If you've just received a notification that your Maine college or university is investigating you for alleged sexual conduct, you're likely stressed out of your mind.
‘Stressed' might even be putting it lightly: Overwhelmed, confused, and even scared might be more like it. You wouldn't be wrong to be feeling this way. Sexual misconduct and Title IX investigations can wreak havoc on the careers of college employees. From student employees like RAs to higher-ups in the administration, anyone can be investigated for sexual misconduct — and those investigations can go very badly for you, if you don't act quickly.
Under Title IX, a federal rights law established under the Education Amendments of 1972, all schools that receive federal funding must respond to Title IX allegations quickly.
Since your school's funding is at stake, the administration could launch into action quickly — despite the fact that your school may not be prepared to handle your case effectively.
Your entire future is also at stake, so it's vital that you take action immediately. Retaining the services of an experienced Title IX advisor can be a game-changer for you and your sexual misconduct investigation.
How Do Title IX Cases Work in Maine Colleges and Universities?
At your school, the Title IX process will begin when someone makes an allegation against you. That information will go to your school's Title IX Coordinator.
The Title IX Coordinator will review the allegation and then kick things off by sending you a notification. This notification will include specific details about the allegations against you, including the name of the complainant, your next steps, and the sanctions that you could face.
At this time, you need to do three things very quickly:
- Decide not to speak. Anything you say (or post online) could be held against you. Don't confide in your colleagues, in particular—they could be interviewed as witnesses in your investigation.
- Start your own investigation. As your school begins to learn more about what happened, pull together any evidence you have that backs up your account of the central events.
- Reach out to a Title IX defense advisor. Your name, reputation, career, and entire future are at stake; it's time to call in a professional. Doing this as early as possible is key. These cases are often won or lost as early as this initial investigatory stage.
Next, your school will launch its investigation. Your school's Title IX Coordinator will designate an investigator to meet with you and all other involved parties to document your statement. The investigator will also interview other witnesses and collect as much physical evidence as is available.
The investigator will then write a report documenting their findings. You will have a chance to read this report and recommend any needed updates before it goes back to the school's Title IX Coordinator. The Coordinator will then schedule a hearing for your school's representatives to review the specifics of your case and issue a decision about your responsibility. At this hearing, you'll be able to defend yourself, cross-examine witnesses, and introduce evidence.
Once My Maine University Issues a Decision, is That It?
At the end of this hearing, your school will decide whether you were, in the eyes of the institution, responsible for the allegations. Your school will also determine an appropriate sanction for you to carry out. Unfortunately, your school will probably only need to show that your involvement in the infraction was more likely than not.
If your school decides you are responsible and metes out a harsh sanction, you will have two general options for pursuing relief.
- File an appeal. Shortly after the hearing, you will have a brief window of time (usually ten business days or fewer) to file an appeal with your school. You will need to cite a clear rationale for the appeal — e.g., that new evidence has come to light or your school exhibited a clear bias during due process. After filing your appeal, your school will reconsider your sanctions and either recommend new ones or reaffirm their previous decision. At that point, your school's decision is final.
- Ask your Title IX advisor to meet with your school on your behalf. If all other avenues for relief seem like they've gone nowhere, ask your Title IX advisor to discuss your situation directly with your school's office of general counsel. This type of lawyer-to-lawyer negotiation often provides favorable results after you've exhausted your school's more formal resolution processes.
College Employees: If You Need a Strong Defense, Call Joseph D. Lento Today
Whether you're an RA, TA, professor, or coach, you need to be aware that sexual misconduct is a big problem.
More than that—merely being investigated for sexual assault, discrimination, harassment, or any other inappropriate action lumped together under Title IX can tank your entire career. (And, if you're a student employee, your degree is on the line as well.)
To make matters worse, your school's disciplinary or investigatory due process will be labyrinthian. If you start to read your school's policies, you'll get caught up in confusing codes and frustrating footnotes. And your school may not even stick to its own policies when adjudicating your alleged offense — or be more zealous than necessary about associating you with misconduct you may not have committed.
At the Lento Law Firm, we believe that every Maine college or university employee deserves to be able to defend their name and reputation. Joseph D. Lento has years of experience fighting for the rights and futures of college students and employees in the midst of tough Title IX negotiations. He can help you pull together a defense, negotiate for reduced sanctions, and more. Contact Title IX advisor Joseph D. Lento today at 888-535-3686!