Defending Sexual Misconduct Allegations at Santa Fe College

It's easy to be blindsided by a charge of sexual misconduct. Someone you know, trust, maybe even love, has leveled an extreme allegation against you. It could very well be the result of a misunderstanding, and you may have no idea why this person feels the way they do. When you're blindsided, it can be hard to think straight, let alone have the presence of mind to put together a competent defense.

The good news is that you don't have to go through this situation by yourself. In most cases, the law entitles you to choose an advisor, and this advisor can be an attorney. The right attorney can help you gather evidence, can guide you in preparing your arguments, and can even represent you in meetings and hearings.

Title IX and Sexual Misconduct

Santa Fe College deals with almost all of its sexual misconduct cases using Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sexual discrimination on college campuses. “Discrimination” under the law includes anything from simple verbal harassment to dating violence and even rape.

Along with its general prohibitions against sexual misconduct, Title IX provides strict guidelines for how schools must investigate and adjudicate allegations. SFC offers its own interpretation of these guidelines in its Rules Manual.

  • SFC is required by law to have a Title IX Coordinator. This person sets policy for the college and makes determinations about whether or not to investigate a particular accusation.
  • If you are being investigated, the Title IX Coordinator must provide you with written notice of the charges. This should include the name of the Complainant (your accuser) and details of the allegation.
  • Title IX gives you a number of important rights. For example, you have the right to be presumed “Not Responsible” (innocent) until proven “Responsible” (guilty). In addition, you have the right to an advisor, who may be an attorney, and you have the right to review any evidence against you. Perhaps most importantly, you have the right to be treated exactly the same as the Complainant.
  • The Coordinator appoints an Investigative Team to review the case. This team should meet regularly with both sides in the case. In addition, they are tasked with collecting any physical evidence and interviewing any witnesses.
  • Santa Fe College has set a ninety-day time limit on investigations. Once the investigation is complete, the Investigative Team compiles a written, unbiased summary of their findings. Both sides have ten days to review this document and suggest any revisions before it is forwarded to the Coordinator.
  • Having received the Investigative Report, the Coordinator selects a date and time for a formal hearing and appoints a panel of three to five Decision Makers.
  • At the hearing itself, both sides offer opening statements, present evidence, and call witnesses. In addition, you may cross-examine each other and witnesses against you. You must make your opening statement yourself, but your advisor handles all cross-examination.
  • Once the hearing is complete, the Decision Makers meet to determine your level of responsibility. Decisions are based on a majority vote using a legal standard known as “Preponderance of Evidence.” According to this standard, Decision Makers must find you responsible if they believe it is more than fifty percent likely you committed a violation.
  • Should you be found Responsible, you can appeal that outcome under certain limited conditions. Grounds for appeal include
    • The discovery of new evidence
    • A procedural irregularity
    • Conflict of interest or bias on the part of a Title IX official
    • A sanction that is disproportionate to the offense
  • You should know that should you be found Not Responsible, the Complainant also has the right to appeal the decision.

You may already have a sense, just from this brief outline, of how complex a Title IX case can be. For instance, you have to deal with a number of different administrators; you have to understand how to use your rights under the law; you have to know how to shape your case to fit the “Preponderance of Evidence” legal standard. In fact, these are just a few of the more important rules. The full set of guidelines is 550 pages long. In addition, the law is subject to frequent political debate. It can change any time a new president takes office, and the Department of Education frequently issues memorandums that shift how this or that part of the law is enforced. In short, you can't hope to make sense of all of this material yourself. Only a Title IX attorney, someone who specializes in the law, can help you navigate your way through it all.

Non-Title IX Cases at Minnesota State University, Mankato

Almost all sexual misconduct cases at Santa Fe College are Title IX cases, but not all. That's because, in 2020, the Trump administration redefined “discrimination” and “harassment” and changed the rules about schools' jurisdictional authority. For example, incidents that occur off campus are no longer covered under the law. Santa Fe College, and many other schools, re-wrote their own policies to make sure these so-called “Non-Title IX cases” don't fall through the cracks.

SFC is under no obligation to use Title IX rules in Non-Title IX cases, and it doesn't have to provide you with any particular due process rights. As it turns out, investigations are roughly the same in both kinds of cases. However, if you're accused of a Non-Title IX violation, you aren't allowed a hearing. Instead, one or more Investigators determine your level of responsibility and assign any sanctions as necessary.

How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?

Whatever kind of sexual misconduct charges you may be facing, Title IX or non-Title IX, the rules and procedures are complex. Both processes afford you important rights, but you have to know how to claim those rights and how to use them to your benefit, and that's no simple matter. You should also keep in mind that the Complainant will almost certainly have an attorney on their side, and the school will likely retain counsel as well. Trying to take on the case yourself puts you at a serious disadvantage.

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.” Essentially, he specializes in handling campus sexual misconduct cases. In fact, over the years, Joseph D. Lento has handled hundreds of such cases for students just like you, making sure they're treated fairly and that their schools afford them every due process right 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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