For years, schools have been bestowed with the responsibility of resolving instances of misconduct that fall outside the realm of purely academic endeavors. Among the many types of non-academic misconduct that ensues on campuses is sexual assault. Inappropriate sexual contact of any kind is not only offensive, but it's extremely dangerous. It's considered an abhorrence to the welcoming and safe environments schools work hard to maintain to remain marketable to paying and prospective students. Despite the vehement efforts that schools devise to be perceived as sheltered, crime-free spaces, they are oftentimes coaxed to publicly confront the culture of sexual misconduct that continues to brew amid their student populations.
Colleges address and ultimately resolve these complaints using standards established by Title IX - a federal law that prohibits sexual misconduct in any form on campus. In the resolution of these cases, colleges are required to remain fair and impartial at all times to all members of the college community. This expectation forces colleges to navigate the murky waters of remaining empathetic to and supportive of the needs of a victim, while simultaneously protecting the due process rights of the accused, who are also members of the community. A convoluted balancing game that the self-serving concerns of colleges make incredibly difficult to win.
A school's attempt to uphold this balance is in most cases, not rooted in fairness or equality, but is fueled by fear of a looming threat made by the United States Department of Education (DOE). In 2011, a warning disguised as a newsletter - referred to as the “Dear Colleague Letter” - was presented to all institutions in compliance with Title IX. It dictated guidelines for these institutions to handle sexual misconduct complaints, investigation, hearings, adjudications, appeals, and disciplinary actions in a fashion that coincides with the standards enforced by Title IX. The letter stated that if these guidelines weren't followed, schools could be in danger of losing federal funding.
Since the issuing of this letter, schools have been discovered exhibiting unfair treatment towards parties. Specifically, the accused has become disproportionately affected and disadvantaged by these tactics. Why? Colleges, like any other business or organization, are compelled to make decisions that align with their best interest. Over the past few years, the rates of successful suits filed by alleged victims of sexual assault on college campuses against schools have skyrocketed, subjecting schools to massive payouts. In an extreme swing of the pendulum, schools have switched their focus to catering to complainants to avoid lawsuits and approaching sexual misconduct cases aggressively to appease the DOE, oftentimes at the expense of accused students.
For six years schools remained worrisome of the DOE's consequences. In September 2017, Education Secretary Betsy Devos rescinded this letter, easing some of the pressure for schools to aggressively enforce Title IX. However, lawsuits commenced by disenthralled or dissatisfied complainants are still at an all-time high, giving colleges sufficient reason to continue to inordinately gratify alleged victims and slight accused students.
Student Defense Attorney Helping Clients Nationwide
Joseph D. Lento has dedicated his entire career to ensuring that accused students are treated fairly in their school's oftentimes unfair processes. Accused students have a multitude of rights that must be honored for a process to be considered fair and impartial by Title IX standards. If you or your young adult have been accused of sexual assault on a campus, retaining a student defense attorney is a must. There is too much at stake to attempt to endure these processes by yourself. Attorney Lento has helped students who have been in your student's predicament prevail in a hearing and overcome their charges in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and nationwide. Contact him today for help.