New Title IX rules went into effect on August 14, 2020. Click here to learn about the changes to Title IX and how college sexual misconduct cases will be addressed and adjudicated under the new rules.
If you or a loved one is facing a Title IX investigation or is accused of a Title IX sexual misconduct charge
at a college or university across the United States, you must take the proper steps as early as possible
in the process in an effort to ensure a fair process and a favorable outcome. The reasons are manifold.
Title IX and Sexual Misconduct: Arguably Well-Intended, but also Arguably Severely Flawed
Before understanding the dynamics involved with how Title IX both controls and impacts a school's disciplinary process, it should be understood that Title IX is a federal civil rights law that was passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972.
Although Title IX
- intended in part
to address campus sexual misconduct such as sexual assault, harassment, and related concerns - may be well-intended, due to an unfortunate dynamic behind Title IX, the accuser's interests, also known as the "complainant", are often aligned with the school's, and the accused's interests, also known as the "respondent", are often considered last, if at all, especially if the accused does not have a dedicated champion in their corner. As importantly, do not let the school or anyone fool you - this is not
a so-called "educational opportunity" - this is a fight to clear one's name and to make certain that years of hard work are not lost.
The reason for this unfortunate reality is that, fundamentally, all schools across the United States are looking out for their own interests first and foremost. Independent of this reality, a school's federal education funding is tied to compliance with Title IX, and millions of dollars of federal education funding is at stake if a college or university is deemed to be not in compliance with Title IX. For better or worse, money talks, and that is why you or your loved one, as the accused in a Title IX case, is facing an uphill battle from the start. This unfortunate dynamic is but one flaw, albeit a major flaw, in the Title IX campus disciplinary process.
What am I being accused of exactly?
When faced with a Title IX investigation or charged with a sexual misconduct offense, accused students
(and their parents
) must not go it alone or with someone not suited to the task. An "advisor" provided by the school is entirely
unsuited to the task. An accused, for all intents and purposes, is being accused of often extreme criminal conduct - although the exact nature of the allegation is a complicated affair.
What a school calls "non-consensual sex" is "rape" by any other name; "non-consensual sexual contact" is "indecent assault"; as ridiculous as it may (or may not) be, even kissing someone without their consent is criminal conduct. Such allegations, if prosecuted in the criminal justice system, would often involve Megan's Law implications where a convicted person may have to register as a sex offender.
The Department of Justice Weighs In
Not to base such discussions off of statistics, but according to Department of Justice statistics, 80% of the time school Title IX cases will not involve a criminal investigation and/or prosecution, be it prior to, during, or subsequent to the Title IX case.
Thankfully, the vast majority of accused students in Title IX cases will not find themselves in the unfortunate position of having to also face a criminal case, but one must be mindful of the potential implications. Because attorney Joseph D. Lento has also handled Title IX cases where there have been criminal investigations and/or prosecutions, he knows how a Title IX case must be handled to make certain that the accused student's interests and rights are protected on all fronts.
As an (important ) aside, there are many reasons why Title IX cases rarely involve a criminal investigation and/or prosecution. For example, it is much easier for an accuser to make a complaint at the school rather than having to engage with the police, detectives, prosecutors, judges, and the court system in general. In addition, law enforcement looks at such complaints and allegations through a different (and more narrow) lens. A question law enforcement would ask themselves is, "Will we be able to bring this case to trial and prove the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt?"
The Burden of Proof in a Title IX Case: 50% and a Feather
This is in contrast to the school disciplinary process, where at 99 out of 100 schools, the accused would merely have to be found responsible by a "preponderance of the evidence" standard - sometimes described as "50% and a feather" - which is a significantly lower burden of proof than used in criminal proceedings. In fact, it is the lowest burden of proof used in any kind of adjudicatory proceeding. All in all, law enforcement will almost always view the allegations through a narrow lens in contrast to the school and this works in an accused favor's.
In the rare instance that law enforcement rears its head, attorney Joseph D. Lento has engaged with law enforcement across the nation as necessary to protect an accused's interests and he has taken steps on clients' behalf to satisfy law enforcement that there is no criminal case to be pursued. Again, this is rare due to how infrequently law enforcement will become involved in Title IX cases, but it pays to have such backing when necessary.
Good News and Bad News
All in all, the good news is that Title IX cases will in almost all instances be addressed and resolved exclusively at the school level. The bad news is that the potential consequences can have severe short and long terms consequences - consequences that can negatively impact a young person literally for the rest of their life.
Internships, employment opportunities, the realistic ability to transfer to another school or to attend graduate or professional school, the opportunity to serve in the military as an officer - these opportunities can disappear in the blink of an eye if an accused student is found responsible in a Title IX case.
That is not to mention the immediate potential consequences that can come after a Title IX complaint is filed against a student and before the case has been decided. Such immediate consequences can include the imposition of a "no-contact order" (which can lead to further complications yet due to the dynamics involved on college campuses); an "interim" (temporary) suspension from school; suspension from playing NCAA sports (which can impact later eligibility); termination of one's employment on campus for students who, for example, work as resident advisors; relocation of student housing or a ban from student housing altogether; restrictions on classes and class schedules; being restricted from eating at the dining hall at times the complainant is present; and so forth.
Is Something at Stake? Absolutely!
When you first learn of a pending complaint or you are first notified by your school that you are subject to a Title IX investigation, a fundamental question that you must ask yourself, "Is something at stake?" If the answer is, "Yes," - you need an attorney.
Title IX Cases are a Different Animal
Because of what is at stake in Title IX cases, you not only need an attorney, you need an attorney who has the necessary experience in such matters because Title IX cases are a different animal.
They are not a criminal defense case and they are not an administrative law case. Although they may have elements at both, it is critical that your advisor understand what will be an effective approach both with regards to mounting the necessary defense, and as importantly, engaging with the necessary parties at the school - be it the Title IX office and Title IX coordinator, the Title IX investigator(s), the school's office of general counsel (the school's attorneys), campus police, the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights as applicable, and so forth.
As much as your advisor must understand what must be done to protect an accused student's interests and rights from the start of the process until its conclusion, your advisor must have done so enough times that it has become instinct.
Experienced Nationwide Title IX Defense Lawyer
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped countless students at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional level, and also professors and others in academia, through their most difficult times in life at more than a thousand colleges and universities across the United States. He has represented countless clients at colleges and universities across all corners of the United States - in Alaska, California, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Texas, and so forth - and he has also represented many clients who are studying or teaching abroad - for example, in Asia, Europe, the Mideast, and the Caribbean.
Mr. Lento is one of the most experienced attorneys in the nation in cases involving Title IX and other school-related concerns affecting undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, and also college and university professors and employees. Across the nation, he has represented countless clients in higher education and academia in all aspects of Title IX law, such as sexual misconduct allegations and charges and also discrimination under Title IX, in addition to appeals of actions taken by colleges and universities. Understanding that students' and others' academic and professional lives are on the line, Mr. Lento established a nationwide practice to address school-related injustice, and through more than a decade of hard-fought battles on behalf of his clients, he is preeminent in the field.
Experience and a Fighting Spirit - A Winning Combination
Having the requisite experience and resources to effectively and successfully represent students, professors, and others in academia, whether locally, nationally, and even internationally, is one of many strengths that Mr. Lento brings to the table and which allows his clients the best prospect of success.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento takes his clients' concerns personally, he fights until the final bell in an effort to ensure a fair process and a favorable outcome, and he has won countless students' cases across the nation - cases which are often legally complex and emotionally involved.
Contact Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today for help at 888-535-3686.