Colleges and universities are responsible for creating a safe space free of sexual discrimination and harassment for all their students – including the students accused of committing these crimes. While universities have the best of intentions, many schools don't fight as fervently for the accused student as they do for the alleged victim. But by denying the due process rights of the accused student, they allow them to fall through the cracks of their disciplinary system.
If you or someone you love has been accused of sexual misconduct or a Title IX violation, it's important to educate yourself on how your school deals with these complaints. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and Lento Law Firm have years of experience helping students like yourself navigate these complex circumstances. They will create strategic defenses to ensure your university upholds your fundamental rights. Call 888-535-3686 today for help.
What is Title IX?
Title IX is a federal regulation that creates a specific standard that all federally funded colleges and universities must maintain when handling sexual discrimination and sexual violence accusations on their campus. These standards include:
- There needs to be clear and immediate procedures for sexual misconduct allegations
- There must be designated personnel to handle incidents of sexual violence
- In Title IX hearings, the standard of evidence should be the “more likely than not” standard or the “preponderance of evidence” standard
- Both parties involved have access to the same procedures surrounding the presence of advisors, access to appeals, and the presentation of the evidence (among other things)
- Protecting the victim and accused student from retaliation
Western Kentucky University expressly prohibits discrimination and sexual misconduct, which they define as sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, and/or stalking, with the goal being to uphold the dignity of its entire community.
What Happens After You are Accused of Sexual Misconduct at Western Kentucky University?
Once a report is submitted to the university, the Title IX Coordinator will review the complaint and determine if it falls within the purview of Title IX. This initial assessment is shared with both the complainant and the accused student. The Title IX Coordinator will then meet with both parties to determine if an informal resolution process is appropriate.
The informal resolution process at WKU is typically used for less serious offenses and only if both parties agree to it or if the accused student admits responsibility. If either party objects to this process or the matter is allegedly more severe in nature, the complaint will undergo an administrative review instead.
During the administrative review, the Title IX Coordinator will launch a more in-depth investigation into the accusations. This investigation will include further interviews with the complainant and the accused student, as well as any relevant witnesses and the gathering of documentary evidence. Once the investigation is complete, an investigation report will be delivered to both parties, who will have the opportunity to respond, and the Hearing Officer/Decision-Maker.
The Hearing Officer/Decision-Maker will review the report and the parties' responses and then allow the parties to make their cases before them. Either party may have an advisor present to help advocate on their behalf – presenting the case, conducting cross-examination of witnesses, and offering evidence to prove their points. After the Hearing Officer/Decision-Maker has heard both sides, they will deliberate on responsibility and any appropriate sanctions. Sanctions will range from a verbal warning to suspension or expulsion, but it will depend on the severity of the offense.
Appealing a Sexual Misconduct or Title IX Violation Decision
Once the Notice of Outcome is received, you have five business days to appeal the decision. An appeal must be made in writing to the Title IX Coordinator, who will appoint an Appeal Officer/Decision-Maker to review it.
Appeals can only be made on the following grounds:
- A procedural error or irregularity affected the outcome
- There is new evidence that was not reasonably available during the hearing that could affect the outcome
- The Title IX Coordinator, Investigator, or Hearing Officer/Decision-Maker had a conflict of interest or bias that affected the outcome
If your appeal is not based on one of the grounds above, it will be denied outright. Changes to the Hearing Officer/Decision-Maker's findings will only happen if there is a clear error and a compelling justification for the change. The Appeals Officer is not substituting their judgment for the Hearing Officer's.
Notice of the Appeals Officer/Decision-Makers decision will be sent to both parties. This decision is final and cannot be appealed further.
How an Experienced Attorney Advisor Can Help
The consequences associated with a sexual misconduct or Title IX violation can have long-lasting consequences. To start, WKU will separate you and the victim to prevent you from being in the same vicinity as one another. This sounds harmless but could result in you having to move dormitories or change study groups or social circles. It could also result in changes to your class schedule, effectively removing your autonomy on campus.
Additionally, if you are suspended or expelled, those sanctions will be memorialized on your transcripts. For every graduate application, professional employment, or government job application you fill out, you will have to explain the incident. Even if you are to overcome such sanctions, the consequences become particularly frustrating if you're dream is to become a doctor or lawyer, for example. You will be forced to explain yourself on not just your medical school or law school applications, but your medical licensing application or your bar exam application and character and fitness examinations.
But don't fret, there is still a lot that can be done to protect you from unnecessary consequences. To ensure the best possible outcome for your case, an attorney-advisor really should be present from the moment you learn of these accusations. Attorney advisors, like Attorney Joseph D. Lento, have the experience and fighting attitude to advocate effectively on your behalf. At the Lento Law Firm, we don't back down from a fight. Call 888-535-3686 today to schedule a consultation.