People sometimes ask, what kind of trouble could a college student possibly get into that would require the services of a lawyer? You might be surprised. Campus life is radically different from what it was in the 1980s and 1990s. Universities take all policy violations seriously these days, and punishments can be severe.
No violation is more serious, though, than a sexual misconduct violation. True, your school can't send you to jail if it finds you “responsible” (guilty), but it can expel you. In fact, in today's political climate, expulsion is the most likely outcome in such cases. That could spell the end of a student's academic career. Few schools are willing to admit students who have a sexual misconduct notation on their transcripts.
Luckily, students are entitled to an advisor, and that advisor can be an attorney. In fact, there are attorneys out there who specialize in university justice and, specifically, sexual misconduct defenses. They're known as Title IX attorneys, and they're your best option if you or your child should be accused.
Title IX and Sexual Misconduct
Most sexual misconduct cases aren't just subject to school policy; they're subject to federal law. Title IX, passed by the US Congress in 1972, requires all federally funded colleges and universities to provide women with equal access to education. The law prohibits all forms of sexual discrimination and harassment, from inappropriate classroom comments to violent acts such as sexual assault and rape.
The law also dictates exactly how universities must respond to allegations, setting out a strict set of guidelines for how all schools conduct investigations. Southeastern Louisiana University's Title IX Grievance Procedures offers a useful summary of what you need to know about how the law works.
- First, Southeastern, like all publicly funded universities, has a designated Title IX Coordinator. This individual sets school policy regarding discrimination and harassment and determines which allegations to investigate.
- The Coordinator must provide students who are being investigated with written notice of the charges. This notice should include the name of the Complainant (alleged victim) and details of the allegations.
- Under Title IX, Respondents (the accused) have a number of important rights. These include
- The right to be presumed “Not Responsible” (innocent)
- The right to advanced notice of all meetings and hearings
- The right to an advisor, who may be an attorney
- The right to review all evidence
- The right to submit evidence and suggest witnesses to the Investigator
- The right to be judged by an unbiased Decision-maker
- The Coordinator appoints an Investigator. This person meets regularly with both sides in the case. In addition, they collect any physical evidence and interview potential witnesses.
- At the conclusion of the investigation, the Investigator writes an unbiased summary of their findings. Both sides then have ten days to review this document and suggest any revisions before it is forwarded back to the Coordinator.
- Once they receive the Investigative Report, the Coordinator sets a date and time for a formal, live hearing. In addition, they appoint one or more Decision-makers to preside over the case.
- At the hearing, both sides have an opportunity to present their cases, including making arguments, submitting evidence, and calling witnesses. In addition, both sides can cross-examine each other and any witnesses against them.
- Under Title IX, advisors must conduct all cross-examination. If a student does not have an advisor, the school must provide one. However, schools are not required to supply students with an attorney.
- Once the hearing is complete, Decision-maker(s) deliberate as to the Respondent's level of responsibility. In making this determination, they rely on a legal standard known as “Preponderance of Evidence.” According to this standard, they must find Respondents responsible if they believe it is “more likely than not” that the Respondent committed an offense.
- Finally, both sides have the right to appeal the hearing outcome. Appeals must be made in writing and must be filed within ten days of the hearing's conclusion. In addition, appeals may only be filed if
- There is new evidence in the case
- Either side can show procedural irregularities occurred during the investigation or hearing
- Either side can demonstrate bias on the part of a Title IX official
Non-Title IX Cases at Southeastern Louisiana University
Title IX procedures are subject to frequent revision. The most recent of these revisions occurred in 2020 when the Trump administration narrowed the definitions of “discrimination” and “harassment” and limited schools' jurisdictional authority. One of the effects of these changes was that some types of misconduct are no longer covered under the law. For example, incidents that occur off campus are no longer considered Title IX offenses.
Many schools, including Southeastern Louisiana University, instituted new school policies to cover this so-called “non-Title IX” misconduct. Southeastern Louisiana University's version of this policy is known as the Power-Based Violence and Sexual Misconduct Policy.
Schools are not required to follow any particular investigation or adjudication procedures since non-Title IX cases are obviously not subject to federal law. For the most part, Southeastern Louisiana University has modeled its non-Title IX cases on Title IX guidelines. However, there are some important differences between the two sets of procedures.
- Under Title IX, Respondents must be treated the same as Complainants in all matters. That means, for instance, that if the Complainant is offered medical and counseling services, the Respondent must be offered the same. This is not true under the school's non-Title IX procedures.
- Under Title IX, advisors may participate in hearings and, in fact, must perform all witness examination. In non-Title IX cases, the advisors' role is strictly limited to offering advice.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help
Procedural rules can be complex, whatever type of sexual misconduct charges you may be facing. For instance, while both types of cases afford respondents some important rights, it's not always easy to know how to claim those rights or how to use them to best advantage. A Title IX attorney can 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 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.