When you are applying to colleges, you have one thing on your mind – graduating. You've worked so hard in high school to get into the college of your dreams, you never think anything could happen to get in your way of graduating from college and beginning your life. But for some students accused of sexual misconduct or another Title IX violation, those dreams can be ripped away in an instant. Suddenly, graduating isn't so certain. If you or someone you love has been accused of violating Title IX or some other act of sexual misconduct at Cal Poly, working with an experienced attorney advisor, like Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team, will ensure you receive the best possible outcome. Remember, you don't have to navigate this alone - the Lento Law Firm can help.
What is Title IX?
Title IX is a federal regulation that creates a specific standard that all federally funded colleges and universities must uphold when managing sexual discrimination and sexual violence on their campus. These standards 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
California Polytechnic State University – San Louis Obispo prohibits discrimination and sexual misconduct, which they define as sexual assault, sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, or stalking, with the goal being to not only ensure a safe setting for their campus community but to uphold the civil and constitutional rights of their faculty, staff, and students.
What Happens After an Allegation of Sexual Misconduct at California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo?
Every individual on campus, whether they are faculty, staff, or other students, is encouraged to report sexual misconduct if they believe they've witnessed it. Once a complaint is filed, the Title IX Coordinator meets with the complainant and sends notice to the accused student. The accused student and complainant are made aware that there are early resolution options available up until the hearing decision is made.
If the complainant chooses to continue, they will sign a formal complaint. It should be noted that even if the complainant does not wish to continue, the Title IX Coordinator has the power to file the formal complaint on their own if they believe a Title IX or sexual misconduct violation has occurred. Either way, when the formal complaint is filed, the investigation can begin.
During the investigation, the investigator will meet with the complainant, accused student, and any relevant witness, and will also begin collecting evidence. Both the complainant and accused student have the right to review the evidence and question the witnesses as well. At the end of the investigation, the investigator will send their report to both parties and the Hearing Officer who oversees the hearing.
At the hearing, the parties have the right to question one another and any witnesses presented. If a sexual misconduct or Title IX violation is found, the Hearing Officer will recommend sanctions that match the severity of the incident. Possible sanctions include loss of financial aid, disciplinary probation, denial of access to campus or specific clubs, suspension, or expulsion. It is important to understand that if a respondent is found responsible for sexual misconduct, the minimum sanction is often suspension, but certainly can be more severe.
At any time before the Hearing Officer's decision is made, the parties have the option to undergo an informal resolution process. But an informal resolution process is subject to the following:
- The parties have to agree to engage in it
- Any agreed-upon remedies and sanctions have the same force as if the Hearing Officer decreed them during the formal process
- The terms of the resolution are written and signed by both parties and the Title IX Coordinator
- The resolution is final and not appealable
Depending on your specific situation, an informal resolution process might be the right path to take. If you are unsure of what process to follow, an attorney advisor can help.
Appealing a Sexual Misconduct or Title IX Violation Decision
You have ten days from the date of the Decision Letter to appeal. The appeal must be in writing and based on at least one of the following grounds:
- The hearing outcome isn't supported by substantial evidence
- There were prejudicial errors that impacted the hearing outcome to such a degree
- New evidence is present that was not reasonably available during the hearing and would have affected the Hearing Officer's decision
- The sanction(s) imposed do not match the severity of the conduct
How an Attorney Advisor Can Help
Getting accused of a Title IX violation or another act of sexual misconduct, can have long-lasting consequences. For instance, while the case is being adjudicated and before possibly being found responsible, Cal Poly, as with most universities, will remove you from any classes, clubs, or social gatherings where the victim or complainant is also present. If this is the case for you, it will make having autonomy on campus nearly impossible. You may have to change dorms, alter your eating schedule, and even leave clubs or groups you've worked hard to be part of. Additionally, if you are found responsible and sanctioned with a suspension or expulsion, it will live on your transcripts forever. Every graduate application, and even some job applications, will require you to divulge the details of the incident. This is why working with an attorney advisor from the moment you learn of these accusations is vital. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm will ensure the university upholds your due process rights and create a defense that will help avoid or mitigate even the most severe of potential consequences. Call 888-535-3686 today to schedule a consultation.