Dealing With Sexual Misconduct Charges at Savannah College of Art and Design

If you're here, it's likely because someone at your college or university has accused you of sexual misconduct. You need answers, and you need them now.

Here's the first thing you should know: you can't handle this situation on your own. These cases are serious business. If your school finds you responsible, you could very well be facing expulsion. That doesn't just mean the end of your career at SCAD. It almost certainly means the end of your entire academic career. Few schools are willing to take a chance on admitting a student with a history of misconduct.

The next thing you should know is that you don't have to handle this situation alone. In most cases, you're entitled to an advisor, someone to help you through the investigation and hearing that are coming. Even better: this advisor can be an attorney. So, take a deep breath and let it out. With the right lawyer at your side, you can get through this, salvage your reputation, and get your education back on track.

Title IX Sexual Misconduct

At SCAD, most sexual misconduct allegations are dealt with using Title IX. That's a federal law that prohibits sexual discrimination on college campuses. Beyond that general prohibition, the law also lays out a strict set of guidelines for how schools should handle harassment and violence accusations. Here's what SCAD's own sexual misconduct policy has to say about how it interprets those guidelines.

  • SCAD has a designated Title IX Coordinator. This individual sets school policy regarding all Title IX issues and decides whether or not to pursue an allegation of misconduct.
  • If the Coordinator opens an investigation against you, they must provide you with written notice of the charges. This notice should include the name of the Complainant and details about the allegation. In addition, it should apprise you of your rights under Title IX. Among these, you have the right to be presumed “not responsible” (innocent), the right to notice of any meetings or hearings, and the right to review any evidence in the case.
  • You also have the right to an advisor, who may be—but need not be—an attorney. This advisor can accompany you to any and all meetings and proceedings. In fact, only advisors may cross-examine witnesses during the hearing portion of the case. If you do not have an advisor, SCAD will appoint one for you, but the school is not required to provide you with an attorney.
  • The Coordinator assigns an Investigator to the case. This person meets separately with both sides. They also collect any physical evidence and interview any witnesses.
  • Once the investigation is complete, the Investigator submits a written summary of their findings. You have the right to review this document and suggest changes before it is forwarded to the Coordinator.
  • Once they receive the Investigative Report, the Coordinator sets a date and time for a formal, live hearing. In addition, they appoint one or more Hearing Officers to preside over the case.
  • At the hearing, both sides offer arguments, submit evidence, and call witnesses. In addition, you may both cross-examine one another and any witnesses against you.
  • Once the hearing is complete, the Hearing Officer(s) deliberate as to whether or not you are responsible for a violation. In contrast to actual criminal court cases, they do not use the “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” standard but rather a less strict standard known as “Preponderance of Evidence.” Essentially, they must find you responsible if they are more than fifty percent convinced you committed an offense.
  • If the Hearing Officer(s) find you responsible, the case is forwarded to a Sanctioning Officer who determines the actual sanction.
  • Finally, you have the right to appeal the hearing outcome, but only under certain very specific conditions. Appeals must be based on the discovery of new evidence, a procedural irregularity that affected the outcome, or a conflict of interest on the part of a Title IX official.

A Word About Non-Title IX Cases

It is worth knowing that Title IX is subject to frequent re-interpretation by the Department of Education and by US courts. This is one reason why it's so important to hire an attorney to serve as your advisor, someone who not only knows the law but the history and politics that surround it.

One current battle has to do with schools' jurisdictional authority in sexual misconduct cases. Specifically, in 2020 the Trump administration issued new guidelines barring schools from investigating off-campus incidents. Many schools, including SCAD, re-wrote their own policies to cover these so-called “non-Title IX” cases. Significantly, since these incidents aren't subject to Title IX, these schools are under no particular obligation to follow Title IX rules or to provide respondents with due process rights.

Luckily, SCAD has chosen, at least for now, to investigate and adjudicate Title IX cases and non-Title IX cases using the exact same set of procedures.

Sanctions

SCAD's grievance procedures list a number of possible sanctions for sexual misconduct. These include everything from warnings to mandated counseling to removal from housing to probation. However, the school also notes that the “minimum” sanction for sexual assault is a one-year suspension. In fact, elsewhere, the school says violations of the sexual misconduct policy will result in “suspension or expulsion.”

In short, in today's political climate, you should expect your school to level the maximum sanction—expulsion--at you if it should find you responsible for a violation.

How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?

You probably understand by this point why you need an attorney to help you deal with any sexual misconduct allegations against you. You don't just want any attorney, though. A local or family attorney, for example, won't do. You need someone who knows the law and who has experience representing student clients.

Joseph D. Lento is a fully-qualified defense attorney. He's not just any defense attorney, though. Joseph D. Lento is what's known as a Title IX attorney-advisor. That means he specializes in handling campus sexual misconduct cases. Over the years, Joseph D. Lento has handled hundreds of cases for students just like you, making sure they're treated fairly and that they get the justice they deserve.

If you or your child has been accused of sexual misconduct, don't wait to act. The school is already preparing its case. You should be too. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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