If your college or university has accused you of sexual misconduct, it's easy to feel like your life—or at least your academic career—is over. It isn't. You can fight to protect your good name, and you can win.
Make no mistake: A sexual misconduct allegation at Chaffey College or at any school is serious business. In today's climate, schools do everything they can to avoid seeming soft on violators. That includes investigating every complaint aggressively and potentially expelling any students found responsible for sexual harassment or misbehavior.
That doesn't mean you can't successfully defend yourself from these charges. Doing so will take hard work and commitment, but you're a college student: you have the discipline to get it done.
Start by finding out all you can about how Chaffey College treats sexual misconduct. What kinds of behaviors can get you in trouble? What does the investigation process look like? What are the possible sanctions if you're found responsible?
Then, contact a qualified, experienced Title IX attorney to help you prepare your defense. You have rights. Take advantage of them.
A Brief History of Title IX
The very first thing you need to know is that the processes for investigating and adjudicating sexual misconduct cases can be confusing at Chaffey College and at any school for that matter.
For many years, schools dealt with virtually every instance of sexual misconduct through the federal government's Title IX. This law, passed in 1972, prohibited sexual discrimination and harassment at all federally funded educational institutions.
While the law was a necessary step forward in women's rights, it was not without flaws. Schools had a direct incentive to investigate accusations, no matter how spurious they might be. Failure to do so meant a school risked its federal funding. Little by little, due process protections for defendants were watered down until, by 2020, students were no longer even entitled to cross-examine witnesses against them. This certainly signaled that schools were serious about cracking down on sexual discrimination. Unfortunately, it also meant accused students couldn't always expect to get a fair hearing.
All this changed in mid-2020. That's when the Trump administration, under the direction of education secretary Betsy Devos, issued new rules for how Title IX should be enforced. Among other changes, these rules limited school jurisdictions, narrowed the definitions of “discrimination” and “harassment,” and extended important rights to the accused. These changes might have solved a number of problems with sexual misconduct cases. Instead, they only made everything more confusing.
Title IX vs. University Policy
Legal experts and First Amendment advocates applauded Trump's initiative. Victim rights organizations did not. Neither did most colleges and universities, who saw the new guidelines as a direct affront to their own authority. In response, they set out to find ways to circumvent the law and to keep in place the policies and procedures they'd used for so long.
The most common approach was to simply re-write their own student codes of conduct to deal with any incidents no longer covered under Title IX. For example, where the government now said sexual misconduct that occurs in off-campus housing doesn't qualify as a Title IX offense, schools said it violated their own policies. Further, they promised to deal with such incidents through their own justice procedures rather than using Title IX.
Far from restoring defendants' rights, then, the response to the Trump administration's efforts actually made the situation worse. To be sure, respondents did gain some important rights under Title IX. However, when they faced other kinds of accusations under university policy, they often had fewer rights than before.
Where does Chaffey College stand on the issue of sexual misconduct? They, like many other schools, have created two separate systems for dealing with allegations. If the accusation fits within the narrowed Title IX framework, it is treated as a Title IX offense. Otherwise, it is dealt with under the school's own “Standards of Student Conduct.”
Title IX Sexual Misconduct at Chaffey College
If the incident is treated under Title IX, the Title IX coordinator appoints an investigator who interviews both parties and collects evidence, including witness testimony. The investigator writes a report, and the Title IX coordinator convenes an official hearing.
The hearing must be conducted live, though either side can request it be held via closed-circuit video. Witnesses must appear in order for the Hearing Officer to consider their testimony, and both sides have the right to ask questions of these witnesses. A pause occurs after each question to give the Hearing Officer time to be sure the question is appropriate. Questions about a participant's sexual history, for instance, are usually forbidden.
The Hearing Officer uses the “preponderance of evidence” standard to determine whether the accused is “responsible” or not. According to this standard, the officer must simply decide whether the incident is “more likely than not” to have occurred. If the student is found responsible, the officer also recommends a sanction.
Finally, students found responsible do have the right to appeal the hearing's outcome if they can demonstrate bad faith on the part of any school officials during the process or if new evidence should arise.
Finally, and most importantly, students are entitled to have an advisor help them during the investigation and hearing. This advisor can be an attorney.
Non-Title IX Sexual Misconduct
While current Title IX standards aren't perfect, they do guarantee some important rights to the accused. There are rules governing how the investigation takes place. Students are to be presumed innocent until proven responsible, and they have the opportunity to defend themselves at a hearing.
Chaffey College's own disciplinary procedures guarantee none of these things. Matters of student conduct, including accusations of sexual misconduct, are dealt with by the dean. When an accusation has been made, accused students are summoned to a meeting where they can present their side of the story. They may bring someone with them, including an attorney, but this person may not speak on their behalf.
Following this meeting, the dean makes a decision as to the student's responsibility and assigns sanctions as necessary. There is no investigation. There is no hearing.
For cases involving suspension and expulsion, Chaffey does offer students a chance to appeal their sentence at a conduct hearing under its Student Grievance policies. However, the school isn't required to conduct a thorough investigation, and a grievance hearing doesn't include all the due process protections available under Title IX.
Call National Title IX Attorney Joseph D. Lento for Help
The outcome of a sexual misconduct case is incredibly serious: sanctions typically include suspension or expulsion. Expulsion comes with a transcript notation explaining the nature of the offense, which could prevent you from re-enrolling at another school, thereby ending a student's goal of graduating college. Any kind of finding of responsibility and sanction, however, whether a sanction involves probation or suspension, can have long-lasting consequences. Applying for internships, scholarships, graduate school, and professional employment can all be jeopardized because a student found responsible will generally have to disclose applicable records as part of application processes.
If you or your child has been accused of sexual misconduct at Chaffey College, don't wait to find out how the school will proceed. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm now. Joseph D. Lento is a highly-qualified Title IX attorney with years of experience dealing with Title IX and campus disciplinary procedures across the United States. He knows the process, and he knows how to protect your rights. Joseph D. Lento will work hard to get you the very best possible outcome. Attorney Lento and his team have done the same for hundreds of clients across the nation, and they can do the same for you. Protect your future now.
For more information, contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-555-3686, or use our automated online form.