No college student ever expects to be charged with sexual misconduct. Hundreds are every year, though. The fact is, when sex is involved, misunderstandings happen, and it's easy to become the victim of one.
That's why it's important to take the time now, before you're facing an accusation, to think about how you would react if you should wind up accused. You need to know how your school deals with investigations and hearings, what kind of rights you're entitled to, and how to go about defending yourself.
Most importantly, though, you need to know how to find help. Because while you may not be expecting a sexual misconduct allegation, they are always serious. The minimum penalty you're likely to face is suspension, and the more probable sanction is expulsion. In this day and age, schools are often pressured into railroading students into signing confessions and agreeing to informal, and frequently unfair, arbitration. You need someone on your side, someone to protect your interests and make sure your rights are respected. You need a Title IX attorney.
Title IX Sexual Misconduct
If you don't already know about Title IX, it's important you find out as much as you can. It's a federal law that prohibits sexual discrimination and harassment on college campuses. It also contains over 550 pages worth of guidelines on how schools must go about investigating and adjudicating all allegations of sexual misconduct.
The law allows some flexibility in how schools write their own policies, but for the most part, it mandates how judicial processes should work. Here's what NDSU's Title IX Complaint Procedures have to say about how it interprets Title IX.
- North Dakota State University has a designated Title IX Coordinator. It is this person's job to set school policy regarding sexual discrimination and harassment and to decide which allegations warrant an official investigation.
- If you are being investigated, the Coordinator is required to provide you with written notice of the charges. This notice must include the name of the Complainant (alleged victim) as well as details of the allegation. In addition, it should apprise you of your due process rights under Title IX, including the right to an advisor, the right to be presumed “not responsible,” the right to review the evidence against you, and the right to advanced notice of all meetings and proceedings related to the case.
- The Title IX Coordinator is also responsible for appointing an Investigator. This individual meets with both sides in the case. They also collect physical evidence and interview any witnesses.
- The Investigator is further tasked with writing a full and unbiased summary of their findings once the investigation is complete. Both sides may request a revision to anything they disagree with in the report before it is forwarded to the Coordinator.
- Having received the Investigative Report, the Coordinator then sets a time and date for a live hearing.
- Unless there is a conflict of interest, the Decision Maker at NDSU Title IX hearings is either the Dean of Students or the Assistant Dean of Students. This official not only presides over all proceedings but ultimately decides the case based on what's known as the “Preponderance of Evidence” legal standard. Basically, they must find you responsible if they believe it is “more likely than not” that you committed an offense.
- At the hearing itself, both sides have an opportunity to present evidence, call witnesses, and make arguments. You also have the right to cross-examine one other and any witnesses against you. However, Title IX guidelines require that all cross-examination be conducted by advisors.
- Both sides also have the right to appeal the hearing outcome. However, you must do so within five days of receiving notice of that outcome. In addition, appeals are strictly limited and may only be filed for
- A procedural irregularity
- New evidence
- Bias on the part of a Title IX official
Non-Title IX Sexual Misconduct
Not all sexual misconduct allegations at NDSU are dealt with using Title IX. That's because, in 2020, the Trump administration made a number of changes to how the law is implemented, changes that narrowed how schools could respond to sexual misconduct incidents. So, for instance, off-campus misconduct is no longer covered under Title IX.
Many schools, including the North Dakota State University, took steps to ensure that these so-called “Non-Title IX” incidents would not simply fall through the cracks. Now, for example, NDSU has both a Title IX policy and a broader “Sexual and Gender-Based Sexual Misconduct Policy.”
For now, those two policies contain exactly the same set of procedures. Investigations and hearings happen in the same way for both types of cases, students are entitled to the same rights, and appeals work the same way. It is worth noting, however, that with changes in presidential administrations, Title IX can change again. Only by closely following the politics surrounding the law is it possible to anticipate and respond effectively to these changes.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
It should already be clear by this point why you need an attorney if you're facing sexual misconduct charges. The law is complex, and it is ever-changing. The penalties are severe and judicial processes at your school aren't set up in your favor. You don't want just any lawyer, though. A local or family attorney won't have the background and skills to provide you with effective representation.
Joseph D. Lento is a fully-qualified defense attorney. He's not just a defense attorney, though. Joseph D. Lento is what's known as a Title IX attorney. That means he specializes in handling campus sexual misconduct cases. Joseph D. Lento has dedicated his career to fighting for student rights. Over the years, he has handled hundreds of cases for students just like you, making sure they're treated fairly and that they get the justice they deserve.
If you or your child has been accused of sexual misconduct, don't wait to act. The school is already preparing its case. You should be too. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.