On Campus Sexual Misconduct Allegations, Title IX, and the Right to Retained Counsel

When you're facing allegations of campus sexual misconduct, a lot is on the line. If you're a college student, you still have your entire future ahead of you. A complaint alleging rape, sexual assault or other misconduct could jeopardize everything. You could face suspension, expulsion and a permanently damaged reputation.

And if the complaint leads to criminal charges, even more is at stake. You may be looking at a lengthy prison sentence and mandatory registration as a sex offender.

Likewise, for college faculty and staff, accusations of sexual misconduct on campus can put your career, freedoms and future at risk.

At Roberts Law Group, we're committed to fighting for the accused in these volatile situations. We know the challenges you're facing. It may be an uphill battle, but we're ready to climb beside you, equipped with the experience, determination and dedication it takes to pursue the best possible outcome.

What is Title IX? ( 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq., N.C.G.S. § 116-40.11)

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a set of federal laws aimed at preventing gender-based discrimination in the educational setting. These laws apply to colleges and universities, both public and private, that receive federal money. Educational institutions that violate Title IX provisions risk losing their federal funding.

Title IX has serious implications for educational institutions, faculty and students - especially when it comes to allegations of sex discrimination or sexual misconduct.

Title IX has a long history in the United States. Courts do not always appear consistent in what constitutes a Title IX violation. While arguably most well-known for its role in collegiate sports, Title IX provisions also apply to facilities, employment and general policies on campus.

Allegations of sexual misconduct in general - such as sexual assault, date rape and the like - may not amount to discrimination. However, how such accusations are dealt with does fall squarely under the umbrella of Title IX regulations. Colleges and universities are responsible for implementing fair and nondiscriminatory sexual assault policies, including their investigation policies. These institutions must maintain Title IX Compliances Offices to implement university policies aimed at regulating sexual harassment, discrimination, sexual violence, and sexual misconduct

How Title IX Shapes Sexual Misconduct Investigations - Often To The Detriment Of The Accused

Colleges and universities must establish detailed policies to ensure compliance with Title IX (and avoid jeopardizing their federal funding). These policies are designed to curb sexual assault on campus. While that's certainly a laudable goal, the way these policies play out can work to the extreme disadvantage of those facing accusations of serious misconduct.

Because of social media and strong public sentiments like the #metoo movement, it's easy to rush to judgment against students accused of violating conduct rules, especially when it comes to sexual misconduct. The mere hint of sexual assault can lead to aggressive disciplinary hearings and police investigations.

Even after an investigation finds little or no evidence of misconduct, universities may feel pressured to take further disciplinary action to "send the right message." Students who are wrongfully accused can suffer from unjust disciplinary actions as a result. They may face serious consequences, including expulsion and permanent damage to their reputation.

How The Process Works: Title IX Complaints, Disciplinary Proceedings And Your Civil Rights

You Have The Right To Legal Representation

Fortunately for those accused of violating a UNC School System code of student conduct, our General Assembly has recently passed N.C.G.S. § 116-40.11. Under that statute, which became effective in August 2013, any UNC School System student "who is accused of a violation of the disciplinary or conduct rules . . . shall have the right to be represented, at the student's expense, by a licensed attorney or nonattorney advocate who may fully participate during any disciplinary procedure."

North Carolina was the first state in the United States to grant students at its public universities the right to retain representation at disciplinary hearings. This right to hire an attorney does not apply if the alleged violation is one of "academic dishonesty," or if the violation hearing panel is exclusively staffed by students.

Disciplinary Hearings For Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault And Sex Discrimination

When the Dean of Students, Office for Civil Rights, Office for Student Affairs or other school administration office receives a complaint about a Title IX violation, the institution is responsible for investigation and disciplinary proceedings. Examples of cases that may constitute a Title IX violation include:

  • Incidents of domestic violence and/or intimate partner violence between students or roommates, particularly on school property
  • Assault or another violent action inflicted by a student against another party because of sex, gender identity or sexual orientation
  • Sexual harassment committed by faculty or staff, including threats of retaliation against those who report the harassment

After a complaint is filed, the school must conduct an investigation and may recommend disciplinary action. Depending on the nature of the allegation, the school may also be responsible for reporting allegations to law enforcement.

Allegations of faculty or student misconduct are taken very seriously, and those accused are significantly affected.

Why Hiring An Attorney Is The Wisest Choice

Understandably, many individuals accused of sexual misconduct or sex-related violence on campus experience high stress levels. The emotional impact of an accusation is significant. It impacts your reputation not only amongst your peers, but also within the entire campus community and in future social settings.

Facing the disciplinary process alone leaves you extremely vulnerable. Without a legal representative who understands how to handle these delicate matters, those accused of sexual misconduct are rarely in a position to fully defend their civil rights. As an accused party in a disciplinary hearing, there is already a bias against you. Do not risk making a misstep you cannot take back.

As a student or a parent, time is not on your side. You don't have the luxury of putting off taking action. Delay may only jeopardize your ability to put forward the strongest possible defense.

Having an attorney at a disciplinary hearing can be critical to avoiding harsh sanctions such as suspension, expulsion, or deferral of the conference of a degree. This is because an experienced attorney knows how to gather and present favorable evidence, marshal arguments based on school policies, and offer mitigating evidence in the event a violation is found. The right attorney can also help  ward off criminal charges - or help you fight for a reduced charge or improved outcome in the event that charges move forward.

At Roberts Law Group, our firm works with students, staff and faculty members accused of campus sexual misconduct in North Carolina. We're well-known and respected in the legal community for our extensive experience and committed advocacy on behalf of clients. We are fierce defenders of civil rights.

Why Choose Roberts Law Group

Our lawyers can represent you through all stages of Title IX proceedings, offering:

  • In-depth review of the evidence in your case
  • Analysis of school policies and codes of conduct
  • Representation during hearings and other disciplinary proceedings
  • Clear explanation of how Title IX policies, school policies and the law intersect

We can also represent you in a criminal investigation, working proactively to prevent charges from being filed in the first place.

What To Expect From A Title IX Disciplinary Hearing

Title IX hearings are a unique process. While hearings have some similarities to criminal cases, the process, evidence and determinations function very differently. It is key that all parties understand the distinctions.

These are the biggest differences to be aware of:

  • Admissible evidence is different. Because the investigations are primarily done by administrators and hired investigators rather than law enforcement, the evidence gathered is subject to entirely different standards, both in collection, chain of custody and admissibility. Your hearing may include more or different evidence than would be allowed in court.
  • There is a lower burden of proof. In a criminal case, any finding against the accused must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt - the highest standard in any legal case, and often a difficult burden for the prosecution to meet. In Title IX proceedings, by contrast, the university's findings need only be subject to a lower standard called " a preponderance of evidence" - essentially, 51 percent. This means that if there is only slightly more evidence against your case, which is often the case with questions of consent when it's your word versus hers (or his), then the hearing can proceed to sanctions.
  • The consequences are long-term. While universities may refer a case to law enforcement for a criminal investigation during or after a hearing, the consequences of the hearing itself are also long-term. Though you may not be serving jail time, you may be subject to suspension, expulsion or a denied diploma. You might no longer qualify for financial assistance or scholarships. Put simply, an adverse outcome in Title IX proceedings can seriously impact your educational future and employment options.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that the evidentiary standards and burden of proof in a Title IX hearing will be as strict as in court. The lower standards make it all the more important to involve a lawyer who understands how to navigate these proceedings.

The lawyers at Roberts Law Group provide that in-depth experience. Our attorneys understand your rights under Title IX. We can help you defend not only your current rights and reputation, but your goals for the future.

Get A Free Consultation: Call 877-880-5753

Our office is highly experienced. Consult with one of our attorneys and begin your defense. Throughout your hearing, we will stand by your side and help you navigate the complex precedents set forth in Title IX hearings.

Call or contact us online to get started. We have convenient offices throughout North Carolina, including Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro, Waxhaw, Fayetteville and Wilmington.

North Carolina vs. O.S.
Charge: First Degree Forcible Rape and First Degree Kidnapping
Facing: 26 - 33 years in prison
Result: Dismissed

Case involved allegations of forcible rape at gun point. We were able to gather evidence to attack the accuser's credibility and discredit her story. The prosecution dismissed the charges.

Read more results