Title IX accusations are among the most serious claims that can be leveraged against an individual on campus, particularly if they are claims of sexual misconduct. The weight of the punishments associated with Title IX violations is severe and, at a minimum, can result in suspension. Students may also lose their scholarships, internships and externships, or face outright expulsion. The bottom line is a false Title IX accusation can severely disrupt your life.
While Title IX transgressions are grave, time and time again, the Lento Law Firm has represented students and staff alike who have either been falsely accused or party to a misunderstanding. Despite being wrongly accused, these individuals must still fight to clear their names and avoid punishments and the long-lasting stigma associated with Title IX accusations.
Even if the claims against you are inaccurate or completely false, you will need to consult with an experienced legal advisor to help you navigate the complex disciplinary proceedings that can be brought under Title IX claims.
Steps to Take if You Are Falsely Accused of a Title IX Violation
If you've been falsely accused of a Title IX violation, there are immediate steps you should take to protect both your standing at your academic institution and your reputation. Given the current political climate surrounding sexual violence or harassment, it is important that the first step you take is to seek the guidance of a legal advisor.
In addition to consulting with a legal advisor, you will need to put together any and all evidence that may demonstrate your innocence. It's imperative you understand that the standard of proof in a Title IX disciplinary action is lower than the standard used in criminal court.
Further, the standard was recently changed by the U.S. Department of Education. The rules of interpretation affecting Title IX analysis are always subject to change, and the Lento Law Firm understands the diligence required in staying abreast of these changes.
While your Title IX legal advisor will guide you through the defense process, there is a final step entirely within your control that can ensure you're giving yourself the best chance at successfully refuting the false or inaccurate allegations against you. You should take proactive steps to conduct your behavior in a way that reflects your assertions of innocence.
Due to the permanent and traceable record of social media activity, your conduct online can matter as much as your conduct offline. Digital messages and posts may be saved by others even if you think you've deleted them, and unfortunately, online statements are easily taken out of context and can be used against you in a way you would never have imagined.
How New Title IX Rules Affect Public and Private Schools That Receive Federal Funding
All schools that receive federal funding must comply with Title IX rules. While public schools are obvious beneficiaries of federal benefits, it may come as a surprise to you that many private schools, including most private colleges and universities, also utilize federal funds for various programs, and they are accordingly required to follow Title IX mandates.
It's important for those accused of sexual misconduct violations to understand not only if their school is subject to Title IX regulations, but also how changes in Title IX policy may affect the outcome of disciplinary actions against them. On May 6, 2020, new guidance was released detailing how schools should handle sexual misconduct claims. This new guidance was developed to address historically contentious Due Process issues that often undermined those accused.
Notably, these rules were established under the previous presidential administration, and with each change in leadership comes new policy shifts. It is important for those accused of Title IX violations to seek out counsel from an experienced attorney-advisor who can advise them of the ever-changing application of Title IX.
False Title IX Accusations at Select Religious and For-Profit Schools
False claims of sexual misconduct happen on every campus, but not all academic institutions handle the review of them in the same way, nor are they subject to the same laws. In fact, schools that don't receive federal funding do not have to adhere to Title IX legislation.
Private schools still implement their own disciplinary codes of conduct that seek to protect them from the financial liabilities resulting from sexual assault and harassment claims on their campuses. At the end of the day, these schools will protect themselves from the threat of a lawsuit, and you absolutely need your own expert advocate.
Defense of even false claims of sexual misconduct can be nuanced, and without the assistance of a legal advisor advocating on your behalf, you risk pitfalls that are likely to negatively impact the rest of your life.
A Note on Bad Blood
If a person is making false Title IX accusations against you or your loved one, the last thing you probably want to do is try to level with the accuser rationally. In some cases, you should avoid your accuser altogether so as not to muddy the waters or further aggravate the situation.
Occasionally though, there can be value in communicating with your accuser even after the investigation and disciplinary decision has been made by your school. Often, false accusations of sexual misconduct can haunt an individual long after they've been cleared of any wrongdoing.
Ideally, everyone involved in the Title IX claim can move forward within their academic community without the stigma and negative attention that the accusations can bring.
1. Mending Relationships
If you're able to come to an understanding with the individual who claimed you acted inappropriately, your reputation will benefit from it. The fact is that, given the political nature surrounding sexual harassment or violence claims, it's simply easier for the accuser to clear the air than it is for the accused to.
Sometimes false accusations are the result of a misunderstanding. A statement made online, in a text message, or in an email can be taken out of context, and if you're able to clarify the intent of your messaging or actions, your accuser may feel compelled to withdraw their assertions.
This is a risky move to undertake without professional legal counsel. While you may be “just trying to explain,” your statements could be used against you in a disciplinary hearing. Additionally, if your school has put a no-contact order in place, you could end up with an additional disciplinary charge to defend.
Your attorney can help arrange and mediate a discussion with the goal of clearing the air, restoring mutual trust and respect, and the dropping of false accusations.
2. Cutting Ties
Although it would be in everyone's best interest to communicate, clarify, and move on, there are situations where that simply isn't possible. If you reach out to the individual who has made false Title IX claims against you and their overall response to you is volatile, then you should cut ties with them, so they aren't incentivized to double down on their assertions.
In addition to avoiding them in person, you should also cut social media ties and refrain from mentioning them at any time. Unless the individual who's falsely accused you of inappropriate actions is willing to communicate honestly and openly, further entanglement with them is likely to increase, rather than reduce, your troubles.
The Lento Law Firm Helps the Wrongly Accused
If you've been falsely accused of sexual harassment, violence, or other Title IX violation by someone at the school you attend or work at, you need the guidance of someone with specialized Title IX defense knowledge. Title IX attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento has unparalleled experience defending the wrongly accused in all academic settings. To learn more, call 888-535-3686 today.