An accusation of sexual misconduct can be a serious blow. Schools are under pressure to respond quickly and decisively or face political blowback. If you or someone close to you is accused, it's essential to take the charges—and the potential reputational damage—very seriously.
It's also critical to invoke your right to an advisor who can support you through the investigation and hearing. For the best possible outcome, that advisor should be an attorney.
Who Enforces Sexual Misconduct Rules?
Throughout the history of Title IX—a federal law passed in 1972 that was intended to bring an end to sexual discrimination in US education programs—the burden of enforcement has been placed on educational institutions. Over the ensuing years, the law has been subject to frequent change at federal and state levels.
New Law in Massachusetts
In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker, on January 12, 2021, signed off on a history-making law directed at sexual violence on post-secondary campuses. The Massachusetts Campus Sexual Violence Act is now the state's version of Title IX. It also concentrates on prevention efforts, reporting mechanisms, and swift responses to sexual assaults and other kinds of sexual violence.
There is an overlap between the state and other applicable federal laws in that it requires protocol for prompt and equitable responses to sexual misconduct.
There is also a safety component involved, as well as one of equity. In his newsletter, the Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education emphasized that equity is also critical for vulnerable student populations, including recent immigrants, LGBTQ students, and students with disabilities who have a higher risk of sexual assault and have a lesser likelihood of reporting it.
This is also true of current federal guidelines; in June 2021, the Biden administration reversed part of a complete overhaul by the Trump administration by serving notice that transgender students are now a protected group under Title IX. More changes are expected.
All of this flux in terms of enforcement make it risky to go it alone. Having an experienced advisor can make a huge difference in how a case proceeds.
How are Complaints Handled Under the New Massachusetts Law?
The process differs somewhat from a court of law, but importantly it still allows for an attorney/advisor for both the accuser and the accused.
If you are on the receiving end of a complaint, it's important to find experienced counsel as soon as possible to mitigate or eliminate the threat to your academic future.
The process is as follows:
- A formal written complaint must be filed with the school's Title IX coordinator; the complaint must provide detailed written notice alleging sexual harassment and request the school to investigate
- The proceedings must operate under the presumption the respondent is not responsible until proven otherwise
- Both parties must have equal access to evidence from the investigation
- Neither party can directly cross-examine the other
- The law provides equal opportunities for appeal if appeals are afforded by the school's policy; the window for these is typically quite short, usually ten days, and the appeal can only be filed under particular and narrow reasons—new evidence that has come to light, a procedural mistake under Title IX, and/or obvious bias on the part of officials involved in the proceedings
- The school must provide a written outcome notice within seven days once the disciplinary process has been completed
Unlike a court of law, there is no standard of evidence that must be applied. This means the decision is made on a preponderance of evidence rather than the higher standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. So, if the decision-maker or decision-making body determines that there is more than a fifty percent chance the accused committed the violation, they can find them responsible.
What Happens if I am Found Responsible?
While your school may soft-pedal the formal consequences involved in a Title IX violation—discussing things like written warnings, restitution, or counseling—more often than not, suspension can be a minimum penalty, and expulsion is a distinct possibility. A suspension has numerous collateral consequences that you will want to avoid, including
- Lost tuition and fees for the applicable semester
- Loss of full-time student status
- Delayed graduation
- Loss of financial aid and scholarships
- A transcript gap that will need to be explained to graduate schools and employers
As traumatic as all of this can be, an accusation of a Title IX violation can further have an effect on a personal reputation. Even though schools are generally bound to keep proceedings confidential, they still have a tendency to operate on the assumption that the accused is guilty. This preconceived notion can be very difficult to overcome.
Where Does an Attorney/Advisor Come In?
Hiring a skilled professional as soon as possible sends a clear message to school authorities not only that you take the charges very seriously but that you plan to fight them in a systematic and sophisticated way.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has established a hard-won reputation in the fight against sexual misconduct charges, representing clients at colleges and universities across the country. He is a passionate advocate for his clients as they battle for their reputations, academic status, and professional futures.
If you or your child are accused of Title IX transgressions in Massachusetts, it's critical to hire someone who will act swiftly and decisively in your best interests. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-555-3686 to protect your future.
Massachusetts 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:
- American International College
- Amherst College
- Anna Maria College
- Assumption College
- Babson College
- Bard College at Simon's Rock
- Bay Path College
- Bay State College
- Becker College
- Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology
- Bentley University
- Berklee College of Music
- Berkshire Community College
- Boston Architectural College
- Boston Baptist College
- Boston College
- Boston University
- Brandeis University
- Bridgewater State University
- Bristol Community College
- Bunker Hill Community College
- Cambridge College
- Cape Cod Community College
- Clark University
- College of Our Lady of the Elms
- College of the Holy Cross
- Curry College
- Dean College
- Eastern Nazarene College
- Emerson College
- Emmanuel College
- Endicott College
- Fisher College
- Fitchburg State University
- Framingham State University
- Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
- Gordon College
- Greenfield Community College
- Hampshire College
- Harvard University
- Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology
- Holyoke Community College
- ITT Technical Institute Norwood
- ITT Technical Institute Wilmington
- Laboure College
- Lasell College
- Lawrence Memorial Hospital School of Nursing
- Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts
- Lesley University
- Longy School of Music
- Marian Court College
- Massachusetts Bay Community College
- Massachusetts College of Art and Design
- Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
- Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Massachusetts Maritime Academy
- Massasoit Community College
- Merrimack College
- Middlesex Community College
- Montserrat College of Art
- Mount Holyoke College
- Mount Ida College
- Mount Wachusett Community College
- New England College of Business
- Newbury College Brookline
- Nichols College
- North Shore Community College
- Northeastern University
- Northern Essex Community College
- Pine Manor College
- Quincy College
- Quinsigamond Community College
- Regis College
- Roxbury Community College
- Saint John's Seminary
- Salem State University
- Sanford Brown College Boston
- School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston
- Simmons College
- Smith College
- Springfield College
- Springfield Technical Community College
- Stonehill College
- Suffolk University
- The Boston Conservatory
- The New England Conservatory of Music
- The New England Institute of Art
- Tufts University
- University of Massachusetts - Amherst
- University of Massachusetts - Boston
- University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth
- University of Massachusetts - Lowell
- University of Phoenix - Boston Campus
- Urban College of Boston
- Wellesley College
- Wentworth Institute of Technology
- Western New England University
- Westfield State University
- Wheaton College
- Wheelock College
- Williams College
- Worcester Polytechnic Institute
- Worcester State University
- Zion Bible College
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 Massachusetts and throughout the nation. Make certain your or your student's interests are protected - Contact National Title IX attorney Joseph D. Lento today.