A Title IX accusation is serious business. You may think that because it's coming from your school, you don't have to worry about it—a slap on the wrist, and things will go on as normal. Nothing could be further from the truth. Title IX is a federal law, and in today's political climate, you can expect to be suspended if you're found responsible. More likely, you'll be expelled.
Meanwhile, defending yourself will be no easy proposition. Most schools side with accusers, even if that means denying the accused some fundamental due process rights. Even if they treat you fairly under the law, however, Title IX procedures can be difficult for even legal experts to follow.
Luckily, there's one right your school can't deny you: the right to an advisor. Even better, the law says you can select an attorney to serve as your advisor. It's important you know, though: not just any attorney will do. You're going to need someone who understands Title IX and who has experience defending students from allegations.
Title IX Procedures
How complicated is Title IX? Current government guidelines for how schools should handle cases run to over 550 single-spaced pages. Here's just a partial list of what those pages have to say.
- Your school must have a Title IX Coordinator. This person receives all complaints and decides whether or not to open an investigation.
- The Coordinator must inform you in writing if you're being investigated. This notice tells you the name of the complainant (your accuser) and the important details of the allegation.
- You have several important rights. Among these, you have the right to an advisor, to right to be presumed not responsible (innocent), and the right to review all evidence against you.
- Coordinators appoint an Investigator to look into all cases. This person separately interviews both you and the complaint. They'll also track down witnesses and gather any physical evidence.
- Your school should have a time limit for how long an investigation can last. At the conclusion of the investigation, the Investigator writes a detailed summary of their findings.
- Both you and the complainant have ten days to suggest revisions to the Investigative Summary.
- All college students have the right to defend themselves at a live hearing. Some high schools also hold hearings into Title IX allegations, but they are not required to do so.
- The Coordinator will set a time and date for the hearing and appoint one or more Decision Makers to oversee the proceedings.
- Hearings must be held live, but either side may request accommodations, like privacy screens or closed-circuit video.
- At the hearing, you'll present evidence and call witnesses to help prove your innocence. The complainant will also have a chance to present their case. You may also cross-examine each other and witnesses against you. However, only advisors may actually ask the questions.
- The Decision Maker(s) decides the case based on a legal standard known as “preponderance of evidence.” Less strict than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” this standard requires Decision Makers find you responsible if they believe it is “more likely than not” that you committed an offense.
- If you are found responsible, you can appeal this decision, but only under very limited circumstances, such as the discovery of new evidence or the demonstration of procedural mistakes. You should know, however, that the complainant can appeal a not-responsible finding.
You may notice as you read through this list that Title entitles you to a number of important due process protections, such as the right to an advisor and the right to review the evidence against you. Having a right isn't the same as knowing how to use it effectively, though. Only a Title attorney has the experience to help you take advantage of all your rights while also helping you avoid any missteps.
Choosing an Advisor
Of course, you don't have to hire a Title IX attorney to serve as your advisor. In fact, your advisor doesn't have to be an attorney at all. There are some important reasons, though, why hiring a Title IX attorney gives you the very best chance to defend yourself successfully.
- As you've already seen, Title IX is a complex law with a number of confusing rules. It provides important due process protections, but only someone who has studied the law will know how to use these to your advantage.
- Your case won't happen in a court of law. Instead, your hearing will probably take place in some basement seminar room. It won't be tried by a seasoned judge and a jury of your peers. Instead, some combination of faculty and students will decide your case. Title IX attorneys are comfortable in the courtroom, but unlike most other attorneys, they're equally comfortable trying cases on campus.
- Title IX cases involve unique concepts like “consent” and “preponderance of evidence.” Title IX attorneys understand the issues that surround these concepts and have the know-how to craft a defense strategy that takes them into account.
You should also remember that your attorney doesn't need to be from Nebraska. Your goal should be to find the most qualified attorney out there to take your case. How do you decide whether or not an attorney is qualified? By asking three simple questions:
- How many Title IX cases have they dealt with?
- What is their success rate with Title IX cases?
- What specific strategies will they use to handle your case?
The school will almost certainly have an attorney. So will the Complainant. Make sure you have the best representation you can possibly find.
Joseph D. Lento, Title IX Attorney
Joseph D. Lento is a defense attorney. That means he knows how to defend his clients from a wide range of charges. He's not just any defense attorney, though. Joseph D. Lento built his practice defending students. Joseph D. Lento has spent years studying Title IX. He's also experienced at taking on school faculty and administrators. He's helped hundreds of students protect their reputations and reclaim their academic careers. He can help you too.
If you or your child have been accused of Title IX sexual misconduct in Nebraska, don't wait. Contact the Lento Law Firm's Nebraska office today, at 888-555-3686, or use our automated online form.