Sexual misconduct is among the most serious charges a college student can face. Everything is at stake. The minimum penalty most universities assign in such cases is suspension. More likely, your school will do everything it can to expel you.
With so much on the line, you'd think that schools would be especially careful about how they investigate these kinds of allegations. The reality is universities aren't set up for law enforcement. Physics professors are great at teaching physics but less great at interpreting the law. As a result, schools make mistakes, sometimes lots of mistakes. They misapply statutes, they jump to conclusions, they deny students due process.
If you've been accused of sexual misconduct at Seminole State College, how do you protect yourself? Your first job is to find out all out can about how your school treats sexual misconduct. Yes, it may sound trite, but knowledge really is power. When you know exactly what procedures you'll be facing, you have a much better chance of successfully defending yourself.
If no one has mentioned Title IX to you yet, they will. For many years, Title IX was the way schools dealt with virtually all sexual misconduct cases, and it's still used in the majority of cases. Originally passed in 1972, Title IX was designed to reduce sexual discrimination and harassment on college campuses. It requires every school that receives federal funding to investigate and adjudicate all instances of sexual misconduct, from simple classroom harassment to sexual assault and rape, and it lays out the guidelines for doing so.
First, all schools, including Seminole State College, must have a Title IX Coordinator who handles all accusations. Official complaints originate with this individual.
Once the Title IX Coordinator has opened an investigation, they have an obligation to notify you of the charges. As part of this notification, you should also be apprised of some important rights. For example, you have the right to be presumed innocent until you've been proven responsible. You also have the right to appoint an advisor to help you with your case. This advisor can be an attorney.
At Seminole State College, the investigator has 40 days to interview the two parties, collect any physical evidence, and talk with witnesses. Then, they are tasked with writing an objective report that summarizes their findings. Both sides have ten days to suggest revisions to this report before it is submitted, finally, to the Coordinator.
A hearing occurs at Seminole only if one side requests it. Assuming this happens, though, the Coordinator sets a date and selects a decision-maker to oversee the proceedings.
At the hearing, you are represented by your advisor. Through this advisor, you have the opportunity to present evidence, call witnesses, and cross-examine your accuser and any witnesses against you.
Once the decision-maker has heard all the evidence, they must decide whether or not you are responsible for a Title IX violation. In doing this, they use the “preponderance of evidence” standard. Less strict than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, “preponderance of evidence” only requires that the decision-maker be just over fifty percent certain you committed the violation. If you are found responsible, the decision-maker also recommends sanctions.
Finally, you have the right to appeal the hearing findings. You must do so within five days, and you may only appeal for three very specific reasons:
- A procedural irregularity
- The discovery of new evidence
- A conflict of interest of bias on the part of one or more officials
Non-Title IX Sexual Misconduct
Title IX underwent important changes in 2020, and as a result, many colleges, including Seminole State, created supplemental policies to address so-called “non-Title IX sexual misconduct.” Often these cases provide fewer due process protections to respondents.
The process for “Resolving Discrimination Concerns” at Seminole goes through the school's Equity Officer rather than the Title IX Coordinator. This official is almost solely responsible for the case. That is, they investigate the incident, determine responsibility, and decide what “corrective actions” the school should take. Under the school's non-Title IX policy, you are not entitled to a hearing. Instead, the Equity Officer's decisions are “final” and may only be appealed if they did not comply with procedure or if new evidence should arise.
In addition, this policy makes no mention of student rights to a presumption of innocence. It doesn't discuss the right to an advisor. In describing the investigative process, it directs the Equity Officer to “secure information from the complainant” but doesn't reference respondents. In short, while the Title IX process isn't perfect, if you're charged under the non-Title IX policy, you face an even more uphill battle to prove your innocence.
Joseph D. Lento, Title IX Sexual Misconduct Attorney
Sexual misconduct cases aren't easy. The procedural rules are complicated and often favor complainants. University bureaucracy can be an absolute minefield. And, at the end of it all, you face the possibility of expulsion.
Here's the good news: you can prevail if you're smart and if you choose the right advisor to help.
Joseph D. Lento is an attorney who specializes in Title IX law and in university justice. He's defended hundreds of students across the United States just like you from both Title IX and non-Title IX charges.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento understands how schools operate. He spends every day talking with faculty members and administrators, so he knows the language and he knows the processes. He's particularly adept at negotiating settlements when that's called for. Make no mistake, though: Joseph D. Lento is tough as nails. He's on your side and determined to defend your rights. He'll get you the best possible settlement in your case.
If you or your child has been accused of sexual misconduct by your college or university, don't try to handle it yourself. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or by using our automated online form.