You're a university employee. What does that mean? It means you've chosen to dedicate your life to educating young people. You work long hours. You get little respect and little pay. In fact, if you're a teaching assistant you may not get paid at all beyond free tuition.
The one benefit you might expect is that your school would take up for you if you should be accused of sexual misconduct. In fact, the opposite is true. In today's political climate, no university can afford to look soft on alleged offenders, especially if they're employees. The moment you are charged, you can expect your school to turn on you and bring all its resources to bear on finding you responsible (guilty) and making sure your career in education is over.
In short, you're facing a difficult challenge. You don't have to deal with it by yourself, though. The law entitles you to select an advisor, someone to help you prepare your case and represent you in meetings and hearings. In fact, you're allowed to choose an attorney to serve as your advisor. You want to pick the right attorney, though. A local or family attorney won't do. You need what's known as a Title IX attorney.
A Brief History of Title IX
Most sexual misconduct allegations at South Carolina schools are dealt with using a federal law: Title IX.
When most people hear “Title IX,” they usually think about college athletics. That's because the law has been used to force schools to provide equal sporting opportunities to women. The law's purpose, though, is broader. Title IX reads,
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
In fact, in the fifty years since the law was passed, “discrimination” has been taken to mean any kind of “harassment,” including such serious offenses as stalking, sexual assault, and rape. Despite the headlines, then, the law these days is more often used to investigate and adjudicate sexual misconduct than to regulate how much money the women's soccer team gets.
How Title IX Works
Beyond its general prohibition against sexual discrimination, Title IX also contains a lengthy set of guidelines for just how schools should go about handling accusations. The good news is, these guidelines guarantee respondents some important due process rights. The bad news is, the full text of these guidelines runs to some 550 pages, and it can be difficult to figure out just what rights you do and don't have.
Here are the highlights:
- Official complaints originate with your school's Title IX Coordinator. Your school may require all faculty and staff to report any knowledge of sexual misconduct. However, only a Complainant (alleged victim) or the Coordinator can sign a complaint.
- Title IX requires your school to provide you with written notification if you are under investigation. This notice should explain the charges against you and identify your accuser
- You should also be apprised of your rights under Title IX, including
- The right to be presumed “not responsible” (innocent) until proven “responsible” (guilty)
- The right to an advisor, who may be an attorney
- The right to submit evidence and suggest witnesses
- The right to review all evidence against you
- The right to further notice of future developments in the case
- The Coordinator appoints an Investigator, who is meant to collect facts and evidence in an unbiased manner.
- At the conclusion of the investigation, the Investigator submits a written summary of their findings. Again, this summary should not draw any conclusions. Furthermore, both sides have the right to review this document and suggest revisions.
- Once the Coordinator receives the Investigative Report, they set a time and date for an official, live hearing. They also select one or more Decision Makers to preside over the case.
- At the hearing, you may present evidence and call witnesses. In addition, Title IX gives you the right to cross-examine the Complainant and any other witnesses against you. The Complainant, of course, has these same rights.
- At the conclusion of the hearing, the Decision-Makers determine whether or not you are responsible for a Title IX violation. In doing this, they use a legal standard known as “preponderance of evidence.” Less strict than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” “preponderance of evidence” requires Decision-Makers find you responsible if they believe it is “more likely than not” that you committed an offense
- You have the right to appeal the hearing outcome should you lose. However, your school will likely put a time limit on filing an appeal, and they will limit your reasons for filing. Generally, you can only appeal your case if you uncover new evidence, find that an official was unfairly biased against you, or demonstrate a procedural error occurred. It's also important to know that the Complainant can appeal the hearing outcome as well.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
If you've been charged with a Title IX offense, it's no exaggeration to say that your career is on the line. It's not just that you could lose your job; you'll find it difficult if not impossible to find another school to hire you once you've been dismissed for sexual misconduct. Procedures are complex, and the school doesn't have your best interests at heart. The bottom line is, you're going to need all the help you can get.
The very best help you can get? A Title IX attorney, someone who knows the law and has experience helping clients defend themselves against charges.
Joseph D. Lento is a fully licensed, fully qualified defense attorney. He built his practice, though, defending clients from Title IX allegations. He's spent his entire career studying the law. He knows it's history and how it's changed over time. He keeps track of the political shifts that govern its implementation. Whether you've been charged with simple verbal harassment or with date rape, Joseph D. Lento knows how to use the law to your advantage.
If you've been accused of sexual misconduct at a South Carolina college or university, trust an attorney with a proven record of defending clients in Title IX cases. Contact the Lento Law Firm's South Carolina office today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.