other in academia successfully resolve Title IX and college sexual misconduct cases across the United States. Contact the skilled sexual misconduct advisors and legal professionals at the Lento Law Firm today for assistance. Call 888-535-3686 to learn more.
Wyoming 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:
- Casper College
- Central Wyoming College
- College America Cheyenne
- Eastern Wyoming College
- Laramie County Community College
- Northwest College
- Sheridan College
- University of Phoenix Cheyenne Campus
- University of Wyoming
- Western Wyoming Community College
It is critical to make certain the college sexual misconduct investigation at your Wyoming 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 Wyoming 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.