Title IX & Student Conduct
There are few things scarier than finding yourself accused of a potential Title IX sexual harassment, sexual assault, or Student Conduct violation. The rules, regulations, and policies in this field are constantly changing. Some schools and universities have multiple policies for these potential offenses. Typically, the standard of proof in these cases is much lower than the criminal burden of beyond a reasonable doubt. The consequences of being found responsible for violating a school’s policy in this area can be devastating and can include expulsion from school and a notation on your transcript. It is far too serious to go it alone.
Agricola Law prides itself in zealously advocating for your rights and providing you the best, informed advice possible. Making sense of the federal laws while also understanding how each school or university’s individual policies interact can be mind-boggling. You aren’t alone; we are here to help. You have a right to have someone serve as your advisor through the process. You need an advocate who will make sure your rights are protected and exercised at every step of the way. You need someone who can assist you through the investigation and potential hearing.
I’ve received a Notice of Investigation from my school. What does this mean?
If you’ve received a notice of Investigation, this means that your school has received a formal complaint against you. A formal complaint is simply a written statement from someone alleging that you committed some sort of misconduct. Once the School receives the formal complaint, they are required to provide you this notice of Investigation.
Among other things, this notice must include the allegations against you and provide you sufficient time to prepare a response before any potential interview. The receipt of the notice of Investigation triggers the beginning of an investigation.
It is important for you to know that federal law requires that schools presume you to be not responsible for the alleged conduct. Even though this is not a criminal process, this is similar to the “innocent until proven guilty” standard in a criminal process.
What does it mean to be responsible or not responsible for a policy violation?
Since this is not a criminal process, federal law and schools do not use terms like guilty, innocent, or acquittal. If someone is found to have committed the conduct alleged, they are deemed responsible. If they are not found to have committed the conduct alleged, they are deemed not responsible.
What should I do?
You will most likely start to receive correspondence and emails from the investigator or investigators assigned to your case. You have the absolute right to not speak with them. And if you choose not to talk with them, they cannot use your silence to show that you must be responsible for violating the policy.
The federal law requires that schools allow you to have an advisor of your choosing. The school may have an advisor they can assign to you, but it is highly unlikely this person will be a trained attorney. They may just be someone who is familiar with the school’s policy.
You have the absolute right to have an attorney represent you through this process. It’s vitally important that you speak with an attorney before you engage in any communication with someone from the school.
What are the next steps in the process?
The investigators will begin to conduct their investigation. They will do this by speaking with the complainant (this is the person who has made the allegation against you) as well as any other Witnesses they deem to be relevant. Also, they may look at emails, text messages, pictures, or any other documents that they believe are relevant to the investigation. Also, they will contact you to see if you want to participate in an interview.
Once they have completed their investigation, you will be provided all of the evidence that the investigators have learned about. This will include any Witness statements and any other documentation. You will then have, at a minimum, 10 business days to review this evidence and provide a response. Once the investigators receive your written comments, they will then complete a written report that fairly summarizes the evidence learned. It may or may not include any credibility determinations or findings of responsibility.
Regardless of whether it does, the investigators are not permitted to make a finding against you. If they make any sort of finding or credibility determination, it is only advisory. Per the law, you have an absolute right to have a hearing before a neutral decision-maker. This may be one person or a panel of people. Also, your advisor has an absolute right to cross-examine the complainant and any other witnesses that have made statements.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the decision maker will make a determination whether you are responsible for violating the policy or not responsible for violating the policy. If you are found responsible, they will also sanction you. Regardless, you have a right to appeal this decision.
Our attorneys can help
We offer services to not only in the local area, including Auburn University and Southern Union State Community College, but any school or university within Alabama or Georgia. Additionally, we represent clients in the K-12 arena as well.
Reach out to our team at Agricola Law, to speak with one of our lawyers. To schedule your initial consultation, please call 334-610-1064 or send us an email.