An accusation of sexual misconduct under Title IX can feel like an intimidating prospect—because it is. The statute invests schools with a tremendous amount of power over the fate of students embroiled in such investigations, with college policies and procedures dictating the kinds of severe punishments they can receive.
Isn't Title IX Just About Funding for Sports?
Not at all. Title IX is about equality on campuses, which does include funding for women's athletics but is also intended to create a campus environment free of sexual discrimination and harassment.
Schools are expected to take prompt steps to stop sexual violence, prevent its recurrence, eliminate all aspects of a hostile environment, and provide remedies for the effects of such behavior. Title IX, then, is the primary instrument for enforcing penalties related to sexual misconduct.
Since its implementation in 1972, the law has evolved with changing social and political environments. For example, in 2020, the Trump administration made sweeping changes, many of which President Biden, soon after he took office, promised to reverse.
What Rights Does a Student Accused of Sexual Misconduct Have?
The short answer is not very many. The Title IX process is very different from that in a court of law. To find the accused guilty, the school's decision-makers must only find a preponderance of evidence—rather than proof beyond a reasonable doubt—that the misconduct took place.
The good news is that Title IX does allow the accused to have an advisor who can support them through the process and make sure the exact school protocol is followed. The advisor can call out the educational institution if it fails to ensure every aspect of its policy is followed.
Joseph D. Lento has represented students in Maryland and around the country as they face Title IX sexual misconduct accusations. He helps them prepare for hearings and other meetings, supporting them through what can be overwhelming pressure to prove innocence, and making sure they understand every step of the investigation and deliberations.
What Are the Essential Elements of a Title IX Investigation?
- Official complaints are filed with the college or university's Title IX coordinator or other designated school official, who must then sign off on the complaint.
- The school designee must advise the respondent of the charges; the advisory will include the name of the complainant and the date and relevant details of the allegation. The advisory must also let respondents know their rights, including to be presumed “not responsible” until found to be otherwise, and that they can avail themselves of an advisor.
- The coordinator will then choose an investigator—who can be a staff member at the school or an outside third party—who will meet with both sides to ascertain details both from the parties involved as well as from any witnesses to the alleged behavior. The investigator will also collect physical evidence, should there be any.
- When the investigation wraps up, the investigator will produce a complete report of the investigation's findings. Both the complainant and defendant will have a chance to review the document before it is sent back to the Title IX coordinator or designated school official.
How Is a Decision Made?
After the Title IX coordinator or designated staff member receives the report, the matter then moves from the investigative phase to the deliberation phase.
For colleges and universities, every respondent is entitled to a defense in a live hearing, which typically proceeds as following:
- Both the defendant and the complainant can be represented by advisors, who may get to introduce evidence and call witnesses. Each party is also afforded the opportunity to cross-examine the other and any witnesses who testify against them.
- Each school has its own protocol, but typically the case will be heard either by a single decision-maker or a panel.
- Decision-makers will ultimately make their conclusion based on a preponderance of evidence rather than the courtroom standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” That means decision-makers need only to be just over fifty percent assured that the alleged misconduct took place—a very low bar for conviction.
The Appeals Process
Both sides have the right to appeal a decision with which they disagree. Note typically that there is a strict time limit—usually ten days—and there are very restrictive grounds for appeal: Discovery of new evidence, a clear misstep in the Title IX investigation protocol, or obvious bias on the part of one of the school employees or third parties involved in the matter.
What Are the Consequences of a Guilty Finding?
While your school representative may convey that it uses a range of sanctions to punish a Title IX violation, there is enormous pressure on colleges and universities to swiftly and severely punish misconduct.
So, while in some instances, sanctions may include a warning, formal reprimand, restitution, and mandated counseling, they can escalate to losing a position in an athletic program or a ban on extracurricular activities.
More often than not, though, the minimum penalty will be suspension, and the most common consequence will be expulsion.
Even in the absence of expulsion, a Title IX violation can jeopardize financial aid, opportunities for internships, post-graduate acceptances, and long-term employment prospects.
How Can the Office of Joseph D. Lento Help in the Face of a Title IX Misconduct Accusation?
Defending students in Maryland and across the U.S. against charges ranging from stalking to rape, Joseph Lento built his notable career on Title IX cases.
He is well-versed in the policies and procedures colleges and universities implement in the area of Title IX, and he understands the academic culture. Mr. Lento speaks daily with senior university faculty and administrators, negotiating and working tirelessly to prove the innocence of his clients.
Title IX cases move fast. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-555-3686 or use our automated form. Time is of the essence.
Maryland colleges and universities where Joseph D. Lento can help as your or your student's Title IX advisor during investigations, hearings, and appeals include, but are not limited to, the following schools:
- Bowie State University
- Capitol Technology University
- Coppin State University
- Frostburg State University
- Goucher College
- Hood College
- Johns Hopkins University
- Loyola University Maryland
- Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)
- Maryland University of Integrative Health
- McDaniel College
- Morgan State University
- Mount St. Mary's University
- Notre Dame of Maryland University
- St. John's College
- St. Mary's College of Maryland
- Salisbury University
- Stevenson University
- Towson University
- United States Naval Academy (exempt from Title IX and the Clery Act)
- University of Baltimore
- University of Maryland, Baltimore
- University of Maryland, Baltimore County
- University of Maryland, College Park
- University of Maryland, Eastern Shore
- University of Maryland, University College
- University of Maryland, Biotechnology Institute
- University of Maryland, Environmental Science
- USM Hagerstown
- Universities at Shady Grove
- Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (exempt from Title IX and the Clery Act)
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 futures 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 and educational consultant to students facing disciplinary cases in Maryland and throughout the nation. Make certain your or your student's interests are protected - Contact National Title IX attorney Joseph D. Lento today.