There are few charges you can face as a student that are more serious than a charge of sexual misconduct. In today's political climate, you can be certain you'll face an uphill battle in defending yourself. Your university will likely do all it can to make sure you're found responsible, and it will impose the most severe disciplinary penalties it can get away with. Suspension is typically the minimum sanction. Expulsion is far more likely.
You do have one thing in your favor: in most cases, you're entitled to an advisor, and this advisor can be an attorney. So, if you've been accused, take it seriously. Find out all you can about how your school handles these cases. Then, make sure you have a qualified Title IX attorney to represent you.
Sexual Misconduct Under Title IX
Kean University handles most of its sexual misconduct cases using guidelines outlined by Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sexual discrimination on college campuses. The law allows some room for schools to set their own policy, but for the most part, it dictates how investigations and adjudications should occur. Here's how things operate according to Kean's policy.
- Kean has a designated Title IX Coordinator. This person processes all allegations of sexual misconduct and determines whether or not they warrant an official investigation.
- If the Coordinator opens an investigation, they must provide you with written notice of the charges. This should include details of the allegation as well as the name of the Complainant.
- Under Title IX, you have a number of important rights, including the right to be presumed “not responsible” (innocent), the right to an attorney-advisor, the right to review the evidence against you, and the right to advanced notification of all meetings and proceedings.
- The Coordinator selects one or more Investigators to collect evidence and interview witnesses. These Investigators should be absolutely unbiased. Their job is not to judge you but simply to gather the facts of the case.
- At the conclusion of the investigation, the Investigator(s) compile a written summary of their findings. You have the right to review this document and to suggest a revision of anything you disagree with.
- Ultimately, the Investigative Report is forwarded to the Title IX Coordinator, who sets a time and date for a live hearing. In addition, they appoint a Decision Maker to preside over this hearing.
- Both sides may submit evidence, make arguments, and call witnesses to testify on their behalf. In addition, you may question each other and any witnesses against you. However, you are not allowed to question witnesses directly. Instead, all cross-examination must be conducted by your advisors.
- At the conclusion of the hearing, the Decision Maker is tasked with deciding whether or not you are responsible for a Title IX violation. In making this decision, they use a legal standard known as “Preponderance of Evidence.” Less strict than “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt,” Preponderance of Evidence requires Decision Makers find you responsible if they believe it is “more likely than not” that you committed an offense.
- Should you lose your case, you have the right to appeal. However, appeals must be filed within seven days of notification of the outcome. In addition, they may only be filed for very specific reasons, including the discovery of new evidence, a procedural error, or bias on the part of a Title IX official.
Non-Title IX Sexual Misconduct
Kean University handles most of its sexual misconduct cases through Title IX, but not all. The reason for this is that the law changed significantly in 2020. Specifically, the Trump administration narrowed the definitions of “discrimination” and “harassment” and limited the school's jurisdictional authority to on-campus incidents. Many schools, including Kean University, enacted their own policies in response, policies designed to cover any misconduct that might fall through the cracks.
Schools are under no obligation to follow Title IX procedures when dealing with these so-called “Non-Title IX cases.” As a result, students may not be entitled to the same due process rights if they're facing a non-Title IX allegation.
Much of the two processes at Kean University are the same. However, there are some important differences. One of these differences is that advisors have only a limited role in non-Title IX cases. They may accompany students to interviews and meetings, but they may not participate directly in any proceedings.
Far more significant, students aren't entitled to hearings in non-Title IX cases. Instead, the case Investigator determines your level of responsibility at the conclusion of the investigation. This does away with the impartiality of this official. It also eliminates one of the officials reviewing the case, making mistakes more likely. Most importantly, it means you have no opportunity to defend yourself in person or confront your accuser directly.
Kean University does allow you to appeal the Investigator's findings, but appeals are only granted on the basis of new evidence, a procedural mistake, or a conflict of interest on the part of an official.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
You probably understand by this point why you need an attorney to help you deal with any sexual misconduct allegations against you. Your future is at risk, and whichever set of procedures you're facing, the system is slanted in the Complainant's favor.
You don't want just any attorney, though. A local or family attorney, for example, won't do. You need someone who knows the law and who has experience representing student clients.
Joseph D. Lento is a fully-qualified defense attorney. He's not just a defense attorney, though. Joseph D. Lento is what's known as a Title IX attorney. That means he specializes in handling campus sexual misconduct 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.