University sexual misconduct charges are serious business. How serious? Serious enough that the law actually gives you the right to an attorney. Students are sometimes surprised to hear that. Why would anyone need a lawyer to handle a problem with their school? The fact is everything is on the line in these cases. The minimum penalty is usually suspension, but expulsion is the far more likely outcome. Expulsion generally includes a transcript notation about the nature of your offense, and that can keep you from transferring anywhere else. If you're found “Responsible,” your college career could essentially be over.
You have the right to an attorney, but keep in mind that not just any attorney will do. If you want to take full advantage of this right, you need a Title IX attorney, someone who knows the law and who has experience representing student clients.
What's so special about a Title IX attorney? It turns out most sexual misconduct cases at the CUNY School of Professional Studies are dealt with through Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sexual discrimination and harassment on college campuses. The law can be difficult to navigate. Enforcement guidelines, for instance, run to some 550 pages. The CUNY School of Professional Studies' own interpretation of those guidelines is 37 pages. Here's just a sample of what all that material has to say.
- Your school must have a designated Title IX Coordinator. This individual handles all complaints and makes decisions about which allegations warrant a formal investigation.
- Any time you are under investigation, the Coordinator must provide you with written notice of the charges. This document contains both the name of the Complainant (accuser) and details about the allegation.
- The notice of charges should also provide a list of your rights. Among these, you have the right to be presumed “not-responsible” (innocent); you have the right to an advisor, and this advisor can be an attorney; and you have the right to submit evidence to investigators and to review any evidence against you.
- Title IX cases have two parts. The first of these is a full and formal investigation. The Coordinator appoints the Investigator, and this person has 120 days to collect evidence and interview witnesses.
- At the conclusion of the investigation, the Investigator submits a written summary of their findings. This summary should offer an unbiased view of the evidence, and both sides are allowed to suggest revisions before it is forwarded to the Title IX Coordinator.
- The second part of the case is a hearing. The Coordinator sets the time and date for this hearing and appoints a three-member panel to oversee the proceedings.
- The hearing itself must be live. However, either side may request that it be held via closed-circuit video.
- At the hearing, both you and the Complainant have an opportunity to present your cases. You may submit evidence and call witnesses on your behalf. In addition, you may cross-examine the Complainant and any witnesses against you.
- Under Title IX, schools have some leeway in terms of how much they allow advisors to be involved in the hearing. At the CUNY School of Professional Studies, advisors can participate fully in making their clients' cases.
- Once the hearing is complete, the Decision Maker(s) decide the case using what's known as the “preponderance of evidence” standard. According to this legal standard, they must find you responsible if they believe it is “more likely than not” that you violated policy.
- Finally, both you and the Complainant have the right to appeal the hearing verdict. However, you must file this appeal within five days of being notified of the verdict. In addition, you may only file an appeal for very limited reasons, including new evidence, procedural irregularities, or clear bias on the part of a Title IX official.
As the complexity of this outline suggests, only someone who has studied the law will know how to use it to your advantage.
Non-Title IX Cases
Most sexual misconduct cases at CUNY School of Professional Studies are Title IX cases, but not all. The reason is that the law changed in 2020. Among the changes, the government narrowed the definitions of discrimination and harassment and limited schools' jurisdictional authority. Many schools, including CUNY School of Professional Studies, worried that these changes could allow some types of misconduct to fall through the cracks. In response, they passed their own university policies designed to cover these so-called “Non-Title IX” cases.
Because these cases aren't covered under federal law, schools are free to create their own policies for handling them, and they don't have to respect respondents' due process rights.
Luckily, the policy at CUNY School of Professional Studies utilizes most Title IX procedures even in its non-Title IX cases. For instance, respondents are still entitled to a presumption of innocence. They're allowed to choose an advisor, and that advisor may be an attorney. There's still an investigation, and both sides still have the right to raise objections to the Investigative Report.
There is one key difference between how the CUNY School of Professional Studies treats the two kinds of cases. Non-Title IX cases don't include a hearing. Instead, at the conclusion of the investigation, the Investigator decides the case based on the facts they gather.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help
Whether you're dealing with Title IX or non-Title IX charges, an attorney can provide you with crucial support, helping you respond to investigators, uncover evidence, and draft documents. You need the right attorney, though: someone whose primary focus as a lawyer is student defenses and someone who knows how both Title IX and non-Title IX cases work.
You need Joseph D. Lento
Joseph D. Lento built his practice representing students, just like you, defending them from all types of sexual misconduct charges. He has spent his career studying Title IX. Joseph D. Lento knows the history and the politics that surround this law. He understands why schools like CUNY School of Professional Studies have instituted non-Title IX procedures, and he's experienced at dealing with these kinds of cases. Most importantly, Joseph D. Lento is on your side. He recognizes that schools don't always treat respondents fairly, and he's dedicated his career to keeping them honest.
If you or your child has been accused of sexual misconduct, don't wait to see what the school or the other side will do. Begin building your case now. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.