If you're a student at Fullerton College who's been accused of sexual misconduct, you're probably feeling a lot of conflicting emotions right now. You may be frightened, unsure of what's going to happen to you. You might be angry because a person you know, someone you trusted and may even have loved, has accused you.
One thing you're certainly feeling is confusion. It's easy to get lost in all the chaos that's happening around you. You're trying to keep up as a student at the same time, you're defending yourself from a serious charge. The school doesn't make any of this easier. It may not tell you right away what exactly you're charged with and what kind of procedures you'll have to endure.
You might be subject to a Title IX investigation. On the other hand, you may instead be accused of violating school policy. Rules differ depending in part on the what the allegations against you entail and what sanctions you face. If there's a possibility you'll be expelled, there's one set of policies; if you're looking at lesser penalties like making restitution or attending counseling, there's a different set of policies.
What are you supposed to do?
This guide offers a starting point for getting a handle on your situation. It outlines the different procedures Fullerton College uses for sexual misconduct cases as well as the sanctions you might face.
You should know, though, that you can't navigate the system alone. You're going to need the help of a qualified, experienced Title IX attorney. So, we'll throw in some information about how to do that as well.
Parsing Title IX
Let's start with Title IX, since most—though certainly not all—cases fall somewhere under its provisions.
Title IX is a federal law, passed in 1972, prohibiting sexual discrimination in all federally funded educational programs. That includes colleges and universities.
Title IX was an important step forwards in the fight for women's rights, but it was not without its flaws. For one thing, the law withholds funding from any school that refuses to comply. That means colleges have a direct incentive to investigate every allegation of misconduct, whether there's good evidence to support the charge or not. In addition, though, Title IX, at least as originally written, didn't provide any concrete instructions about how investigations should be conducted. As a result, many schools wound up denying the accused—respondents—important due process rights. Respondents didn't necessarily have a right to be presumed innocent. They weren't always allowed a formal hearing to defend themselves. At some schools, they couldn't present evidence or suggest witnesses.
All of this changed in 2020. In May of that year, the Trump administration, under the direction of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, issued new guidelines for how all Title IX cases should be handled. These guidelines narrowed the definition of harassment and discrimination. They limited school jurisdictions. Most importantly, they standardized how Title IX accusations are investigated and adjudicated. Among other changes, they guaranteed respondents the right to a hearing and to cross-examine any witnesses.
Most attorneys saw these changes in positive terms. In the several years before they were issued, the Title IX system had become dangerously unbalanced in favor of complainants.
Most schools, on the other hand, were deeply unhappy with the Trump administration's move. They saw the new guidelines as a threat to their own authority and to what they saw as their mission to protect victims at all costs. In fact, many schools chose to defy the new Title IX.
Colleges and universities couldn't simply ignore the law. However, since 2020, they have looked for ways to get around it. The most common approach has been to write new school policies that deal with situations Title IX no longer covers.
With competing policies in place, dealing with an accusation is now more complicated than ever.
Sexual Misconduct at Fullerton College
Fullerton College is a part of the North Orange County Community College District (NOCCD). As such, it is governed by NOCCD policies. The NOCCD, like all other public educational institutions in this country, uses Title IX where it is applicable.
Under Title IX, complaints must originate with a complainant or with the Title IX Coordinator. Once a complaint is made, both sides are entitled to support services, such as medical treatment, counseling, and academic accommodations. They are advised of their rights, including the right to have an advisor. This advisor can be an attorney. The Title IX Coordinator appoints an investigator to look into the matter. This person meets with both sides, gathers any physical evidence, and talks with any witnesses. After allowing input from both sides, the investigator submits a summary report.
Next, the coordinator assigns a hearing date and appoints a Hearing Officer to preside over the case. During the hearing, both sides can ask “relevant” questions of the other as well as of any witnesses. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Hearing Officer decides whether the accused is “responsible” and assigns sanctions as necessary. Students can appeal the decision to the school provost or president, but only if there is new evidence or clear evidence of bias in the investigation.
If your case falls under school policy instead, the administration appoints an investigator to look into the matter, just as in Title IX cases. This person interviews both sides and any witnesses. However, there is no guarantee that the school will give you access to any support services. More importantly, you won't be allowed to defend yourself at a hearing. Instead, the investigator will submit a report to a school administrator, who will ultimately decide the outcome. Here again, you can appeal the case, but only under special circumstances.
Call Attorney Joseph D. Lento for Title IX and Sexual Misconduct Help
Sexual misconduct cases are serious business, whether you're accused of a Title IX violation or of violating school policy. The minimum sanction you'll face is probably suspension. In many instances, however, if you're found responsible, you'll be expelled.
Don't let this happen to you. If you're facing a sexual misconduct accusation, call attorney Joseph D. Lento immediately. Joseph D. Lento built his nationwide practice on student conduct cases. He knows Title IX law, and he knows how colleges and universities operate. Attorney Joseph D. Lento will work to protect your rights and make sure you get the very best possible resolution to your case.
For more information, contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-555-3686, or use our automated online form.