If you or one of your loved ones has received a no-contact order from their college or university, you may be surprised or shocked. A no-contact order (NCO) is frequently one of the first notifications that an accused individual receives from a school. This notification is often the result of allegations of sexual misconduct or violence and is an attempt by the school to protect an individual who's requested it or made a complaint.
When you receive a no-contact order, there are some steps that you can take in order to protect yourself. There are also several parameters that it's important to understand and abide by.
Although nothing may come of the case connected to a no-contact order, it could still affect your future, especially when it comes to your educational records. If you authorize an institution or organization to access your records, this disclosure could negatively impact your future opportunities.
So, what exactly is a no-contact order? Let's dive in and take a look.
What is a No-Contact Order?
There are varying types of no-contact orders, but the type we want to discuss here is a no-contact order that your university or college issues. A no-contact order is a binding document that prohibits one person from any physical, verbal, or electronic contact with another individual. This type of prohibition applies to any interactions, whether they are face to face and in person, or over text message, phone call, or DM.
Many schools will issue no-contact orders whether or not a formal Title IX complaint has been filed. That means that you should take them seriously, and it's also key that when you receive one, there is most likely more information for you to gather.
What Types of Situations May Involve a No-Contact Order?
Most frequently, there are two main types of circumstances under which a no-contact order is issued by a university or college. One is when an individual is afraid of physical or emotional violence or injury. The second type of situation is when there is a concern about sexual misconduct or Title IX violations. The more common instance is when there are sexual misconduct/Title IX allegations, so that is where we'll focus for most of this guide.
What Often Happens After You Receive a No-Contact Order?
Each school will have its own exact process after issuing an NCO. The steps will depend on whether it's a final NCO or a temporary NCO, or something similar but named differently. Usually, once someone receives an NCO, a school official will meet with them. This school official may be the Title IX coordinator, a Student Dean, or another administrator, and they will walk the individual through the order and explain what the order includes. If you meet with an administrator, you can listen to their explanation, but you don't want to speak about the circumstances with them until you've spoken with a professional.
What Types of Behaviors Does a No-Contact Order Usually Prohibit?
Universities and colleges all have unique details around what types of behaviors the no-contact orders include. In general, however, no-contact orders are around communication and proximity. Some schools might restrict key card access at certain times or locations. If both parties live in the same dorm, for example, the NCO might restrict access to doorways, individual floors, shared bathrooms, or specific suites.
Generally, no-contact orders restrict all types of communication, both as an individual and involving the use of a third party. Some schools consider a certain amount of “unbroken eye contact” as a factor, for example. The letter that you receive will usually state the exact restrictions that apply to your circumstances, so make certain you read it carefully.
What Could Happen if You Violate a No-Contact Order?
The results of violating a no-contact order will vary by school. Some schools will offer opportunities to evaluate whether or not a situation was an intentional violation. You may not mean to interact with someone with whom you have a no-contact order; however, sometimes that does happen accidentally. For example, you may be crossing the green and come within a non-allowed distance.
No-contact orders are designed to be protective, not punitive. Their main goal isn't to make your life miserable but to protect the other individual. As a result, the way that universities and colleges treat violations and enforce the NCO is also not to be punitive, but rather for protection. The result of that is that some instances, therefore, violation of a no-contact order could end up with the school choosing to suspend or expel you. And while punishment is ostensibly not the purpose, the impact of suspension or expulsion can be severe and affect your future. Again, it's best to consult your university or college's specific documents for review so that you're certain what is possible.
Does a No-contact order Usually Involve Both Parties?
No-contact orders may involve both parties, but they do not have to, and they are often one-sided in the sense that the no-contact order will only impose obligations on the party subject to the order who is prohibited from contacting the complainant. In other words, the complainant, or the person whom the no-contact order is intended to protect, cannot violate the no-contact order regardless of the complainant's actions. You can examine your school's documents to see whether or not your no-contact order is applicable to only yourself, or to the other party as well.
Next Steps of Action
When you receive a no-contact order, you may be uncertain about what your next steps should be. If your NCO (as many are) is due to an allegation of college sexual misconduct, there are a few different steps that you should consider taking immediately, in addition to not speaking or communicating with your accuser.
- Don't answer any questions or speak with anyone about the case.
You might be tempted to reach out to the appropriate parties at your school to discuss this no-contact order, however it's important that you not communicate with anyone about your circumstances until you've spoken with a college sexual misconduct advisor. They'll be able to help you understand exactly what the best course of action is. When it is time to speak with officials, they'll be able to help you answer the questions in a way that is in your best interests. You also don't want to discuss the case with your friends or advisors.
- Find and contact a College Sexual Misconduct attorney-advisor
An expert college sexual misconduct attorney-advisor will be able to help you from the start, so it's important that you not waste any time. When you receive the NCO, you may be able to appeal it, and an attorney-advisor would be able to help you with that process. They'll also be able to help you determine the best course of action as you proceed. The results of the case could impact your future, but so could having that NCO on your record.
- Review your school's Student Handbook or Code of Conduct.
Every university and college has its own procedures for NCOs, sexual misconduct, and Title IX cases. If it is possible to appeal the NCO, you'll find that information there. You'll also be able to discover if your school has a set time for reviewing NCOs, ending them, etc. Some schools review them on an ongoing basis, whereas others only examine cases and requests shortly after the imposition of the NCO or twice per year, for example.
- Document and record everything that occurs
Document everything that happens from the moment you receive the NCO and from as far back as necessary. Again, record and document everything. If you are facing disciplinary proceedings for sexual misconduct, you'll want to make certain that you gather all of the necessary facts and records that can assist your case. Your experienced attorney-advisor can assist with determining whether the information you share and the evidence you uncover will strengthen or weaken your defense.
Can This Impact My Future?
A no-contact order can absolutely impact your future, whether or not the case against you moves forward, is resolved positively, or negatively. If the no-contact order is noted on your permanent record, it will follow you to any institution, whether educational or professional, that requests your record.
If the no-contact order does become permanent (as in you permanently cannot interact with the other individual), then you may also have other concerns that impact your future. College sexual misconduct charges can result in suspension and expulsion as well. Additionally, they can reduce your ability to get into graduate school, law school, medical school, and other ongoing education programs.
Some Examples of No-contact order Processes
Each school has its own processes for instituting no-contact orders, so you'll absolutely want to take time to explore your own college or university handbook. You'll find specifics there that speak to your exact circumstances. However, here are a few examples so that you can have an idea of what you might be able to expect.
Princeton University has a large section on frequently asked questions about all of the parameters around limits on communication and contact. On this page, they outline their No-contact order process. There are three types of orders that fall under this jurisdiction: A no-contact order, a no communication order, and a “skewed” no-contact order.
If you recall above where we explained that it was possible for no-contact orders to be issued for various reasons, you'll notice that in a similar vein, Princeton's FAQs state that as far as requests go, “individuals may do so due to interpersonal conflicts or situations that they believe are interfering with their educational or work environment.” This is why it's important to take the no-contact order seriously, but also to not panic. Speaking with an attorney-advisor will help you understand how to best approach your situation, and reviewing your school's specific policies will help you understand what type of case or allegations you're facing.
Grinnell College, an elite liberal arts school in Iowa, has a similar yet different approach. Take a look at their no-contact order letter. In their letter, there is space to write in additional parameters and provisions around what sort of activities and locations are viable or not. Under the extra provisions section, it says, “Specific dining hall schedules, gym hours, class schedule accommodations, bathroom usage, entrance and exit usage, etc…”
This attempt shows that, in some ways, Grinnell takes the concerns more seriously. This type of action also demonstrates the range of responses and impact that is possible. If your school is the type of school that puts these sorts of restrictions into place, then your academics, social life, and more, can be at risk.
At Stanford University, the SHARE Title IX office is responsible for handling all no-contact orders. The SHARE Title IX office was formed due to the consolidation of the Sexual Harassment Policy Office, SARA (Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse Education), and the Title IX office. At Stanford University, NCOs are known as “no contact directives.” An emergency no-contact directive can be issued by the SHARE Title IX coordinator. When they issue an emergency no-contact directive, Stanford University will receive a formal notification. In order for a long-term mutual no-contact directive to be issued, a formal Title IX investigation must be taking place.
Best College Attorney-Advisor for No-Contact Orders
If your university or college has issued you a no-contact order or directive, it's important that you understand the seriousness of the situation. You also want to be certain to speak with an attorney-advisor who can help you protect your future and all of the hard work that you've already put into your educational career.
Attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have helped hundreds of students across the country as they faced some of the most challenging times of their college careers. Attorney Lento brings passion and heart to every single case he works on, and he won't stop fighting for you until the best possible outcome is achieved. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888.535.3686 or reach out online with your questions.