A sexual misconduct allegation from your college or university is a serious matter. The minimum penalty in such cases is usually suspension. Expulsion is far more likely. Not only does expulsion bar you from attending the school that expels you, but it could also bar you from attending any state school. In fact, if your school decides to include a transcript notation about the nature of your offense, you'll find it difficult to enroll anywhere. Your academic career could effectively be over.
If you've been accused, the most important thing you can do is to learn all you can about what you're up against. Research your school's judicial procedures. Find out how it defines “consent.” Look up phrases like “preponderance of evidence.”
You can start the process here.
With everything at stake, though, you're also going to need to know how to find a good attorney to help with your case. You need to be prepared for what you're heading into, but you also need to know that you can't handle it alone.
Title IX Cases
For a number of years, schools have dealt with virtually all accusations of sexual misconduct using rules set down by Title IX. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sexual discrimination in US educational programs. In short, if Eastern Kentucky University is investigating you, they're probably using Title IX guidelines. Here's what those guidelines have to say.
- Your school has a Title IX Coordinator. This person handles all allegations and decides whether or not to pursue them.
- If your school does decide to open a case against you, they must provide you with written notice. This notice will explain the charge, provide details of the allegation, and let you know what rights you're entitled to.
- Among your other rights, you are entitled to a presumption of “not responsible” (innocence). You are also entitled to choose an advisor to help you with the case. This advisor can be an attorney.
- Once you've been served notice, the Coordinator will appoint an Investigator to look into the facts of the case. This person will meet separately with both you and the complainant. They'll also collect any physical evidence and interview any witnesses.
- Once the investigation is concluded, the Investigator will write a full report of the evidence. Both sides have ten days to respond to this report before it is forwarded back to the Title IX Coordinator.
- Next, the Coordinator will set a time and date for a live hearing. At Eastern Kentucky University, the Coordinator also selects a Hearing Officer who will sit in judgment on the case.
- At the hearing itself, both you and the complainant can submit evidence and call witnesses to testify on your behalf. In addition, you are allowed to question each other, though you may only do so through your advisors.
- At the conclusion of the hearing, the Hearing Officer will decide the case using the “preponderance of evidence” legal standard. Essentially, if they believe it is “more likely than not” that you committed an offense, they must find you responsible. If that's the case, they will also assign you a sanction.
- You have the right to appeal the Hearing Officer's decision, but only under four very specific circumstances:
- Procedural error
- New evidence
- Conflict of interest
- Inadequate justification
- In addition, you should know that should you be found not responsible, the complainant also has the right to appeal the decision.
Non-Title IX Cases
EKU deals with most accusations of sexual misconduct using Title IX, but not all. That's because Title IX changed significantly in 2020. Specifically, the Trump administration narrowed the definitions of “discrimination” and “harassment” and limited school jurisdictional authority. This meant some kinds of misconduct were no longer covered under federal law. In response, many schools, including EKU, re-wrote their own disciplinary policies to cover these so-called “non-Title IX” offenses.
Unfortunately, because these offenses aren't covered under Title IX, colleges and universities don't have to employ Title IX policies when they investigate. In fact, schools are under no obligation to respect your due process rights at all.
How does EKU handle these cases?
If the proposed sanction in your case is suspension or expulsion, the investigation and hearing will work much as they do under Title IX. That is, the school will conduct an investigation and hold a hearing. You'll have the benefit of an advisor who may be an attorney. However, there are some key differences with Title IX cases:
- You don't have an automatic right to review all evidence against you
- Your case will be heard by the Equity Complaint Council (ECC) rather than a Hearing Officer
- Your advisor may speak only to you during proceedings.
- At the hearing, all questions are asked by the EEC
- You and the complainant may not question one another directly
If the proposed sanction is less than suspension, the Investigator has the authority to determine your level of responsibility. That is, you are not automatically entitled to a hearing. However, you must be granted a hearing if you contest the Investigator's findings, so in practice, you always have the option of a hearing.
Joseph D. Lento, Sexual Misconduct Attorney
By this point, you should have a sense of why it's so important to hire an attorney to help you with your sexual misconduct case. Even under the best circumstances, getting campus justice can be tricky. Title IX cases are far more complicated than other kinds of cases. That's before factoring in the possibility that you might be investigated under “non-Title IX” procedures.
Joseph D. Lento is a fully qualified, licensed attorney, a seasoned professional at developing defense strategies. He isn't just any attorney, though. He's a Title IX attorney. That means he specializes in school sexual misconduct cases. In fact, he's represented hundreds of students, just like you, helping them get justice in all types of cases. Joseph D. Lento knows the law. He also knows how to deal with university faculty and administrators. He spends every day fighting for student rights. Put him to work fighting for yours.
If you or your child has been accused of sexual misconduct, don't wait to act. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.