When you are notified of a Title IX violation or an act of sexual misconduct allegation, you might feel overwhelmed or confused. What steps do you take next? Who can you trust? Your university's priority is to deal with these accusations promptly so they can get back into Title IX compliance. Unfortunately, that means some accused students might get lost in the cracks of the grievance process. Attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento and his expert team at the Lento Law Firm work diligently to 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 the 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
Montana State University is dedicated to providing an academic environment free of discrimination or harassment, including sexual misconduct, which usually includes sexual assault, sexual exploitation, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.
What Happens After an Allegation of Sexual Misconduct at the Montana State University?
Montana State University expects all students, faculty, and staff to report any incident of discrimination or harassment immediately. In fact, university employees must report any information they receive about a Title IX violation or an act of sexual misconduct within 24-hours to the Title IX Coordinator.
Once the Title IX Coordinator becomes aware of such information, they will interview the complainant further. If they determine that there is enough preliminary information to warrant a formal complaint, they will encourage the complainant to file one. In some instances, the complainant may not want to pursue the formal complaint, but the Title IX Coordinator has the power to file it without them if they believe it is necessary.
After the formal complaint is filed, the Title IX Coordinator will launch an investigation. The investigator will provide notice to the accused student of the accusations and set up interviews with the complainant and the accused student, gather documentary evidence, and interview relevant witnesses.
When they finish the investigation, they will send the draft of their report to the complainant and accused student for their review. You will have ten business days to review the draft and provide feedback.
Once the investigator receives your feedback, they will deliver their final report, which will be an amalgamation of your feedback, the other party's feedback, as well as witnesses and evidence the investigator has found. The matter is then referred to the hearing officer.
During the hearing, both parties have equal opportunities to present their arguments, evidence, and witnesses. You will also have the opportunity to cross-examine the other party's witnesses and evidence. When both parties have been heard fully, the hearing officer will meet separately to determine responsibility and whether sanctions are necessary.
Possible sanctions might include:
- Disciplinary probation
- Workshop or program attendance
- Education project
- University housing transfer or removal
- Removal from specific courses or activities
- Banning from all or specific university activities and events
- Permanent no contact
- Expulsion or permanent separation
- Transcript hold
- Withholding of degree
- Revocation of degree
Appealing a Sexual Misconduct or Title IX Violation Decision at Montana State University
When you receive notice of the hearing officer's decision, the letter will also describe the steps you must take to appeal it. At Montana State University, the appeal must be filed within ten business days of receiving this decision. And appeals can only be filed on the following grounds:
- There was a procedural error or lack of adequate due process 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 Title IX Coordinator, the investigator, or the hearing officer had a conflict of interest or bias for or against the complainant or accused student that affected the outcome of the matter
Once an appeal is received, from either party, the Title IX Coordinator will issue a notice to the other party laying out specific steps they must take to comment on the appeal. This means that if you are found not responsible in the grievance process and the complainant appeals, you must be ready to defend yourself a second time.
The President or their designee will review the appeals and comments and determine whether or not the hearing officer's decision should be upheld, dismissed, or modified in some way. Whatever their decision, it is final and cannot be appealed later.
If the idea of filing an appeal, or defending yourself further after the grievance process, is overwhelming, and an attorney-advisor can help alleviate that burden.
How a Skilled Attorney-Advisor Can Help
Title IX violations or acts of sexual misconduct can have further consequences besides the sanctions the hearing officer might impose. For example, if you are suspended or expelled because of the alleged incident, the sanctions will be written on your school transcripts. This means that if you apply to another college to finish your education, or if you apply to graduate school, you will have to explain the notations on your applications, making it harder to get into the schools.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm are skilled attorney-advisors with years of experience helping college students in a similar situation. They will work diligently to mitigate any potential negative consequences and preserve your place on campus. Call 888-535-3686 today to schedule a consultation.