If you've been accused of sexual misconduct by your college or university, the first thing you should know is that you're facing an uphill battle. This is unfortunately the case at Townson University and at most schools throughout the nation. It's never easy to deal with disciplinary investigations while you're trying to get to classes and keep up with homework. Current policies and procedures at most schools are complicated and difficult to navigate. The playing field will likely be uneven in favor of your accuser.
None of this means, though, that you can't successfully defend yourself. You can restore your reputation and get your academic career back on track. All you need is a little help and the right strategy.
Where do you start? First, know how your school treats sexual misconduct cases. Is there an investigation? Will you have a chance to offer your side of the story? What sanctions could you be facing? Once you have the answers to these questions and a qualified Title IX attorney by your side, you'll be ready to deal with whatever comes.
A Crash Course in Title IX
What makes sexual misconduct allegations on campus so difficult to fight?
The problems begin with Title IX. For decades, this federal law, passed in 1972, was the primary tool colleges and universities used to investigate and adjudicate sexually based offenses. While the law served an important function—protecting women from discrimination and harassment—it was not without its problems. Chief among these: it denied respondents many important due process rights. For instance, respondents weren't guaranteed the right to an official hearing. That meant they had no opportunity to confront their accusers or to cross-examine witnesses against them.
That situation changed in 2020. In May of that year, Donald Trump's Department of Education, under the direction of education secretary Betsy DeVos, issued brand new guidelines for how Title IX should be enforced. These officially went into effect in August, with the beginning of the fall 2020 semester.
Among the changes, the new rules narrowed the definitions of “harassment” and “discrimination,” restricted school jurisdictions in sexual misconduct cases, and created a standard set of procedures for investigations, procedures that restored many rights to the accused.
The new rules might have brought much-needed order and balance to the Title IX system. They didn't. Victims' rights organizations complained loudly. Most colleges and universities, upset at having their own authority undermined, joined the chorus. Some states attorney generals actually sued the administration to prevent the changes from taking effect.
When those measures failed, schools tried a different approach. They created new policies designed to circumvent Title IX when it didn't do what they wanted it to. Any case that no longer fit with the new Title IX criteria was now dealt with under student codes of conduct. Every school had its own procedures, and most of them once again stripped respondents of many important rights.
The situation hasn't improved any under a new presidential administration. Biden has promised to roll back Trump's changes, but no one is quite sure how that can happen. Meanwhile, the current Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights has issued directives further encouraging schools to undermine the new guidelines. When it comes to sexual misconduct, the situation is now more chaotic and confusing than ever.
Towson University Policies
At Towson University, as at other public institutions across the country, accusations that fit within the new, stricter definitions of sexual misconduct are dealt with using Title IX guidelines. Non-Title IX accusations are dealt with using similar rules, but there are important differences.
Title IX cases originate in the Title IX office. All other cases are investigated by the Office of Student Conduct and Civility Education (OSCCE).
Under Title IX, once an allegation is made, both the complainant and respondent are offered important support services, including access to medical care and counseling, the opportunity to make course schedule changes, and alternative course completion options. The Title IX coordinator appoints an investigator who meets with both the complainant and respondent and gathers evidence and witness testimony. At the conclusion of the investigation, this person submits a written report to the Title IX office. The coordinator then sets a hearing date.
At the hearing, respondents are allowed to question witnesses, including the complainant. The hearing must be live, though either side can ask that the proceedings take place via closed-circuit video. A panel of three persons, made up of faculty, staff, and students, weighs the evidence, decides responsibility, and assigns any sanctions. Students have the right to appeal the judgment, though only if new evidence arises or they can prove bad faith during the process. Importantly, throughout both the investigation and the hearings, students have the right to appoint an advisor to help them, and this advisor can be an attorney.
How is the school's own process different? Students accused by the OSCCE aren't necessarily entitled to the same support services as complainants. In addition, there is no official investigation. Instead, the school conducts “preliminary interviews” with both parties and any witnesses. Respondents are entitled to a hearing and to appoint an advisor. However, these hearings don't include all the same safeguards that Title IX hearings do. There is no guarantee that advisors may speak for the students they represent. Hearing panelists can reject witness questions. As with Title IX cases, though, students can appeal the final decision if new evidence arises, or they can demonstrate clear bias on the part of administrators.
Call Attorney Joseph D. Lento for Title IX and Sexual Misconduct Help
Sexual misconduct cases, however, they are dealt with by Towson University various policies, can have serious repercussions. Typically, the minimum sanction the school will assign if you are found responsible is suspension. More commonly, schools will expel you. Expulsions often come with a transcript notation about the nature of your offense. A notation like that can prevent you from enrolling anywhere else. Your academic career could effectively be over.
With so much at stake, and the system itself so difficult to understand, you need the very best representation you can find.
Joseph D. Lento is a Title IX attorney with years of experience representing students in all types of sexual misconduct cases. He's literally represented hundreds of students on matters from simple sexual harassment to sexual assault and even rape. There is no kind of sexual misconduct allegation that Attorney Lento and his team have not succesfully helped with many times before. Attorney Lento knows the law, but he also knows how to deal with school administrators. Whether you're trying to negotiate a fair resolution or fighting charges in a formal hearing, you need attorney Joseph D. Lento in your corner.
For more information, contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-555-3686, or use our automated online form.