Sexual misconduct is the most serious charge any college student can face. Schools don't handle murder cases. Your college can't send you to prison if it finds you responsible for an offense. It can expel you, though. In fact, expulsion is the most common sanction in such cases, and it can be just as life-changing as a prison sentence. You can't just transfer to another school after being expelled. Typically, schools include a transcript notation about the nature of your offense, and that will almost certainly keep you from enrolling anywhere else. Your academic career could effectively be over.
In other words, you must take any allegation against you seriously. What does that mean? It means finding out everything you can about what you're up against, studying the fine details of the accusation, and knowing your school's judicial procedures inside and out. That's a good start, but it won't be enough. In addition, you'll need to find the very best legal representation you can—not just a local or family attorney, but a Title IX attorney, someone who's an expert at these cases.
You can salvage your college career and re-establish your reputation. It will take strength of character and perseverance, though, and it will take help.
Parsing Title IX
Most sexual misconduct cases at Touro College are Title IX cases. What is Title IX?
Title IX is a federal law. It was passed in 1972 with the aim of eliminating sexual discrimination and harassment on college campuses. It has worked well in fulfilling this broad goal. However, over the course of its history, it has often been applied unevenly, with every school using its own procedures to investigate and adjudicate allegations.
Things changed significantly in 2020, with the institution of a formal set of guidelines, known as the “Final Rule.” The Final Rule standardized most aspects of the judicial process across all colleges and universities and, importantly, guaranteed clear due process rights to accused students.
You can find a copy of Touro College's Title IX Policy online. A summary of that policy appears below.
- Like all schools, Touro College has a Title IX Coordinator who sets school policy. In addition, this individual decides which cases warrant a full investigation.
- If you're being investigated, the school must provide you with what's known as “Notice of the Charges.” This notice should include the name of the Complainant as well as a summary of the allegation—information that's crucial to mounting your defense.
- Title IX gives grants you a number of important rights as “Respondent” (accused). These include
- The right be treated equally to the Complainant in all matters
- The right to Investigators and Decision Makers who are free of bias
- The right to an advisor, who may be an attorney
- The right to be presumed “Not Responsible” (innocent)
- The right to advanced notice of any and all meetings or proceedings
- The right to review all evidence in the case
- Once they've issued Notice of the Charges, the Coordinator appoints an Investigator to gather the facts of the case.
- The Investigator typically begins by meeting separately with both sides in the case. This is your first chance to offer your version of events.
- In addition, the Investigator collects any physical evidence and interviews any witnesses.
- At the conclusion of the investigation, the Investigator submits a written report to both sides in the case. You each have ten days to review this report and make any revision suggestions before it is forwarded to the Coordinator.
- The Coordinator is also responsible for setting a hearing date and for appointing a Decision Maker to preside over this proceeding.
- The hearing allows both sides the opportunity to formally present their cases. You may make arguments, present evidence, and call witnesses to testify on your behalf. In addition, you may—through your advisors, cross-examine one another and any witnesses against you.
- At the conclusion of the hearing, the Decision Maker determines whether or not you are responsible for violating Title IX policy and, if necessary, what sanction you should receive. To do this, they use a legal standard known as “Preponderance of Evidence.” Basically, if they are more than fifty percent convinced you committed an offense, they must find you responsible.
- You can appeal the hearing outcome. However, you have just seven business days from the end of the hearing to do so. In addition, grounds for appeal are limited to
- Procedural irregularity
- New evidence that has a bearing on the outcome
- Conflict-of-interest on the part of a Title IX official
- Sanction that is disproportionate to the nature of the offense
Non-Title IX Cases
There are a handful of sexual misconduct cases each year that don't fall under Title IX jurisdiction. As of 2020, and the new Final Rule, off-campus and overseas incidents are no longer covered by the law. Many schools, including Touro College, responded to this change by re-writing their own Student Conduct policies to handle these so-called “Non-Title IX” allegations. Because these policies aren't mandated by law, schools are free to use any procedures they choose and, unfortunately, they're under no obligation to provide respondents with any due process protections.
At Touro College, for example, you are not entitled to receive the same supportive measures as the Complainant. Nor are you entitled to defend yourself at a live hearing. Instead, a Compliance Office conducts an investigation. The Investigative Report is then turned over to an independent Fact Finder who reviews the report and makes a determination in the case.
You have the right to appeal the Fact Finder's decisions, but only on very limited grounds.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
Whether you're facing Title IX or non-Title IX charges, defending yourself from sexual misconduct allegations is always an uphill battle. You're used to your school being on your side; now it has the burden of proving your guilt. Rules and procedures are complicated and difficult to navigate. You should also know that the Complainant will almost certainly have a lawyer, and the school may also retain its own counsel. You don't want to go into one of these cases alone. You want the very best representation you can find.
Joseph D. Lento built his legal practice defending students just like you from all types of sexual misconduct charges. Joseph D. Lento knows the law. He's studied the Title IX statute and is comfortable working under both Title IX and non-Title IX procedures. In addition, Joseph D. Lento knows how schools operate. He knows what tactics they use, and he has experience protecting clients from those tactics.
If you or your child has been accused of sexual misconduct, you need the best representation you can find. You need a Title IX attorney. For more information, or to find out how the Lento Law Firm can help you, call 888-555-3686 today, or use our automated online form.