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Is Restorative Justice An Effective Method to Apply to Sexual Misconduct Cases? Some Schools Think So

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Sep 21, 2018 | 0 Comments

In the controversial era of Betsy DeVos' Department of Education, colleges and universities are exposed to a newfound leniency under Title IX that they couldn't indulge in during Obama's reign. With this freedom comes an effort on the behalf of some schools to explore new ways to combat sexual assault and harassment on campuses - much to the horror or delight of those affected by these endeavors.

A growing number of institutions are considering what's known as “restorative justice” to mitigate cases of sexual misconduct. It is a method of resolution that some schools argue could potentially be more effective than traditional investigations and satisfy parties on all fronts, by reducing funding for schools and addressing the due process concerns of the accused.

Restorative justice distinguishes itself from other tools of resolution because it requires perpetrators to be accountable, and instead of focusing on punitive measures, education is prioritized. According to the Restorative Practices website, it is defined by three elements: (1) mending the harm inflicted, (2) allowing the victim and perpetrator to reach an agreeable joint decision, (3) and getting wrongdoers, victims, and the community to identify viable ways to restore victims and offenders to wholeness without recidivism. This method has gained popularity in the criminal justice system and is used in many high schools across the nation to curb bad behaviors.

Supporters of the effort say that restorative justice is worth a try due to unchanging assault rates. There's an understanding amongst some students, professors, and staff that punishments may not necessarily be effective in changing the attitudes of perpetrators. Nor does the imposition of sanctions promote the shift in college culture that is necessary to significantly decrease assault rates. But most importantly, students and activists argue that victims don't have enough options for justice. They must either go through the criminal or civil systems, navigate their school's Title IX process, or do nothing.

However, critics of applying restorative justice to sexual misconduct cases say that making it an option is irresponsible. They argue that victims may feel pressured to skip legal remedies, and that interacting with alleged perpetrators even in carefully facilitated situations poses the risk of retraumatization. The latter reason is why the Obama-era guidance strongly advised against alternative “informal resolutions” to address sexual misconduct allegations, and why some colleges have been reluctant to turn to this method. 

Now, a number of institutions like Brown University are looking to provide restorative justice as an option for victims to choose. Only time will tell if the tool will prove to be effective.

Nationwide Title IX Advisor

The only way to make sure your voice is heard and your rights are upheld is to retain a student defense attorney. For respondents, especially, the assistance of an attorney advisor is invaluable in the Title IX process. National Title IX attorney Joseph D. Lento has the skill, experience, and expertise to help you preserve your entitled rights under Title IX and your school's policy. For a case evaluation or more information about his representation, contact him online or give him a call at 888-535-3686 today.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients nationwide. Mr. Lento represents students and others in disciplinary cases and other proceedings at colleges and universities across the United States. Mr. Lento has helped countless students, professors, and others in academia at more than a thousand colleges and universities across the United States, and when necessary, he has sought justice on behalf of clients in courts across the nation. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide, and he can help you or your student address school-related issues and concerns anywhere in the United States.

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