Sexual misconduct is among the most serious charges you can face as a university student. It's no exaggeration to say that your entire future is on the line. The minimum sanction in these cases is usually suspension. The more likely sanction is expulsion. Expulsion often comes with a transcript notation explaining the nature of your offense. As you might expect, that can keep you from transferring anywhere else. Your academic career could effectively be over.
Here's the good news. In most cases, you are entitled to choose an advisor, someone to help you prepare your defense and to represent you at hearings. Even better, that advisor can be an attorney. You want to make the most of this right, though. These cases can be complicated, and even seasoned attorneys can get lost. The moment you find out you've been accused, then make sure you find a Title IX attorney to serve as your advisor.
Title IX Sexual Misconduct
You might ask yourself, as a student, why would I ever need a lawyer? It's just campus justice, right? How complex could the procedures be?
Sexual misconduct cases aren't just a matter of school policy. They're subject to Title IX, a federal law. Title IX prohibits all forms of sexual discrimination and harassment on college and university campuses, including sexual misconduct such as stalking, dating violence, and rape. In addition to this general prohibition, the law includes a strict set of guidelines for how schools must investigate and adjudicate accusations. Those guidelines are over 550 pages long. Still wondering why you might need an attorney?
YSU's Title IX Policy is somewhat more manageable, but it's still eighteen pages. Here's a rough outline of the most important aspects of the process.
- YSU has a designated Title IX Coordinator. This person sets school policy and decides whether or not a given allegation warrants an investigation.
- If the Coordinator does open an investigation against you, they must provide you with a written “Notice of the Charges.” This notice identifies the Complainant and provides details of the allegation. In addition, it should set forth your rights as Respondent (accused). Among these, you have the right to:
- Be treated as equal to the Complainant in all matters
- Select an advisor, who may be an attorney
- Be presumed “not responsible” (innocent) until proven “responsible” (guilty)
- Be investigated and judged by non-biased officials
- Review all evidence against you
- Submit evidence and the names of potential witnesses
- Receive advanced notice of all meetings and proceedings in the case
- The Coordinator is also responsible for appointing an Investigator to the case. Investigators meet regularly with both sides. In addition, they collect any physical evidence and interview witnesses.
- Once they've completed their work, the Investigator writes a complete summary of their findings. Both sides in the case then have ten days in which to review this document and suggest revisions before it is forwarded to the Coordinator.
- Upon receiving the Investigative Report, the Coordinator sets a time and date for a live hearing and selects one or more decision makers to preside over the case.
- 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.
- At the conclusion of the hearing, a decision-maker determines whether or not you are responsible for a violation. To do this, they use a legal standard known as “Preponderance of Evidence.” In simple terms, they must find you responsible (guilty) if they believe it is “more likely than not” that you committed an offense. This is a far less strict standard than the one you may be more familiar with, “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.”
- Finally, either side in the case can appeal the hearing decision. Appeals must be filed within five days, and grounds for appeal are strictly limited to:
- Procedural irregularities that affected the case outcome
- 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
- A sanction disproportionate to the nature of the offense
Non-Title IX Sexual Misconduct
The Trump administration made significant changes to Title IX in 2020. As a result of these changes, some forms of sexual misconduct are no longer covered under the law. Off-campus incidents, for instance, do not currently qualify as Title IX offenses. Worried that this might allow some misconduct to slip through the cracks, many schools, including Youngstown State College, rewrote their own policies to handle these so-called “non-Title IX” incidents.
Non-Title IX cases are not subject to any federal law. That means schools are free to investigate them any way they like. They don't have to follow Title IX procedures, and they don't have to provide respondents with any particular due process rights.
Luckily, YSU employs the same basic set of procedures for both types of cases. Where Title IX cases are handled by the Title IX Coordinator, non-Title IX cases are handled by the school's Office of Community Standards and Student Conduct. In addition, the rules for investigations and hearings aren't spelled out in as much detail as they are under Title IX. However, you are still entitled to the same basic protections, and the process is roughly the same, including both an investigation and a hearing.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
Whether you're dealing with a Title IX or non-Title IX allegation, you need the very best help you can get. Procedures are complicated, and the stakes are high.
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 at 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.