You have taken all the tests, studied for hundreds of hours, and taken countless college campus tours, all while continuing to keep up your senior year grades. College is your dream, and you have worked so hard to achieve that dream. But if you are accused of sexual harassment or violating Title IX at Palm Beach State College, that dream can be shattered in the blink of an eye. You might feel overwhelmed and anxious, not sure who you can trust or where you can turn. But don't worry. There are several steps you can take to help guarantee the best possible outcome for your case, including working with an attorney-advisor. Attorney-advisors, like attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm, have worked with hundreds of college students across the country accused of sexual harassment. You are not alone in this - 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
Palm Beach State College is committed to fostering and maintaining an academic environment that is free of discrimination, harassment, sexual misconduct, and retaliation. The institution defines sexual harassment as sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, non-verbal, or physical conduct that is sexual in nature.
What Happens After an Allegation of Sexual Misconduct at Palm Beach State College?
All individuals on campus who are subject to, or believe they have witnessed, an incident that involves sexual harassment are encouraged to report the matter. Palm Beach State College has separate grievance processes for a Title IX violation and a case of sexual harassment that falls outside the Title IX scope.
Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation Grievance Process
Once the college is made aware of an instance of sexual harassment, discrimination, or retaliation that falls outside the scope of Title IX, they will refer it to the Office of the Dean of Students. The Dean of Students will determine if an informal proceeding is appropriate, which involves mediation between the complainant and the accused student. The parties have five days to decide if they wish to pursue this route or a more formal route.
If the Dean determines the more formal route is appropriate, the College's Assistant Director of Human Resources & Equity Officer/ADA will conduct an investigation into the matter. The investigation includes interviews with both parties, as well as any relevant witnesses, gathering relevant documentary evidence, reviewing files and records, comparing the treatment of the complainant to that of others in a similar situation, and reviewing applicable laws.
When the investigation is complete, the overseeing officer will draft and deliver a written report of their findings and a recommendation of disposition. Both parties will have the right to review this report and appeal it within 15 days of receipt. The College President will review these appeals and make a decision within 30 days.
Title IX Sexual Harassment Grievance Procedure
Under this procedure, the complainant must file a formal complaint to instigate the start of the investigation by the Title IX Coordinator. During this investigation, the Title IX Coordinator will determine if any interim measures should be taken to prevent the victim or complainant from running into the accused student.
The investigation will be conducted by the Assistant Dean of Student Services and will include an initial interview with each party and any witnesses. They will also visually inspect, copy, or otherwise preserve communications (i.e., emails, texts, social media posts, or voice messages) they find relevant to the matter. Once the investigation concludes, the investigatory report will be disseminated to either party. You have ten days to review and respond to this report before the formal hearing takes place.
The Title IX Hearing Committee will oversee the formal hearing process. Each party will have the opportunity to present witnesses, reports, or documentation, as well as cross-examine the other party's witnesses. At the conclusion, the Committee will excuse the participants and their advisors so that they might make their decision on responsibility and any necessary sanctions in private. Possible sanctions might include anything from loss of privileges on campus or no-contact orders to suspension or total expulsion from campus. It is important to understand that if a respondent is found responsible for sexual misconduct, the minimum sanction is often suspension, but can certainly be more severe.
Appealing a Title IX Violation Decision at Palm Beach State College
Either party has the right to appeal the hearing decision within ten days of the written decision being received, but only if one of the following grounds for appeal is present:
- A procedural error occurred that affected the outcome of the hearing or sanction
- There is new evidence that should be considered that was unavailable during the original investigation that would affect the outcome of the hearing or sanction
- The sanction imposed is completely disproportionate to the severity of the violation
- The party believes there is a conflict of interest or bias for or against the complainant or accused student that affected the outcome
The Vice President of Student Services and Enrollment Manager will oversee the appeal. They will make their determination within 30 business days of receiving the request and might affirm the Hearing Committee's decision, amend the decision of responsibility or the sanctions imposed, or refer it for further hearing. Whatever their decision, it is final and cannot be appealed again.
How an Attorney Advisor Can Help
Getting accused of sexual harassment or a Title IX violation can have serious long-term consequences. For example, if you and the victim reside in the same dormitory, you might be removed from your room and placed elsewhere or prevented from living on campus at all. And for students who are found not responsible, there may still be harm to your reputation. Students and teachers may have formed biases long before you've met them, making these allegations hard to bounce back from. This is why working with an attorney-advisor from the moment you learn of these accusations is so crucial. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm aim to create a strategic defense that will lessen these potential negative consequences and protect your future. Call 888-535-3686 today to schedule a consultation.