If you're a student facing sexual misconduct charges, the very first thing you need to know is that the situation is serious. The minimum penalty in such cases is usually suspension. The more likely penalty is expulsion. Expulsion often comes with a transcript notation about the nature of your offense, and that can keep you from enrolling anywhere else. If you're found responsible for a violation, your academic career could effectively be over.
A serious situation calls for a serious response. In most cases, you are entitled to select an advisor to help you prepare your defense, and this advisor can be an attorney. You don't want just any attorney, though. You want what's known as a Title IX attorney, someone who knows the law as it regards sexual misconduct and who has experience representing students in disciplinary cases.
Title IX Sexual Misconduct
Most university sexual misconduct cases are Title IX cases. Title IX is a federal law passed in 1972 that prohibits sexual discrimination and harassment in all federally-funded education programs. In addition to this general prohibition, the law contains a set of strict guidelines for investigating and adjudicating allegations. As a result, Title IX has become the primary means by which schools handle such cases.
Title IX guidelines have been further encoded into Wisconsin state law governing all state colleges and universities (Chapter 17), including the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater. Here's a rough outline of what those guidelines say.
- UWS is required to have a Title IX Coordinator. This individual oversees all aspects of the school's Title IX policy and decides whether or not a particular allegation warrants an official investigation.
- If UWS opens an investigation against you, the Coordinator must provide you with written notice of the charges. This notice should include the name of the complainant, details about the allegation, and a list of your rights under Title IX. Among these, you have the right to:
- Select an advisor, who may be an attorney
- Be presumed “not responsible” (innocent) until proven “responsible” (guilty)
- Be treated as equal to the Complainant in all matters
- Review all evidence against you
- Receive advanced notice of all meetings and proceedings in the case
- Be investigated and judged by non-biased officials
- Once you've been notified of the charges, the Coordinator selects an Investigator to uncover the facts in the case.
- Typically, the Investigator starts by meeting with both sides to get their competing versions of events. In addition, they interview any witnesses and collect physical evidence.
- At the conclusion of the investigation, the Investigator submits a written report detailing their findings in an unbiased manner.
- Both sides have ten days in which to review the Investigative Report and suggest any revisions before it is forwarded to the Title IX Coordinator.
- Having received the Investigative Report, the Coordinator sets a date and time for a live hearing. In addition, they select members of a hearing panel to conduct the proceedings.
- At the hearing itself, both sides may make arguments, present evidence, and call witnesses. In addition, you may—through your advisors—cross-examine each other and any witnesses against you.
- Once the hearing is concluded, members of the panel decide, based on a majority vote, whether or not you are responsible for a Title IX violation. To do this, they employ a legal standard known as “Preponderance of Evidence.” In simple terms, this standard requires them to find you responsible if they believe it is “more likely than not” that you committed an offense.
- You have the further right to appeal the panel's decision to the school's Chancellor. Appeals must be filed within fourteen days of notification of the outcome. In addition, the grounds for appeal are limited to:
- Procedural irregularities that affected the case outcome
- Finding was not based on factors prescribed by Title IX
- New evidence that could have affected the case outcome
- Bias on the part of a Title IX official that could have affected the case outcome
- The information in the record does not support the decisions
Finally, it is worth noting that not all sexual misconduct cases are Title IX cases. This is because of changes to the law in 2020, which narrowed the definitions of “discrimination” and “harassment” and limited schools' jurisdictional authority. For instance, off-campus incidents are no longer covered under the law.
Many schools have adopted new policies and procedures for dealing with these so-called “non-Title IX” accusations, and those policies and procedures often differ significantly from those outlined in Title IX.
However, the University of Wisconsin, Whitehall, has chosen to employ the same procedures in all cases, whether or not the allegations strictly meet the current requirements under the law.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
By this point, you probably have a pretty good sense of why you might need an attorney if you're charged with a sexually-based offense. Your entire future is at stake, and procedures in these cases are complex and difficult to navigate. In fact, the actual Title IX guidelines run to some 550 pages, and that doesn't include government memorandums and judicial opinions that have been issued to provide further guidance for how Title IX should be implemented. In short, you can't handle this type of charge all on your own.
Joseph D. Lento is a fully-qualified defense attorney. He's not just any defense attorney, though. Joseph D. Lento is a Title IX attorney. That means he specializes in handling campus sexual misconduct cases. He understands Title IX, its history, and its politics, but he's also experienced in dealing with non-Title IX cases. Joseph D. Lento has dedicated his career to fighting for student rights. Over the years, he 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.