For anyone who's ever dreamed of going to college, you never think of the negative aspects of your experience. You never wonder what it might be like to be accused of sexual misconduct or a Title IX violation. What do you do? Where can you turn? Well, DePaul University students and their families can turn here, to the Lento Law Firm. Every school gives students the right to have an attorney-advisor advocate on their behalf during Title IX proceedings. Working with an attorney-advisor from the moment you are accused can mean the difference between being found not responsible and being expelled forever. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team at 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 navigate this arena 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
DePaul University prohibits discrimination and sexual misconduct, which they define as sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, and gender-based dating and domestic violence, 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 DePaul University?
After receiving a report of Sexual Harassment, the Title IX Coordinator will assess the accusation. This preliminary assessment will determine whether the misconduct falls within the scope of the (i.e., it did not occur in the university's education programs or activities, and/or it occurred outside the United States) and whether it is Title IX Prohibited Conduct. It does not fall within Title IX, the Coordinator has the option to dismiss the report, investigate it further, or send it to another university office to investigate if it falls under the Sexual & Relationship Violence Prevention and Response or the Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy and Procedures the university employs.
If the Title IX Coordinator determines that it does fall within Title IX, they have the authority to remove the Respondent from the university on a temporary basis. The student will receive adequate notice of this interim removal and an opportunity to challenge it.
A formal complaint must be filed in order for the university to investigate and adjudicate a report of sexual harassment. The Title IX Coordinator will evaluate the formal complaint in the same manner they evaluated the initial accusation. If they determine they must continue with the formal complaint, they will send notice to all parties of the investigation. During the investigation, the burden of gathering evidence lies on the university, not the parties, but the parties do have the opportunity to submit evidence for the university to review. Once the investigation has completed, the Title IX Coordinator will issue a written investigation report. The investigation should be completed within 90 days of the students receiving notice of it.
When the investigation ends, the Title IX Coordinator will determine if the students should attend an administrative adjudication or a hearing. Generally, the hearing process is used for adjudicating all formal complaints unless both parties' consent to the administrative adjudication process. If the students opt for the hearing process, they will have the opportunity to present relevant evidence and witnesses to advocate on their behalf. The hearing officers will deliberate on the cases presented and make their determination in writing. This decision will include the remedies and sanctions to be imposed, as well as how the students might appeal the decision.
If the students agree on the administrative adjudication process, the administrative officer will meet with both parties separately to allow them to make their case, but no new evidence is presented. The administrative officer will then decide if it is more likely than not that the respondent student committed a Title IX violation. This decision is then transmitted to the students, along with a process for appealing it.
Sexual Misconduct That Falls Outside Title IX
These accusations will be reviewed by the university office they are referred to. This office has ten days to acknowledge that they received the complaint, then they will conduct a preliminary assessment of the allegations. If they determine the allegations have merit, they will notify both parties of the Initial Meetings process, where they will hear out both sides. They may determine that the complaint move forward where it will be heard in an administrative hearing or university board hearing.
During these hearings, the university may find the respondent student in violation of their policies and will lay out the appropriate sanctions and remedies.
Sanctions for either an act of sexual misconduct, or a Title IX violation, will depend on the severity of the crime. They range from removal from campus housing or certain classes to full expulsion and suspension.
Appealing a Sexual Misconduct or Title IX Violation Decision
Either party has the right to appeal the decisions made by the university within seven days of the date they received notice of the decision. The appeal must be made in writing to the appellate officer and must identify the following:
- The determination appealed from
- Which ground for appeal is being asserted
- Explain why the appealing party believes the appeal should be granted
- What specific relief you are asking for
The university will respond to this appeal within 14 days. The response is final, and no further appeals are allowed.
How an Attorney-Advisor Can Help
When you are accused of sexual misconduct, or another Title IX violation, by your university, your mind jumps to the immediate consequences: “What will the hearing be like? How will I defend myself? I can't believe this is happening.” But in reality, it is the long-term consequences that will have the most effect. For example, if you are found not responsible, teachers and students may still have formed a bias against you. And if you are found responsible, the university may endeavor to separate you from the victim or complainant, changing your schedule, your housing, or even the clubs you have joined. Even more than that, harsher sanctions, like suspension and expulsion, will sit on your college transcripts forever. You will have to discuss the incident on every graduate application you intend to pursue.
This is why working with an attorney-advisor is so important. Attorney Joseph D. Lento, and the Lento Law Firm, will work tirelessly to create a defense that mitigates these consequences. Call 888-535-3686 today to schedule a consultation.