No one expects to be accused of sexual misconduct, but each year hundreds of college students are. Often allegations come from someone you care about, maybe even love, and when they come out of the blue, they can shake your entire world. When you're under that kind of stress, it's not easy to know what's the right thing to do.
Luckily, you don't have to deal with this situation all on your own. Most sexual misconduct cases are Title IX cases, and Title IX guarantees you the right to an advisor. Even better, this advisor can be an attorney. Even if you're facing a non-Title IX case, an attorney can be invaluable for helping guide you through your school's judicial processes.
So, learn all you can about how your university handles sexual misconduct. That's the first step in gaining control over the situation. Then, find a knowledgeable, experienced Title IX attorney, and let them handle the heavy lifting for you.
Most Cases Are Title IX Cases
Title IX is a federal law passed in 1972 that prohibits sexual discrimination and harassment on all publicly-funded college campuses. The term “harassment” covers most forms of sexual misconduct, and so schools are obligated to follow Title IX guidelines in dealing with such accusations. Those guidelines can be complex. Here's a simplified version, though, of what you need to know.
Title IX cases originate with your school's Title IX Coordinator. This person sets policy regarding sexual misconduct and evaluates all accusations. Only a Complainant (the alleged victim) or a Coordinator may sign an official complaint opening an investigation.
Cases have two parts: an investigation and a hearing.
Title IX Investigations
- The first thing that happens in an investigation is that the Title IX Coordinator provides you with written notice of the charges against you. This should include the Complainant's name as well as details about the allegation. It should also apprise you of the rights you have throughout the process. Among these, you have the right to be presumed innocent, and you have the right to an advisor, who may be an attorney. You also have the right to review any evidence against you and to submit evidence and suggest witnesses.
- Next, the Coordinator appoints an Investigator to determine the facts of the case. This person separately interviews both you and the Complainant. In addition, they collect any physical evidence and interview witnesses.
- At the conclusion of the investigation, the Investigator writes a report summarizing their findings. This is meant to be an objective, unbiased version of events.
- Both you and the Complainant have ten days to review this document and suggest any changes.
- Ultimately, the Investigative Report is forwarded to the Title IX Coordinator, who initiates the second phase of the case.
Title IX Hearings
- Once the Coordinator receives the Investigative Report, they select a time and date for a hearing. In addition, they appoint one or more Decision Makers to oversee the case.
- The hearing must be held live, but either side may request the use of closed-circuit video.
- At the hearing, you may make arguments, submit evidence, and call witnesses to testify on your behalf. You also have the right to cross-examine the Complainant and any other witnesses against you. The Complainant has these same rights.
- Penn State Title IX procedures dictate that your advisor may accompany you to the hearing and offer advice. In addition, they must conduct all cross-examination. Otherwise, they may not be directly involved in the proceedings.
- At the conclusion of the hearing, Decision-Makers determine whether or not you are responsible for a violation. In doing this, they use a legal standard known as “Preponderance of Evidence.” According to this standard, they must find you responsible if they are more than fifty percent convinced you committed an offense.
Title IX Appeals
After the case is over, you are provided with written notice of the hearing outcome. If you should lose your case, you have five days to appeal. Appeals must be based on very specific criteria, including:
- A procedural irregularity
- New evidence
- A conflict of interest on the part of a Title IX official
- A disproportionate sanction
Keep in mind that the Complainant also has the right to appeal the case decision should you be found not responsible.
Non-Title IX Cases at Penn State World Campus
Not every sexual misconduct case is a Title IX case. As the result of changes to the law in 2020, Title IX no longer covers every instance of misconduct. For example, the law no longer applies to incidents that occur off-campus. In response to these changes, Penn State World Campus passed new school policies under its Student Code of Conduct designed to handle these so-called “Non-Title IX” cases.
At Penn State World Campus, the procedures for the cases are roughly the same as those used in Title IX cases. For instance, cases still involve two parts: an investigation and a hearing. Students still have the right to an advisor who may be an attorney. Decision-Makers still use the Preponderance of Evidence standard to decide cases.
There are some differences, however, the most important of which is the role of advisors. Under the Student Code of Conduct, advisors may not participate in proceedings other than to advise clients. Respondents must speak entirely for themselves.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help
It is no exaggeration to say that your entire future is on the line in a sexual misconduct case. The minimum penalty in these cases is almost always suspension. The more likely penalty is expulsion. That could very well mean the end of your academic career, and that could have serious repercussions on your professional career.
You need the best help you can find to defend yourself. You need Joseph D. Lento.
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. 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.