Handling Sexual Misconduct Accusations at South Dakota State University

The very first thing you need to know if you've been accused of committing sexual misconduct is that you should never try to handle the situation on your own. The stakes are high: if your university finds you responsible for an offense, you could very likely be expelled. Even the minimum penalty in such cases is usually suspension. At the same time, it's no easy task defending yourself. Most cases are investigated under Title IX, a complex federal law. Even attorneys are sometimes daunted by Title IX's many rules and procedures.

In short, you need the very best legal representation you can get. You need a Title IX attorney. A Title IX attorney can help you build your case. They can collect evidence and talk to witnesses. They can draft documents and suggest how to answer questions investigators might put to you. In addition, they can accompany you to investigative meetings and speak for you at hearings.

If you've been charged, or if you even think charges might be coming, take the time now to contact Joseph D. Lento. Call 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.

Title IX and Sexual Misconduct

Students are often surprised by the notion that they might need an attorney to deal with school policy violations. They expect their college or university to have their best interests at heart and that any punishments are likely to be on the order of a stern lecture and probation. Sexual misconduct isn't like other sorts of misconduct, though. It's not just a matter of school policy but of federal law.

Title IX, passed in 1972, prohibited all forms of sexual discrimination and harassment on college campuses. In addition to this general prohibition, the law contains a strict set of guidelines for exactly how schools should investigate and adjudicate allegations. Those guidelines are over five hundred pages long.

When it comes to sexual misconduct, South Dakota State University follows policies set forward by the South Dakota Board of Regents (SDBOR). The SDBOR interpretation of Title IX can be found in Policy 1:17. Here's what that policy has to say.

  • SDSU must have a Title IX Coordinator. This person oversees the enforcement of the law and coordinates all investigations into sexual misconduct allegations.
  • When the Coordinator signs a complaint against you, they must provide you with written notice of the charges. This notice should identify the Complainant (alleged victim) and include details of the allegation. In addition, it should make you aware of your rights as a Respondent (the person accused). Among these, you have the right to be treated the same as the Complainant in all matters, the right to be presumed Not Responsible until Proven Responsible, and the right to be investigated and judged by unbiased officials.
  • The Coordinator then appoints an Investigator to oversee the first phase of the case.
  • The Investigator's role is to gather information. They meet separately with both sides to hear the competing versions of events. In addition, they collect any physical evidence and interview any witnesses.
  • At the conclusion of the investigation, the Investigator must complete a written report summarizing their findings. You have the right to review this document and suggest any revisions before it is forwarded to the Title IX Coordinator.
  • Once they've received the Investigative Report, the Coordinator sets a time and date for a live hearing and appoints a “Hearing Examiner” to oversee the proceedings.
  • At the hearing, both sides present their cases. However, SDSU has the burden of proving whether or not you are responsible for a Title IX violation. This puts you squarely at odds with the school.
  • During the hearing, you may offer arguments, present evidence, and call witnesses to testify. In addition, you may—through your advisor—cross-examine the Complainant and any witnesses against you. The Complainant has these same rights.
  • Once the hearing is complete, the Examiner deliberates and renders a decision as to your level of responsibility. In doing so, they must use a legal standard known as “Preponderance of Evidence.” According to this standard, they must find you responsible if they believe it is “more likely than not” that you committed an offense.
  • You have the right to appeal the Examiner's decision, but only under certain very limited conditions. First, all appeals must be filed within ten days of Notification of the Outcome. In addition, you may only file an appeal if
    • A procedural irregularity occurred that affected the outcome
    • New evidence arises that would have affected the outcome
    • A Title IX official or administrator had a conflict of interest

Non-Title IX Cases

It is worth noting that Title IX changed significantly in 2020 when the Trump administration issued a set of guidelines detailing how the law should be implemented. These are known as the “Final Rule.” Among other changes, the Final Rule states that off-campus incidents are no longer covered under the law unless they involve school-sponsored activities.

Many schools have instituted separate policies to deal with these so-called “Non-Title IX” incidents. South Dakota schools have not. As SDSU's Student Conduct Code notes, allegations of sexual misconduct are “addressed exclusively through SDBOR Policy 1:17.” That policy clearly states that “The Institution shall dismiss” complaints if they relate to conduct that “did not occur in the institution's education program or activity.”

However, you should be aware that such cases are often referred to local law enforcement.

How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?

Sexual misconduct cases are serious business. It's no exaggeration to say that your entire future is at stake, and you face an uphill battle in defending yourself. You don't have to face that battle alone, though. Title IX entitles you to an advisor and to choose an advisor who is an attorney. Make the most of that right.

Joseph D. Lento built his career defending students just like you from sexual misconduct charges. Joseph D. Lento knows the law. He's studied the statute and knows the procedures inside and out. In addition, Joseph D. Lento knows how schools operate. He knows the tactics they use, and he knows how to fight those tactics. Most importantly, though, Joseph D. Lento is on your side. He understands what you're going through, and he stands ready to do anything he can to make sure you're treated fairly and that you get the best possible resolution to your case.

If you or your child has been accused of sexual misconduct, don't wait to act. The longer you wait, the more time your school has to build its case against you. For more information or to find out how we can help, contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686, or use our automated online form.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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