If you're a student facing a sexual misconduct accusation, you may be feeling pretty overwhelmed. Someone you trusted, maybe even loved, has turned on you. Your university has begun digging into your personal life. You're worried your friends are going to find out you're being investigated.
Take a breath. You can get through this.
Defending yourself won't be easy. Campus justice systems are notoriously difficult to navigate, and they're often weighted in favor of complainants (accusers) rather than respondents (the accused). The more you know about your situation, though, the better your odds of winning. And, you don't have to take on this fight alone. We're here to help.
Title IX Cases
First things first. How do sexual misconduct cases usually work?
Most investigations at Wichita State follow the rules and procedures laid out in Title IX, a federal law prohibiting sexual discrimination in US colleges and universities. You can find a complete description in WSU's policy 3.06. Here are the highlights, though:
- Your school must have a designated Title IX Coordinator. Anyone may report sexual misconduct, but only a complainant or the Coordinator may sign an official complaint against you.
- If the school does decide to investigate, the Coordinator must provide you with written notice of the charges. This document should include the name of the complainant as well as details about the allegation.
- The Notice of Charges should also apprise you of your rights. Among these, you have the right to be presumed “not-responsible” (innocent) until proven “responsible” (guilty). You have the right to submit evidence and to review any evidence against you. You also have the right to an advisor, and this advisor can be an attorney.
- There are two parts to a Title IX case. First, the school conducts an investigation. The Coordinator appoints the Investigator, and this person has thirty days to collect evidence and interview witnesses.
- At the conclusion of the investigation, the Investigator completes a written report summarizing the evidence. Both sides in the case have an opportunity to review this document and suggest revisions before it is forwarded to the Title IX Coordinator.
- The second part of the case is a formal hearing. The Coordinator sets the time and date and either selects a single individual to hear the case or appoints a three-member panel.
- 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.
- At Wichita State, your advisor asks witnesses questions, but otherwise, their role is limited to providing you with advice. They may not address the decision-makers directly.
- Once the hearing is complete, the decision-maker(s) decide the case based on what's known as the “preponderance of evidence” standard. According to this 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.
Non-Title IX Cases
Wichita State deals with most sexual misconduct cases using Title IX but not all. Incidents that occur off-campus, for instance, aren't covered by the law but rather by WSU's Student Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct resolution process resembles that of Title IX. For example, the school is required to provide you with notice of any charges against you. In addition, in most cases, the school conducts an investigation and then holds a formal hearing. There are some significant differences between the two processes, though:
- Code of Conduct accusations are handled by the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC) rather than the Title IX Coordinator.
- A preliminary investigation occurs before any charges are filed.
- Hearings take place before a single administrator or the Student Conduct Board.
- Complainants and respondents may submit questions for witnesses, but only the administrator or members of the Conduct Board may ask questions. The role of advisors at hearings is strictly limited to providing advice.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help
Whatever process is used to decide your case, you need to know that sanctions can be severe if you are found responsible. At a minimum, your school will probably suspend you. More likely, you'll be expelled. Expulsion can come with a transcript notation that will make it difficult for you to enroll anywhere else. Your academic career could effectively be over, and that can have serious repercussions for your professional career.
With everything at stake, 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, 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 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 Wichita State have developed non-Title IX procedures, and he's experienced in dealing with these kinds of cases. Whether you're looking to prove your innocence or to negotiate a fair sanction, Joseph D. Lento is ready to help.
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.