A sexual misconduct charge from your college or university is serious business. Penalties are almost always severe. The minimum sanction is usually suspension, and expulsion is the far more likely outcome. Dismissal probably means the end of your academic career, since it can be hard to find a school that will admit you once you've been labeled a sexual offender. And, without a college degree, you'll find it harder to find good jobs and establish a career.
The good news is that you don't have to face such charges alone. You're entitled to an advisor, and in most cases, that advisor can be an attorney. Not just any attorney will do, though. You need someone who knows the law, someone who understands how the law applies to colleges and universities, and someone with a proven record of helping students get the justice they deserve.
Title IX and Sexual Misconduct
Minnesota State University, Mankato, handles most of its academic misconduct cases through Title IX. That's a federal law passed in 1972 that prohibits any kind of sexual discrimination or harassment on college campuses. Harassment can include anything from inappropriate social media posts to dating violence and even rape.
Along with its general prohibitions, Title IX provides strict guidelines for how schools must investigate and adjudicate allegations. You can find a description of how MNSU interprets those guidelines in the school's Policy on Sexual Violence and Title IX Sexual Harassment. Here's a brief outline of what it says.
- Your school must have a designated Title IX Coordinator. This person sets policy regarding sexual conduct and misconduct and determines whether or not to open an official investigation into an allegation.
- You are entitled to written notice of any charges against you. This notice must include the name of the Complainant (your accuser) and details of the accusation.
- Under Title IX, you have several important rights. These include
- The right to be presumed “Not Responsible” (innocent)
- The right to an advisor, who may be an attorney
- The right to review all evidence against you
- The right to submit evidence and suggest witnesses
- The right to advanced notice of all meetings and hearings
- The right to be judged by an unbiased Decision Maker
- At MNSU, the Coordinator also serves as the case Investigator. This is somewhat unusual, since Title IX encourages schools to separate out Title IX administrative roles.
- The Coordinator, in their role as Investigator, meets with both parties, collects any physical evidence, and interviews witnesses.
- At the conclusion of the investigation, the Coordinator completes a written report summarizing their findings. Both sides have the right to review this document and suggest revisions.
- Next, the Coordinator appoints a Decision Maker to preside over a live hearing.
- At the hearing itself, both sides present their respective cases. You can make arguments, submit evidence, and call witnesses to testify on your behalf. In addition, you may cross-examine each other and any witnesses against you.
- Under Title IX, advisors must conduct all cross-examination. If you do not have an advisor, the school must appoint one for you. However, they are not required to provide you with an attorney.
- At the conclusion of the hearing, the Decision Maker determines your level of responsibility. They use a legal standard known as “Preponderance of Evidence.” Far less strict than “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt,” this standard requires them to find you responsible if they are more than fifty percent convinced you committed a violation.
- Both sides have a limited right to appeal the hearing outcome. You must file your appeal within ten days of the hearing, and grounds for appeal are limited to
- New evidence in the case
- Procedural irregularities
- Conflicts of interest on the part of administrators
Your head may already be spinning at all the complexities in MNSU's policy. In fact, the actual Title IX guidelines are even more complicated and run to some 550 pages. That number doesn't even include all of the memorandums and reports recent presidential administrations have issued on the law over the last decade. If you want to successfully defend yourself from charges, you're going to need to know all of that inside and out. Or, you're going to need to find someone who already knows it to help you make sense of it all.
Non-Title IX Cases at Minnesota State University, Mankato
In fact, things can get even more complicated. MNSU could charge you with “non-Title IX” sexual misconduct. In 2020, the Trump administration revised the definitions for “discrimination” and “harassment” and limited schools' jurisdictional authority. For example, incidents that occur off campus are no longer covered under the law. In response, many schools, including MNSU, adopted new policies to address these non-Title IX cases. This only adds a further layer of complexity to sexual misconduct cases.
Luckily, MNSU handles Title IX and non-Title IX cases in roughly the same ways. However, it's worth knowing that non-Title IX cases don't guarantee you a hearing. Ultimately, it's up to the Coordinator to decide whether or not the case warrants it. It could be that a single individual—the Coordinator themselves—initiates the investigation, conducts the investigation, and decides the outcome of the case.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help
Whatever kind of sexual misconduct charges you may be facing, Title IX or non-Title IX, the rules and procedures are complex. Both processes afford you important rights, but you have to know how to claim those rights and how to use them to your benefit, and that's no simple matter. Only an attorney can truly help you make sense of the process and give you the best possible chance of winning your case.
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 their schools afford them every due process right 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.