If you've been accused of sexual misconduct, you may be going through a lot of complex and even competing emotions right now. You're probably feeling angry and frustrated. Maybe you feel betrayed. The dominant emotion, though, is likely to be confusion. You've got a lot of questions. What exactly are you facing? Will there be an investigation? Will you have a chance to clear your name? What might become of your academic future?
Take a deep breath. Now, let it out.
Without question, you are facing an uphill battle, and you need to take that battle seriously. You're a college student, though. You're smart, capable, and resilient. You can survive this.
And you don't have to fight this battle alone. You have the right to choose an advisor to help you. What's more, that advisor can be an attorney. Make sure you pick the right attorney. You need someone who's knowledgeable about and experienced with Title IX.
Title IX Cases
Most sexual misconduct cases at the University of Nebraska, Omaha—and indeed, at all other colleges and universities in the US—are dealt with as Title IX violations. Title IX is a federal law passed in 1972. It outlawed sexual discrimination and harassment in all publicly-funded educational programs.
The most current version of the law also includes a set of guidelines that dictate how schools must handle allegations. The full text of those guidelines runs to some 550 pages. Here's just some of what you can expect.
- Your school must have a designated Title IX Coordinator. Anyone may report sexual misconduct, but only a Complainant (alleged victim) or the Coordinator may sign an official complaint against you.
- The Coordinator is required to provide you with written notice of all investigations. This notice should provide details about the allegation as well as the name of the Complainant. It should also explain your rights under the law. Among these, you have the right to an advisor, who may be an attorney. You have the right to be presumed “not responsible.” You have the right to review all evidence against you. You also have the right to submit evidence and the names of any relevant witnesses.
- The Coordinator appoints an Investigator to look into the case. This person meets separately with both you and the Complainant. They also gather any physical evidence and interview witnesses.
- Once the investigation is complete, the Investigator completes a written summary of their findings. Both you and the Complainant have the right to review this document and suggest revisions if you feel it misrepresents you.
- Once the Coordinator receives the Investigative Report, they set a date and time for an official hearing and choose one or more Decision-Makers to handle the proceedings.
- The hearing itself must be held live. However, either side may request that it be held via closed-circuit video.
- At the hearing, you have the right to submit evidence and call witnesses on your behalf. In addition, you may—through your advisor—cross-examine the Complainant and any witnesses against you. The Complainant has the same rights.
- At the conclusion of the hearing, the Decision-Maker(s) determine whether or not you are responsible for a violation. In making this determination, they use what is known as the “preponderance of evidence” standard. In simple terms, they must find you responsible if they believe it is “more likely than not” that you committed an offense.
- Decision-Makers also assign a sanction appropriate to the offense.
- Both sides have the right to appeal the hearing findings (verdict). However, you must do so within seven days of the decision. In addition, UNO only allows you to appeal for certain very specific reasons. These include:
- Procedural irregularity
- Discovery of new evidence
- Conflict of interest or bias on the part of a case official
- Arbitrary or capricious sanction
- Finding unsupported by the evidence
It is worth knowing that not every sexual misconduct allegation at UNO is treated as a Title IX violation. This has to do with the law's recent history. In 2020, the Trump administration modified the law, issuing what it called the “Final Rule.” Among other changes, the Final Rule narrowed the definitions of “harassment” and “discrimination” and limited schools' jurisdictional authority. Some misconduct that had previously been treated as a legal violation was no longer covered under the law.
Many schools, including UNO, adopted new policies to handle these so-called “non-Title IX” incidents. However, at UNO, both kinds of sexual misconduct are ultimately treated using the same set of procedures. In other words, you may be charged under Title IX or under the school's Student Code of Conduct. The above rules apply in either case.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help
Everything is at stake in a sexual misconduct investigation. The minimum penalty you're likely to receive if you're found “responsible” is suspension. More probably, you'll be dismissed from UNO. Judicial procedures are complicated, and you won't be afforded the same due process rights you would get in a court of law. In short, you need help. The law and UNO policy afford you the opportunity to get that help. Make sure you take advantage of it by hiring a qualified Title IX attorney to serve as your advisor.
Joseph D. Lento is a qualified, experienced defense attorney who specializes in defending students from sexual misconduct charges. He's spent years studying Title IX. He knows its history; he knows its politics; he understands the impact it has had on the evolution of “non-Title IX” cases. At the same time, Joseph D. Lento is familiar with campus judicial procedures. He's used to the tactics colleges and universities employ, and he's adept at responding to them. Joseph D. Lento is a fighter. He's determined to make sure you're treated fairly and that you get the justice you deserve.
If you or your child has been accused of sexual misconduct, don't wait to act. The school is already preparing its case. You should be too. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.