Sexual misconduct is among the most serious charges a college student can face. How serious is it? If you're found responsible for (guilty of) an offense, the minimum penalty will almost certainly be suspension. The more likely penalty in these cases is expulsion, and expulsion almost always includes a transcript notation about the precise nature of your offense.
Given what's at stake, it's no surprise that the federal government has gone to great lengths to make sure that accused students are treated fairly and given every chance to demonstrate their innocence. The problem is the procedures for doing so can be extremely complicated. The rules and guidelines that govern university sexual misconduct cases run to some 550 pages, and that doesn't include the many presidential memorandums and judicial opinions that offer additional guidance on how they should be implemented.
The bottom line is you do have rights, and you can use these to successfully defend yourself, but you probably can't do it by yourself. You need someone on your side who's studied the law and who has experience representing student clients in these cases. You need a Title IX attorney.
Title IX and Sexual Misconduct
As noted in the school's Policy Regarding Sexual Harassment and Sexual Misconduct, all sexual misconduct cases at Park University, MO are handled under Title IX. What is Title IX?
Title IX is a federal law passed in 1972 that prohibits all forms of sexual discrimination and harassment on college and university campuses. In addition to this general prohibition, the law also provides strict rules about how schools must go about investigating and adjudicating allegations.
The law provides respondents (the accused) with a number of important rights and sets up a fair process for reaching a just outcome. That process can be difficult to navigate, however.
- Most aspects of your case will be subject to decisions made by your school's Title IX Coordinator. For instance, all allegations are directed to the Coordinator's office, and they make decisions as to which ones warrant a full investigation.
- If you are being investigated, you are entitled to a Notice of the Charges. In addition to making you aware of the situation, the notice should provide you with the name of the Complainant and the details of the allegation itself, information vital to building your defense.
- In addition to Notice of the Charges, Title IX gives you several other important rights:
- The right to an advisor, who may be an attorney
- The right to equal treatment to the Complainant in all matters
- The right to a presumption of Not Responsible (innocent) until proven Responsible
- The right to review all evidence in the case
- The right to investigators and decision-makers who are free of bias
- The right to advanced notification of all meetings and hearings
- The Coordinator is also responsible for appointing an Investigator to the case. This investigator meets separately with both sides. In addition, they collect physical evidence such as pictures, video, dorm logs, and texts. They also interview any potential witnesses to the alleged incident.
- Ultimately, the Investigator compiles all their findings into an Investigative Report. Both sides have ten days in which to examine the initial draft of this report and suggest revisions before it is forwarded to the Title IX Coordinator.
- Once they've received the Investigative Report, the Coordinator initiates the second phase of the case: a live, formal hearing. They set the time and date for this hearing and appoint one or more Decision Makers to preside over it.
- The hearing is your chance to defend yourself by presenting evidence and calling witnesses to testify on your behalf. You also have the right to question the Complainant and any witnesses against you. Only advisors may ask these questions, however.
- At the conclusion of the hearing, Decision Makers must determine whether or not you are responsible for a Title IX violation. They rely on a legal standard known as “Preponderance of Evidence.” That standard requires they find you Responsible if they believe it is “more likely than not” that you committed an offense. Note that this is a far weaker standard than “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.”
- You have the right to Notice of the Outcome and to appeal that outcome. However, you must file your appeal within ten days, and grounds for appeal are strictly limited to
- the discovery of new evidence that has a direct bearing on the case outcome
- procedural errors that may have affected the outcome
- bias on the part of a Title IX official
Finally, you should know that the law changed significantly in 2020. Among the changes, the federal government decreed that off-campus incidents would no longer be subject to Title IX investigations or hearings unless they meet certain very strict criteria. Some schools took exception to these changes and instituted their own policies to cover what are now known as “Non-Title IX” accusations.
Park University, MO has chosen instead to investigate only those cases that qualify as Title IX offenses. However, the university reports all other incidents to law enforcement as appropriate.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
It's never a good idea to try and handle a sexual misconduct charge on your own. In fact, even most attorneys lack the specific experience to handle such cases effectively. You need a Title IX attorney.
Joseph D. Lento is a fully-licensed defense attorney. He's not just a defense attorney, though. Joseph D. Lento is what's known as a Title IX attorney. What does that mean? It means Joseph D. Lento built his career defending students just like you from sexual misconduct charges. He has studied the law and knows it inside and out. It means Joseph D. Lento knows how schools operate. He knows the tactics they often use, and he knows how to counter those tactics. Most importantly, though, it means Joseph D. Lento is on your side. He understands what you're going through, and he'll do everything he can to make sure you're treated fairly and that you get the best possible resolution to your case.
If you or your child has been accused of sexual misconduct, don't wait to see what the school or the other side will do. Begin building your case now. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.