You can't afford to take any sexual misconduct allegation lightly. The fact is, if your school has opened a Title IX investigation against you, your job is on the line. Even the most minor allegations these days can get you fired. And, if your school should find you “responsible” (guilty) for a violation, you'll find it difficult to get hired by other educational institutions.
It gets worse: you'll find that the judicial process at your school is weighted in favor of Complainants (accusers). Schools are all but required to investigate even the most spurious claims, they don't have to find you guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and the punishments far outweigh the nature of most offenses.
Here's the good news: current Title IX guidelines offer you some important tools for defending yourself. For example, you have the right to review all the evidence against you. This can be crucial in preparing your case. You also have the right to cross-examine the Complainant (accuser) and any witnesses against you. Maybe the most important tool to winning your case, though, is an attorney. Title IX gives you the right to an advisor, and this advisor can be a lawyer. Make sure you choose the right lawyer, though; make sure you hire a Title IX attorney.
What Is Title IX?
Here's an important question: Just what is Title IX anyway, and what does it have to do with your case? Title IX is a federal law passed in 1972. It prohibits all forms of sexual discrimination on college campuses. “Discrimination” has been interpreted by the courts to mean all types of “harassment” as well as any sexually-motivated violence. This includes stalking, dating violence, even rape. In short, if you're facing an allegation of sexual misconduct, your school is probably investigating it under rules set down by Title IX.
It's important, then, that you familiarize yourself with the particulars of this law. It would take far too long to explain everything here—the guidelines run to 550 pages—but we can give you the basics.
- Your school, like every school, has a Title IX Coordinator. This person uses the law to set school policy and makes decisions about which cases to investigate. Keep in mind, though, that the law penalizes schools that don't take sexual discrimination seriously, so in practice, Coordinators generally investigate every accusation.
- You're entitled to notice of any investigation against you. That notice must include details of the allegation and the name of the Complainant. It must also apprise you of your rights, such as the right to be treated the same as the Complaint, the right to unbiased investigators and decision makers, and the right to advanced notice of all official meetings and proceedings.
- The Coordinator cannot investigate you themselves. Title IX deems this a conflict of interest. Instead, they must appoint an Investigator to look into the matter. This person meets regularly with both sides in the case. In addition, they interview witnesses and collect any physical evidence.
- At the conclusion of the investigation, the Investigator writes an unbiased summary of their findings. Both sides have the right to question these findings. You should have ten days to review the document and suggest any revisions.
- Once the Coordinator receives the report, they schedule a live hearing. In addition, they choose one or more Decision Makers to preside over the proceedings. Again, neither the Coordinator nor the Investigator may serve as a Decision Maker.
- At the hearing, both sides present their case. You may offer arguments, introduce evidence, and question witnesses. You may also cross-examine the Complainant and any other witnesses against you. However, only advisors may do the asking. If you do not have an advisor, the school must provide you with one, but it isn't required to supply you with an attorney.
- Once the hearing is complete, the Decision Makers evaluate the evidence and render a judgment. In doing so, they use a legal standard known as “Preponderance of Evidence.” Similar to “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt,” but far less strict, it requires Decision Makers find you Responsible if they believe it is more than fifty percent likely you committed an offense.
- You have the right to appeal the hearing outcome. Typically, there's a time limit on doing this, and your school will likely have restrictions on the grounds for appeal. Usually, an appeal must be for the discovery of new evidence, a complaint about procedural mistakes, or a complaint about a biased Title IX official.
Knowing the important aspects of a Title IX case is a good start to building your defense. Keep in mind, though, that procedures are complicated, and only someone who has studied the law will know how to guide you through them.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
Facing an allegation of sexual misconduct is no easy task. The accusation itself can be upsetting. There's always the danger that it will become public knowledge or that you'll have to deal with media scrutiny. Your colleagues may doubt you; your students may treat you differently. All that's besides the fact of the investigation and hearing. The entire experience is guaranteed to be stressful.
You can handle it, though. Just know that it's going to require persistence and fortitude, and it's going to require professional help.
Joseph D. Lento is a fully-licensed, fully qualified defense attorney. He isn't the average defense attorney, though. He's what's known as a “Title IX attorney.” That means he's spent years studying Title IX. He knows its history; he monitors its politics; he keeps up with its frequent revisions. Just as important, Joseph D. Lento understands how schools operate. He knows what tactics they use, and he knows how to counter those tactics. Joseph D. Lento has helped hundreds of college employees get the justice they deserve, and he can help you.
If you've been accused of Title IX sexual misconduct in Minnesota, don't wait. Contact the Lento Law Firm's Minnesota office today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.