Colleges and universities take accusations of sexual misconduct extremely seriously, as well they should. Schools have an obligation to protect their students. No one should ever have to suffer a sexual assault, and all victims deserve justice.
It's important that schools protect all their students, though. That includes those who are accused of sexual misconduct. The right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty is a foundational principle in American jurisprudence, and anyone who has been charged with an offense as serious as sexual misconduct deserves their due process rights.
Unfortunately, schools don't always honor the rights of the accused. Often, they are so intent on punishing any and all offenders that they forget to make sure those offenders actually did the offending. If that's happened to you, it is important you find out all you can about just what you're facing. Defending yourself depends on it. In addition, though, you need to find out how you can get help. You can prove your innocence, but you're going to need help doing it.
Title IX Cases
Most sexual misconduct cases at the University of Central Oklahoma are dealt with as violations of Title IX, a federal law prohibiting all forms of sexual discrimination and harassment on college campuses. If you've been accused, then it's important you get to know Title IX. The law prescribes a very strict set of guidelines for how schools must treat you.
- Your school must have a designated Title IX Coordinator. Anyone at your school may report you for sexual misconduct. However, only a complainant (accuser) or the Coordinator can sign an official complaint against you.
- If you're being investigated for a Title IX violation, the Coordinator must provide you with written notice of the charges against you. This notice should include details about the allegation and the name of the complainant. It should also apprise you of your rights, including:
- The right to be presumed not responsible until proven responsible
- The right to an advisor, who may be an attorney
- The right to review all evidence against you
- The Coordinator appoints an Investigator to gather evidence. This Coordinator should meet separately with both you and the complainant. Your advisor may accompany you and can assist you in responding to questions. You also have the right to suggest witnesses and submit evidence to the Investigator.
- The Investigator has 60 days to complete the investigation. After this point, they must complete a written summary of their findings. Both you and the complainant have the right to review this document and suggest any revisions before it is forwarded to the Title IX Coordinator.
- Once they've received the Investigative Report, the Coordinator sets a time and date for a formal hearing. They will also appoint a panel of three Decision Makers to oversee the proceedings. The hearing must be held live, but either side may request accommodations such as privacy screens or the use of closed-circuit video.
- At the hearing, you have the right—through your advisor—to submit evidence and call witnesses to testify on your behalf. You may also cross-examine the complainant and any witnesses against you.
- At the conclusion of the hearing, Decision Makers determine whether or not you are responsible for a violation and assign any sanctions as necessary. In deciding the case, they use a legal standard known as “preponderance of evidence.” If they believe it is “more likely than not” that you committed an offense, they must find you responsible.
- You have a right to appeal Decision Makers' findings. However, you must file your appeal within five days of learning of the verdict, and you can only file an appeal for certain very limited reasons. These include the discovery of new evidence, a procedural irregularity, or bias on the part of a Title IX official.
Non-Title IX Cases
Most sexual misconduct cases follow Title IX procedures but not all. In 2020, the Trump administration issued new Title IX rules. Among other things, these narrowed the definitions of “discrimination” and “harassment” and limited schools' jurisdictional authority. For example, Title IX no longer covers any incidents that occur at off-campus sites. In response, many schools, including the University of Central Oklahoma, instituted new conduct policies designed to handle so-called non-Title IX sexual misconduct, an offense no longer covered under the law.
For the most part, the University of Central Oklahoma's non-Title IX investigation procedures works the same as its Title IX procedures. For instance, you still have the right to a presumption of innocence, the right to an advisor, and the right to review the evidence against you. The school will conduct a thorough investigation, and you'll be given an opportunity to defend yourself at a formal hearing.
There are, however, some small but important differences between Title IX and non-Title IX cases.
- Under Title IX, both respondents and complainants are entitled to support services such as medical care and counseling, scheduling changes, and course accommodations. OCU's non-Title IX policy makes no mention of services for respondents.
- Title IX cases are decided by a three-member panel of Decision Makers. Non-Title IX cases may be decided by a single individual.
- At Title IX hearings, your advisor may question witnesses directly. At non-Title IX hearings, all questions must be directed to the Decision Maker, who actually asks them.·
Joseph D. Lento, Sexual Misconduct Attorney
You're up against serious charges, and the outcome can change the entire course of your life. If the school finds you responsible for sexual misconduct, the minimum penalty is probably suspension. More likely, you'll be expelled. With an expulsion on your record, you'll find it difficult to enroll anywhere else. For all practical purposes, your academic career could be over, and that can have serious repercussions on your professional career.
Joseph D. Lento can help. Joseph D. Lento is a fully-licensed, fully-qualified defense attorney. He's a fierce litigator with years of experience in the courtroom. He specializes, though, in student sexual misconduct cases. He knows Title IX; he also knows how colleges and universities operate. Joseph D. Lento has helped hundreds of students just like you defend themselves from all types of charges, from online harassment and stalking to dating violence and rape. Whatever your charges, big or small, Joseph D. Lento is committed to making sure your school respects your rights and that you get the very best possible resolution to your case.
If you or your child has been accused of sexual misconduct, don't wait to act. The school is already building its case. You should be too. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.