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Title IX Harassment & Discrimination Investigations & Hearings

Maybe you have been arrested and maybe you have not. Your conduct could be criminal, but either the alleged victim has not brought your actions to the attention of law enforcement and “only” made a complaint to your college or university – NYU, Columbia, Fordham, St. John’s, Baruch, Pace or one of the dozens of colleges and universities throughout New York City and State. For that matter, you are a victim of sexual harassment at a college or university in any city or state through the United States. Regardless of where the claimed misconduct occurs, it may not be the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office or the respective District Attorney from the particular county where the school is located that gives you immediate concern. Instead, whether you need a criminal lawyer or student misconduct attorney, it is the college you are attending and their staff that investigates violations of Title IX - discrimination and harassment – that will commence the disciplinary hearing process that could result in your suspension or expulsion from school.

Prohibiting Sex Discrimination in Education

Although more than what will be addressed here, Title IX prohibits discrimination and harassment. Harassment can come in many forms and need not be a man against a woman. Sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, and sexual violence all fall under the proverbial umbrella. Whether you are a female harassing a male, man discriminating against another man, or any other combination is of no consequence. If you perpetrate or are alleged to have committed a rape, struck another person, recorded another without their knowledge or consent or even made threats that are sexual in nature or gender based, a victim can make a complaint with the school, college or university they are attending. This, in turn, will trigger an investigation, a potential disciplinary hearing, suspension or expulsion. Even worse, depending on the nature of the alleged conduct, you may be arrested.

The Investigation

Upon the filing of a complaint, the college or university you attend in any state of the union, must commence an investigation into harassment, violence or discrimination that is gender or sexually based. Because the law mandates that every university or college in New York and elsewhere have a Title IX Coordinator, this staff member or administrator will be in charge of the investigation begin handled at the college. The Title IX Coordinator can investigate as they deem fit, but they must investigate. This process can include speaking with the complainant and asking to discuss an alleged occurrence with you. Further, the Title IX Coordinator can attempt to complete their investigation through available resources. In other words, if there are students or faculty who might be witnesses or if there is a video that captured an event, the university can secure that information. As the investigation is ongoing, you may be restricted on campus, have your dorm assignment change, or be prevented from any and all interaction with the complainant. Much like an order of protection, your interactions with your alleged victim can be limited by your university.

Remember, even if there is a parallel criminal investigation by the local District Attorney, the school’s investigation will push forward until there is an opportunity to reach a finding based on the “preponderance of the evidence”. This threshold is fairly low and certainly an easier burden for a college to reach than “beyond a reasonable doubt” as required in the criminal law.

The Disciplinary Hearing

As noted above, the legal standard for a Title IX hearing that can ultimately lead to your being suspended or expelled, is either the lesser “preponderance of the evidence” or “clear and convincing evidence” Another way to look at this is whether it is more likely than not that the purported conduct occurred and it was, for example, discrimination or sexual harassment.

Upon being advised of the investigation, you, the accused, have rights. In fact, your rights are no less nor no more than the accuser whose rights are paramount as well. During the process you are entitled to an advisor. This person may be an attorney should you choose to retain one. You will have the ability to call witnesses or present other evidence you and your counsel or advisor deem appropriate. Should you believe it will beneficial, an accused will have the right to speak and testify. Prior to the actual commencement of the disciplinary hearing, you will have the opportunity to review the evidence collected by the college or university. When the hearing begins you and your advisor will be present, you will have the opportunity to be heard, ask questions and address the allegations. Equally important, commencing in August 2020, both parties will have a right to cross-examine the other and his or her witnesses. Simply, being prepared and having the right advocate with the skill and experience to defend or prosecute a case not only is critical in a Title IX hearing, but throughout this intimidating process.

Ultimately, when a decision is rendered both you and the accuser will be given a written decision. This can happen in a matter of days. The outcome is as potentially varied as the cases themselves. You may be exonerated, found “guilty”, have your ability to attend classes or be in certain locations with the accuser modified or limited, suspended or even expelled. Where there is finding, all avenues may not be precluded as you do have a right to appeal.

Other Issues and Concerns

Remember, arrests and violations of Title IX on college and university campus are quite serious. While the former is more harmful because law enforcement, the police and prosecutors are involved, a finding against you at a Title IX disciplinary proceeding for sexual or gender-based harassment or discrimination can destroy your collegiate career. Compounding matters, foreign nationals who are studying on visas such as F1, can find themselves without any status after they are removed or expelled from their respective school.

Your Case, Your Education, Your Future

Do yourself a tremendous service. Whether true or not, whether fabricated or genuine, should you face either an arrest or a disciplinary investigation at your college or university, protect yourself. Just as important, if you are a victim, do not let the fear of confrontation or the deaf ears of the administration leave you without recourse. Ignoring, disregarding, or minimizing any allegation or victimization is not the answer. Take the time to understand Title IX and all its nuances. Secure the guidance of a skilled student misconduct advisor who can develop your case and cross-examine your adversary while ensuring your rights are preserved.

When your education, wellbeing and future are all at stake, Saland Law’s experience, advocacy and knowledge can navigate you through what can be a burdensome, difficult and frightening process.

Call our New York criminal defense attorneys and disciplinary hearing lawyers at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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