Few allegations carry the weight of a sexual misconduct allegation. If your college or university has accused you, it's important you educate yourself as quickly as possible about what you are facing. Most cases are governed by federal law. The procedures are complicated, and campus justice can often favor complainants (accusers) over respondents (the accused). Knowing how the process works—right now, from the very beginning—is crucial if you want to defend yourself successfully.
In fact, the truth is that sexual misconduct allegations can be so difficult to navigate that you likely won't be able to handle them on your own, no matter how much you may know.
So, do your research. Learn everything you can about the history of Title IX, what due process rights you're entitled to, and what kinds of penalties you may face if you're found responsible. Find out what “preponderance of evidence” means and what constitutes “consent” at your school. Then, make sure you find the very best Title IX attorney out there to represent you.
Make no mistake: you're facing a difficult challenge, but you can get through it, especially if you have the right help.
What Is Title IX?
Someone may already have mentioned Title IX to you. That's because, for many years, universities used it almost exclusively to handle all cases of sexual misconduct. Even today, most allegations fall under Title IX, and it's likely your case does too.
Just what is Title IX, though? It's a federal law passed in 1972 and designed to eliminate sexual discrimination in publicly funded educational programs. That may seem like a fairly straightforward proposition. Most of us would agree that women deserve the same kinds of educational opportunities as men. However, over time Title IX “discrimination” has come to refer to a wide range of misconduct, from simple verbal harassment to stalking, sexual assault, and even rape. As a result, enforcing Title IX has become an increasingly complicated affair, one most universities aren't really set up to handle.
In 2020, some fifty years after the law was first enacted, the federal government stepped in again to issue some guidance to schools as to how they should deal with these cases. The good news is, these new rules have helped to safeguard some important respondent rights and restore a sense of balance to the justice process. The bad news is, they can be difficult to navigate.
What Does Title IX Say?
Current Title IX guidelines mandate most aspects of sexual misconduct cases, though schools do still have some flexibility in how they investigate accusations. At the University of Missouri, Kansas, the process works like this:
- Your school is required to have a Title IX Coordinator. This individual, or their deputies, handles all allegations. Only a complainant or the Coordinator themselves may sign an official complaint initiating an investigation.
- Once an investigation is open, the Coordinator is obligated to provide the respondent with a Notice of the Charges. This notice should include the name of the complainant as well as details of the allegation. In addition, it should advise the respondent of their rights, including the right to be presumed “not responsible” (innocent) and the right to an advisor who may be an attorney.
- The Coordinator then appoints an Investigator. This individual meets separately with both sides in the case. In addition, the Investigator is tasked with gathering physical evidence and witness testimony.
- In its own list of procedures, the University of Missouri, Kansas City notes that investigations should be conducted “expeditiously” and sets a target of 30 business days. At the end of this period, the Investigator submits a written report of their findings. Both sides then have an opportunity to suggest revisions to this document before it is forwarded to the Title IX Coordinator.
- After receiving the Investigative Report, the Coordinator sets a time and date for a live hearing and selects a Hearing Officer and two Hearing Panelists to hear the case.
- At the hearing itself, both sides have the opportunity to make a statement, present evidence, and call witnesses. In addition, both may, through their advisors, question each other and any witnesses against them. Hearing panelists are also entitled to ask questions of any witness.
- Once the hearing is complete, the Hearing Officer and Panelists must reach a decision using the “preponderance of evidence” standard. Less strict than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” “preponderance of evidence” asks merely that decision-makers be more than 50 percent convinced that the respondent committed the act.
- Whatever the outcome of the hearing, both sides then have a limited right to appeal the Committee's decision. Appeals must be filed within five business days of the Notice of the Hearing Panel decision. In addition, appeals are only heard for a few very specific reasons:
- New evidence
- Procedural irregularities
- Conflicts of interest on the part of Title IX officials
- Disproportionate sanction
What About Non-Title IX Cases?
Not everyone applauded the new Title IX guidelines when they were enacted in 2020. Many schools, in fact, worried that the changes weakened their ability to protect victims. They were particularly concerned about sexual misconduct that might occur off-campus. The worry was that these cases, no longer covered under Title IX, might simply fall through the cracks. In response, several colleges and universities created a new category of sexual misconduct, which has generally become known as “non-Title IX” misconduct.
Curiously, UMKC does not have a published policy to address “non-Title IX” cases. This could reflect a decision not to pursue such cases, to let law enforcement handle them instead.
However, the Student Code of Conduct does make clear that actions such as “stalking” and “physical abuse” are strictly prohibited, whether or not a particular incident is sexually motivated. Should you find yourself facing such a charge, you would be subject to the school's own disciplinary procedures, as outlined in its Rules of Procedures. Though similar to Title IX procedures, these don't contain as many due process safeguards for respondents.
Joseph D. Lento, Sexual Misconduct Attorney
The University of Missouri, Kansas City, maintains a long list of potential sanctions for disciplinary cases. These include everything from a warning to loss of privileges, to removal from the dining hall to expulsion. However, the minimum penalty, if you should be found responsible, is likely suspension. More probably, you'll be facing expulsion.
In short, everything is on the line in a sexual misconduct case, and nothing is easy. You don't just need an advisor. In fact, it isn't enough just to hire an attorney. You need a Title IX attorney, someone who specializes in sexual misconduct cases.
Joseph D. Lento built his career defending clients from Title IX and other kinds of sexual misconduct allegations. He's an expert in Title IX law and experienced at dealing with college faculty and administration. He's defended literally hundreds of clients from all types of sexual misconduct allegations. Whether you're looking to prove your innocence or simply to negotiate a fair settlement that will let you continue your academic career, Joseph D. Lento can help get you the very best possible resolution to your case.
If you or your child has been accused of sexual misconduct, don't wait to act. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.