Nothing can put a damper on the college experience like sexual misconduct allegations. Considered as one of the most damaging and stigmatized allegations, mere accusations of any variation of sexual misconduct - sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, dating violence etc. - can result in a tarnished reputation, a diminished standing in the community, the loss of scholarships, and a threat to any educational and professional goal you've set to accomplish. Regardless of how you feel about the allegations and their validity, you will be required to undergo the school's processes. So, it's important you understand how your school will approach and resolve your case.
Time and time again, students make the mistake of going through the motions during school processes in hopes that the school will eventually discover what they already know: that they are innocent. However, the reality is, schools have way more incentive to side with accusers (even if claims may be untrue or exaggerated) due to pressure from the Department of Education and to avoid a lawsuit. Therefore, despite how you feel about the validity of the allegations, you will have to work tremendously hard to clear your name and ensure that your account of what occurred is heard and considered. In order to properly defend yourself, it would benefit you to understand how Hood College will resolve your case and recognize the value of an attorney in these situations.
Title IX Process
Filing a complaint
During Title IX processes, school authorities, investigators and anyone else you will interact with will use specific terms to characterize every party involved in a complaint. An individual who identifies as a victim/survivor will be referred to as a “complainant,” while the individual who has been accused of exhibiting said behavior will be labeled as a “respondent.” Once a complaint has been documented listing the parties involved and detailing the alleged misconduct, the process will proceed.
The investigative process
There are several aspects of the investigative phase. They are:
Administrative response phase - this is when a Title IX coordinator assesses if it is likely that a violation was made based on facts of a complaint. Factors such as the disciplinary history of a respondent, whether or not there was violence, the use of any weapons etc. will be considered to determine if the proceedings should continue.
The investigation - the term “investigation” refers to the process the college will use to attempt to solve this complaint. This includes interviews with complainants, respondents and witnesses. Once all of the relevant information is garnered, investigators will come up with a finding report that dictates whether or not there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the incident of misconduct did in fact occur. If so, the Executive Director of Human Resources or her designee will schedule a hearing to further resolve these matters.
At a hearing, both sides get a final shot at presenting their account of events to the best of their ability. During hearings, final statements, witness testimonies and sometimes cross-examinations will take place in front of a panel so they can gather more facts and evidence pertaining to a case. After each side has made their case, the panel will deliberate using the preponderance of evidence standard (the evidence suggests it was more likely than not or not likely that the misconduct occurred) and come to a final determination and recommended sanction.
If a respondent feels dissatisfied with a determination and/or sanction he or she is allowed the option to appeal this decision. However, this appeal will only likely be granted if it is based upon reasonable grounds. These grounds include:
- New information that was not previously available has come to light that could have significantly impacted a case outcome
- The sanction was disproportionate to the severity of the violation
- Investigators exhibited apparent bias
- The finding is clearly at odds with the evidence presented etc.
To be considered, an appeal must be submitted within 10 business days of the notification of a final determination.
Title IX Advisor
Choosing an attorney to accompany you through the process is the only surefire way to ensure that your rights are protected and that your trial is truly fair and impartial. Skilled legal professional Joseph D. Lento is dedicated to helping you defend yourself effectively. Contact him today for help.
Title IX violations and Title IX charges can change an accused student's life if not defended against properly and as early as possible during the disciplinary process, and Joseph D. Lento has nearly a decade of experience passionately fighting for the future of his clients at universities and colleges throughout the nation. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead, prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph Lento is a licensed attorney in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, is admitted as an attorney pro hac vice in state and federal court if needed when representing clients nationwide, and serves as a Title IX advisor to students facing disciplinary cases in Maryland and throughout the nation. Make certain your or your student's interests are protected - Joseph D. Lento can help.