How California State, Long Beach Addresses Sexual Misconduct

No one wants to face an allegation of sexual misconduct, especially at college. Your biggest problems when you're in college should be passing calculus and avoiding the dreaded freshman fifteen. Unfortunately, these kinds of allegations can and do happen.

If you find yourself accused of sexual misconduct, here's the first thing you should know: a campus judicial hearing isn't like the court cases you've seen on Law and Order. In a court of law, juries must unanimously agree on a guilty verdict; defendants must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; and the accused always has a right to confront their accuser. College judicial systems, however, aren't bound by any of those rules. What does that mean? First, it means you need to educate yourself about how your particular school treats sexual misconduct cases. Second, it means you need to hire an attorney who can help protect your rights.

Two Processes

California State University at Long Beach doesn't have one set of judicial procedures for sexual misconduct cases. It has two. In fact, many colleges and universities are now using two separate tracks for such cases.

Here's why.

Since 1972, and until very recently, almost all college cases of sexual misconduct were prosecuted according to rules set down by the federal government's Title IX legislation. The government designed that legislation to address problems of sexual discrimination and harassment in educational settings. It did. Sometimes too well.

By 2020, in fact, sexual misconduct prosecutions had become seriously unbalanced in favor of accusers. Defendants in such cases were routinely denied many important due process rights. Among other things, for instance, schools had a built-in incentive to prosecute every allegation and to do so as vigorously as possible. Failing to do so risked the loss of federal education funds.

In response to this situation, the Trump administration, in early 2020, issued new Title IX guidelines, which officially went into effect in August of that year. Among other things, these guidelines narrowed the definition of “harassment,” limited campus jurisdictional authority, and restored some basic rights to the accused.

Rather than accept these rule changes as a necessary correction, the academic community determined to find a way around them. In the end, most schools chose to create a new, separate system to deal with any sexual misconduct violations they could no longer prosecute under Title IX. Where once there was one system, now there were two.

Two Outcomes

California State University, Long Beach was among those schools that chose to implement a second track for dealing with sexual misconduct. Under this system, once the Title IX office receives a complaint of sexual misconduct, it must first decide whether that complaint fits into Title IX standards or whether it should be treated as a violation of the Student Code of Conduct. Defendants are treated very differently depending on where their case lands.

Under current Title IX standards, once an allegation of sexual misconduct has been made, the Title IX coordinator appoints an investigator. This investigator interviews both parties as well as witnesses and collects any relevant physical evidence. They write a report, which, after input from both parties, is forwarded to a judicial committee. That committee then has the responsibility for hearing the case in its entirety. Both sides may choose advisors who may be attorneys, and those advisors present evidence and cross-examine witnesses. In the end, the committee makes a determination as to responsibility and assigns any necessary penalties.

Even under this system, defendants are still not afforded the same rights as they would be in a court of law. For example, the standard of guilt is “preponderance of evidence” rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means the committee must only decide that events are “more likely to have happened than not” in order to assign guilt. In addition, a guilty verdict doesn't have to be unanimous.

Still, those who find themselves prosecuted under the Student Code of Conduct have even fewer rights. The Title IX coordinator still appoints an investigator, but that investigator is solely responsible for deciding the case. The investigation must be completed within 60 days, and while students do have the right to appeal the investigator's findings, they can only do so under limited conditions such as obvious proof of bias.

One Set of Penalties

Despite the fact that defendants' rights aren't as well-protected in the Cal State, Long Beach justice system as they would be in a court of law, penalties can be just as severe.

While the school can't sentence a student to jail time, it can impose probation, suspension, and even expulsion. In addition, suspension and expulsion include permanent transcript notations as to the nature of the offense. Such notations can make it difficult, if not impossible, to enroll at another school, putting not just a student's academic career but their entire future in jeopardy

How Can Joseph D. Lento Help You?

The judicial procedures currently in place at California State University, Long Beach, don't favor the accused. If you've been accused of sexual misconduct, even under the best of circumstances, you can expect your life will be turned upside down. The fact that it isn't even clear how you will be prosecuted only makes the entire ordeal more difficult to navigate.

Here's the good news: Joseph D. Lento can help. Joseph D. Lento has unparalleled experience in helping students through what can be the most difficult chapter of their lives. He regularly defends clients under both Title IX rules and university disciplinary policies. He knows how schools may try to undermine your rights, and he knows how to make sure they don't. If you or your child has been accused of sexual misconduct, don't try to fight complainant or school administration alone.

For more information, contact the Lento Law Firm 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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