When you've worked so incredibly hard to get into college, you never expect your dreams to be ripped away from you over a sexual misconduct or Title IX violation allegation. In fact, any type of misconduct accusation can feel extremely jarring. You may not know who you can trust or what your next steps should be. Students accused of these acts face hefty consequences that range from probation to complete expulsion from school.
But the important thing to remember is all universities allow their students the ability to work with an advisor who will advocate on their behalf. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have helped hundreds of students across the country who have found themselves in the same position you are in now. Attorney Lento has a fighter's attitude and the professional experience to guarantee you the best possible outcome. You don't have to go at it alone; Lento Law Firm can help.
What is Title IX?
Title IX is a federal regulation that creates a specific standard that all federally funded colleges and universities must uphold when managing sexual discrimination and sexual violence on their campus. These standards include:
- Clear and immediate procedures for sexual misconduct allegations
- Designated personnel to handle instances of sexual violence
- In Title IX hearings, the standard of evidence should be “more likely than not” or “preponderance of evidence”
- Both parties involved should have access to the same procedures – advisors, appeals, and presentation of the evidence
- Retaliation protection
Appalachian State University is devoted to creating an academic environment free of sex-based misconduct. They define sex-based misconduct as sexual harassment or sex-based discrimination of a person based on their gender, gender expression, gender identity, sex, or sexual orientation, including cases concerning sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, or stalking.
What Happens After an Allegation of Sex-based Misconduct at Appalachian State University?
Once the university receives a complaint of sex-based misconduct, the Title IX Coordinator will assess the complaint and notify the accused student of the next steps. At Appalachian State University, the Title IX Coordinator may decide, based on the severity of the allegations, that the accused student should be removed from campus immediately. Their priority is obviously to protect their reputation, and subsequently, the victim, but remember, this emergency order can be appealed. The appeal must be made within five business days of receiving notification.
After the initial assessment of the complaint, the Title IX Coordinator will ask the complainant if they want to file a formal complaint. If the complainant declines, the matter will stop there. But if they wish to proceed, or the Title IX Coordinator determines there is enough preliminary evidence that a formal complaint must be entered, the Title IX Coordinator will launch a more formal investigation.
There are only certain instances when a Title IX formal complaint may be dismissed, including:
- If the alleged conduct does not fall under “prohibited conduct” as defined by Title IX
- The conduct didn't occur in an educational program or activity
- The conduct didn't occur against someone in the U.S.
- When the formal complaint was filed, the complainant wasn't enrolled (or trying to enroll) in an education program or activity
During the investigation, the investigator will interview both the complainant and the accused student, as well as any relevant witnesses. They will also begin gathering documentary evidence that might explain the accusations surrounding the incident a bit better. Investigations should be completed within 60 days of the formal complaint being filed.
Once the investigation is complete, the investigator will prepare an investigative report, which will be shared with both parties. You will be given an opportunity to respond to the information detailed in the report. This report, and your responses, will be turned over to the Hearing Panel.
At the hearing, the panel will allow both parties to present their cases, including presenting witnesses and evidence, as well cross-examination. When the hearing ends, the panel will deliberate on whether the complainant presented a preponderance of evidence to prove that the accused student committed an act of sex-based misconduct. They will also determine what sanctions are appropriate.
Possible sanctions may include:
- Letter of concern
- Disciplinary warning
- Community service with a non-profit
- Change in current housing assignment
- Loss of campus housing
Appealing a Sexual Misconduct or Title IX Violation Decision
Either party has the right to appeal the hearing panel's decision. Appeals must be made in writing, within five business days of receiving the panel's decision, to the Title IX Coordinator or their designee.
The appeal must include the reason for the appeal, as well as any supporting evidence, and can only be made on the following grounds:
- A procedural irregularity affected the outcome of the case
- There is new evidence that wasn't reasonably available at the time of the hearing that could affect the outcome of the case
- The Title IX Coordinator, Investigator, or Decision Makers had a conflict of interest or bias that affected the outcome of the case
A trained appellate officer will review the appeal and determine whether the hearing panel's decision should be upheld, modified, or remanded for further review. Whatever their decision, it is final and cannot be appealed further.
How the Lento Law Firm Can Help
As stated above, sexual misconduct and Title IX violation allegations can carry with them hefty consequences that could reach beyond the boundaries of your college campus. For instance, if you are found responsible for the act and punished with suspension or expulsion, it will be noted on your transcripts. When you apply to graduate school or professional school, including medical or law school, you will be required to explain the incident on your application and interviews. But don't fret, there are several ways to avoid mitigate these negative consequences. Attorney Joseph D. Lento's strategic defense and unmatched experience will ensure your future is protected. Call 888-535-3686 today to schedule a consultation. We are here to help.