When you start college, you never expect to find yourself fighting to stay before you graduate. But if you are accused of a Title IX violation or another act of sexual misconduct, you run the risk of being expelled, removed from your dormitory, or placed on probation. This experience can be overwhelming and confusing. Who can you turn to for help? What steps do you take next? Attorney-advisors, like those at Lento Law Firm, work meticulously to protect accused students from preventable sanctions. They will gather relevant evidence, interview witnesses, and create a strategic defense that will not only guarantee the best possible outcome for your case but ensure the administration upholds your due process rights. Call Lento Law Firm today.
What Is Title IX?
Title IX is a federal regulation that requires all federally funded colleges and universities to maintain certain standards when managing sexual discrimination and sexual violence accusations on their campus. These requirements 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
Florida Southwest University prohibits discrimination and harassment, including sexual misconduct, which usually includes sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.
What Happens After an Allegation of Sexual Misconduct at the Florida Southwest University?
Usually, once the university becomes aware of a sexual misconduct or a Title IX violation accusation, the Title IX Coordinator will meet with the complainant to learn more. If they believe a formal complaint is warranted, they will encourage the complainant to file one. Sometimes though, a complainant does not wish to pursue a formal complaint, but if the Title IX Coordinator believes one should be made, they have the power to file it themselves. But this does not make them a party to the hearing.
After the formal complaint is filed, the Title IX Coordinator will typically appoint an investigator to interview both the complainant and the accused student, as well as gather evidence and question witnesses. Once they have completed their draft of the report, they will send it to both parties for review. Depending on the letter they send with the draft, you will have a specific number of days to review and comment on the information within. These comments allow the investigator to search every possible angle of the issue before filing their final report with the decision-maker. The final report will also be delivered to both parties. This allows you to know exactly what issues are being adjudicated during the hearing.
The decision-maker will call the parties in for a hearing, giving them ample time to find an attorney-advisor and create a strategic defense on their behalf. Both parties will be able to present their arguments, call witnesses, and exhibit their evidence. They will also be allowed to cross-examine the other party's witnesses and evidence. When both parties have been heard fully, the decision made will determine whether or not the accused student is responsible, beyond a preponderance of the evidence, of a Title IX violation or an act of sexual misconduct. They will also determine which sanction to impose on the accused student. Sanctions tend to range from a warning and probation to suspension and expulsion.
Appealing a Sexual Misconduct or Title IX Violation Decision at Florida Southwest University
At most universities across the country, parties to a Title IX or sexual misconduct hearing have the option to appeal the decision maker's determination. Instructions for things like submissions dates, grounds for appeal, and information allow are usually found within the decision letter. Typically, parties have a short amount of time to get their appeals in, and grounds for appeals are:
- There was a procedural error that affected the outcome
- There is new evidence available now that was not reasonably available during the hearing or investigation that might affect the outcome of the matter
- The sanctions are too severe for the violation
- The Title IX Coordinator, investigator, or decision-maker had a conflict of interest or bias for or against the complainant or accused student that affected the outcome of the matter
The exact details differ from school to school, but usually, the appeal decision-maker must decide whether to uphold the original decision, amend it in some way, or dismiss it all together. At some schools, they will have the issue reviewed again. Whatever their decision, it generally cannot be appealed further.
How a Skilled Attorney-Advisor Can Help
Florida Southwest University's Title IX violation or sexual misconduct grievance processes can have long-lasting consequences. For instance, if you are found responsible and punished with a suspension or expulsion, those punishments will be noted on your transcripts. When you go to apply to a new college to finish your undergraduate degree or apply to graduate school to continue your education, you will have to explain those notations to every admissions officer you encounter. Further, sanctions can lead to students feeling isolated and lost, which can lead to more difficult mental health struggles down the line.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and Lento Law Firm are skilled attorney-advisors with years of experience helping college students protect themselves against superfluous sanctions. They will work tirelessly to protect your right to graduate from FSW. Call 888-535-3686 today to schedule a consultation.