Defending Yourself From Sexual Misconduct Allegations at Lamar University

Sexual misconduct is perhaps the most serious charge any college student can face. The stakes are high. The minimum penalty, if you're found responsible, is likely suspension. The more probable outcome is expulsion. Plus, if the accusation should become public, your reputation can take a serious hit. Meanwhile, the process for defending yourself isn't easy, and schools these days will do whatever they can to make sure your accuser gets every benefit of the doubt, even if that means slanting justice in their favor.

What do you do? You don't panic. You educate yourself about your school's judicial procedures, so you'll know how to defend yourself. Then, you hire a professional to help. An attorney-advisor can make all the difference in these cases. They can help you develop a strategy, accompany you to investigative meetings and hearings, and, most importantly, make sure no one violates your rights.

Title IX Cases

The first thing you need to know if you're going to defend yourself is how sexual misconduct cases work.

Lamar University handles almost all allegations using a federal law known as Title IX. Passed in 1972, this law prohibits all forms of sexual discrimination and harassment on college campuses. It also lays out a set of guidelines for how investigations and hearings should be conducted. Lamar's version of these guidelines can be found in its Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures. Here's some of what those guidelines have to say.

  • Your school has a designated Title IX Coordinator who sets policy and handles all allegations. Anyone at Lamar may report sexual misconduct, but only a Complainant (accuser) or the Coordinator may sign an official complaint against you.
  • If you're being investigated, you're entitled to written notice of that investigation. This notice must contain the Complainant's name as well as important details about the allegation. It should also contain a brief list of your rights, including the right to be presumed “not responsible” (innocent), the right to an advisor (who may be an attorney), and the right to review any evidence against you.
  • Once you've been officially charged, the Coordinator appoints an Investigator to review the matter. This Investigator should meet separately with both sides in the case. They should also collect physical evidence and review any witnesses.
  • Once the investigation is complete, the Investigator writes a summary of their findings. This is meant to be a neutral, unbiased document, and you have the right to object to anything included in it.
  • When the Coordinator receives the Investigative Report, they set a time and date for an official hearing. They also select a Decision Maker to preside over this hearing.
  • The hearing offers an opportunity to present your side of the case. You may make arguments, submit evidence, and call witnesses to testify on your behalf. You may also—through your advisor—cross-examine the Complainant and any other witnesses against you. Of course, the Complainant has these same rights.
  • Under Title IX, all cross-examination must be conducted by your advisor. Otherwise, however, Lamar University restricts advisors' roles to advising. That is, they may not make arguments or even address the Decision Maker.
  • At the end of the hearing, the Decision Maker uses what's known as the “preponderance of evidence” standard to determine whether or not you are responsible for a sexual misconduct violation. Less strict than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” “preponderance of evidence” basically requires the Decision Maker to find you responsible if they believe it is “more likely than not” that you committed an offense.
  • You have the right to appeal the hearing outcome, as does the Complainant. You have ten days in which to file this appeal. In addition, the grounds for appeal are limited to
  • The discovery of new evidence
  • A conflict of interest on the part of a Title IX official
  • Procedural misconduct or error
  • A sanction disproportionate to the offense

You might notice that these highlights suggest you're dealing with a complex set of policies and procedures. In fact, the full text of the government's rules runs to some 550 pages. Lamar's policy is 67 pages long. This complexity is just one reason why you need an expert at your side when you're trying to defend yourself against Title IX charges.

Non-Title IX Cases

Most sexual misconduct cases at Lamar University are Title IX cases, but not all. Incidents that occur off-campus, for example, aren't covered by the law. Instead, these so-called “non-Title IX cases” are covered under the school's own sexual misconduct policy. Procedures in these cases resemble Title IX procedures. For example, you are still entitled to notice of charges against you, to a presumption of “not responsible,” and to review any evidence in the case. However, there are some key differences between these two kinds of cases.

  • You are not automatically entitled to a hearing. Instead, the initial decision in the case is rendered by the Title IX Coordinator after they have reviewed the Investigative Report.
  • If you contest the Coordinator's decision, you can request a formal hearing into the matter. Here again, though, the Coordinator serves as Decision Maker.
  • Non-Title IX hearing procedures are somewhat different than those in Title IX cases. Of particular importance, you aren't allowed to ask direct questions of witnesses. Instead, you must submit questions to the Coordinator, who decides whether or not they are appropriate.

How Can Joseph D. Lento Help

Whatever kind of accusation you're facing, you can't afford to try and handle a sexual misconduct allegation on your own. Sure, you're smart. You're in college, after all. This situation is serious, though, and it requires a professional: someone who knows how to construct an air-tight defense strategy, someone who knows the law inside and out, someone with experience taking on school administration.

Joseph D. Lento is a fully-qualified, licensed defense attorney. He isn't just any defense attorney, though. He's a Title IX attorney-advisor who specializes in school sexual misconduct cases. In fact, Joseph D. Lento built his practice representing students, just like you, defending them from all kinds of charges, from simple verbal harassment to dating violence and even rape. Joseph D. Lento has spent years studying Title IX. He knows its history and the politics behind it. He understands why schools like Lamar University have developed 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 wants to make sure you're treated fairly and that you get the very best possible resolution to your case.

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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