Federal law Title IX prohibits gender discrimination in federally funded higher education institutions. Any actions that constitute sexual misconduct - sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating violence etc. - is legally regarded as gender discrimination. Therefore, in compliance with Title IX, colleges and universities must adjudicate all alleged instances of sexual misconduct committed by and/or against students.
The Title IX resolution process is used by administrations to determine if there has been a violation. One of the most important parts of this process is the investigation period. During this period and the entire process, you'll need the help of an outside party, known as an advisor, to help guide you.
The Role of an Advisor
People who bring allegations (complainants) and people who respond to said allegations (respondents) have the right to choose anyone they would like to serve as their advisor. This right is extended because both complainants and respondents will need guidance through this complex and emotional process. Choosing the right person to be your advisor makes all the difference in a case outcome.
The Benefits of Choosing an Attorney as Your Advisor
Although respondents are given the free range to choose anyone to serve as their advisor, it is important that they consider an attorney to occupy this role. An experienced attorney is invaluable in this process. They have been through this process numerous times, and are aware of the minor details. A lawyer will also be familiar with your rights and will make sure they are being protected and properly exercised.
The Title IX Process
Here's a general overview of the Title IX process in federally-funded Rhode Island institutions:
- A complaint is filed: Higher education institutions encourage all members of the campus community to report any instances of witnessed, rumored, and experienced sexual misconduct. Virtually anyone can file a complaint, from an alleged victim to spectators, to other students and staff.
- Interim measures: Once a school is notified of a complaint, its main priority is to protect a complainant and the rest of the campus community from retaliative efforts. Measures like a no-contact order, housing accommodations, schedule changes and more to severely limit the interactions between a respondent and complainant.
- The investigation: A formal investigation will be conducted by the school. During this period, the complainant, respondent, witnesses and other relevant parties will be thoroughly interviewed for the purposes of collecting information. At some schools, the process ends here. A determination is made by an investigator.
- The hearing: In schools where Title IX charges are resolved via hearing, this is the final opportunity for both parties to tell their account of the alleged incident. A panel would deliberate and come up with a determination.
- Sanctions: If the investigation or hearing panel determines a respondent is “responsible” for violating Title IX. Sanctions like treatments, an intervention program, the removal of scholarships, suspension, or expulsion have been imposed upon respondents.
- Appeals: An appeal is a request for schools to reassess its decision due to an error made at some point during the process. If any party is dissatisfied with the outcome of an investigation or recommended sanction, he or she may file an appeal - a process in and of itself.
Rhode Island Title IX Advisor
If you attend a Rhode Island college or university and are facing sexual misconduct allegations, it is crucial you contact an attorney. For students who haven't been through this process before, it can be confusing and scary. Preparation is the key to favorable results. Skilled legal professional Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience preparing respondents for an investigation and the entire Title IX process. Contact him today for help.
Rhode Island colleges and universities where Joseph D. Lento can help as your or your student's Title IX advisor during investigations (in addition to hearings and appeals) include, but are not limited to, the following schools:
- Brown University
- Bryant University
- Community College of Rhode Island
- Johnson & Wales University – Providence
- Naval War College (exempt from Title IX and the Clery Act)
- New England Institute of Technology
- Providence College
- Rhode Island College
- Rhode Island School of Design
- Roger Williams University
- Salve Regina University
- University of Rhode Island
It is critical to make certain the Title IX investigation at your college or university is handled properly and that the accused student's or employee's interests are protected from as early as possible during the sexual misconduct investigative process. One major reason is because even at schools where a finding of responsibility for sexual misconduct charges is made at a hearing, the investigation will set the stage for what the hearing panel is provided prior to a hearing (and what the hearing panel will in large part rely on at a hearing), and at schools where the finding of responsibility is made solely through the investigative process, what takes place during the investigation itself will determine whether the accused is found responsible or not responsible for Title IX charges.
Unfortunately, some students, families, and college employees make the mistake of not taking the necessary precautions as soon as possible when accused of sexual misconduct. Some people will mistakenly believe that if they "just explain what happened," their school will be fair and impartial and will arrive at the truth. In a perfect world this may be the case, but in a perfect world, sexual misconduct and Title IX charges would not exist.
Fighting passionately for the future of his clients at universities and colleges throughout the nation for a decade, Joseph D. Lento knows how important it is to mount the strongest defense because he understands that an accused's academic and professional future is on the line. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph Lento is a licensed attorney in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, is admitted as an attorney pro hac vice in state and federal court if needed when representing clients nationwide, and serves as a Title IX advisor and educational consultant to students facing sexual misconduct investigations and disciplinary cases in Rhode Island and throughout the nation. Make certain your or your student's interests are protected - Contact National Title IX attorney Joseph D. Lento today.