University Hearings and TItle IX Representation
Getting busted for something while you are a student is bad enough. In addition to picking up a criminal charge, however, you have also likely just committed a violation of your high school’s or college’s Code of Conduct. The school will hold a conduct hearing to determine issues such as: suspension or expulsion; whether the offense will appear on your permanent transcript or record; whether or not you may study abroad or continue involvement in university programs; and whether or not you may continue to live on campus. The school also has a legal duty to investigate all claims of sexual harassment or abuse under Title IX. Such investigations can be lengthy and have serious consequences. You need an experienced lawyer for school disciplinary hearings.
Student Code of Conduct Hearings – What to Expect
Initially, Student Code of Conduct investigations begin with you receiving a “Notice of Complaint” that alleges that you have violated the Student Code of Conduct. You will be asked to prepare a statement describing the alleged violation of the Code of Conduct. This statement can be used against in criminal prosecution or provided to police. You will be asked to attend a meeting with a representative from the Dean of Students office to explain your conduct. UNT will have its lawyer on the phone during this hearing. The conduct hearing is part of a legal requirement. Despite what UNT may tell you, you need a lawyer at the conduct hearing with you. Following the meeting with the representative from the Dean of Students office, a finding will be made of whether you violated the Code of Conduct or not. If you are found to have violated the Code of Conduct, sanctions will be imposed.
You may have the right to appeal the finding and the sanction, depending on what the sanction imposed is.
Title IX Conduct Hearing (Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault, Dating Violence)
The University of North Texas is required by law to investigate and review all reports of sexual assault, regardless of whether a written complaint is filed. Importantly, this review takes place whether the reported violation is credible or not; do not think that because the person accusing you of sexual assault has mental health issues or substance abuse issues, is dishonest, or is not credible means that the report will not be taken seriously by the University. It will be, regardless.
Interim actions can be taken, including prohibiting contact between the Complainant (the person making the allegation) and the Respondent (the person accused of the misconduct.) The Respondent is then put “on notice” that he or she is being investigated, and the investigative period begins. I have seen the investigative period extend for months, or even entire semesters. During this period of time, the University speaks with witnesses including the Complainant and Respondent, and reviews evidence.
Be aware that the University can, and does, investigate claims that the police have not pursued; meaning, just because you were not arrested by police does NOT mean that the University will not investigate and suspend or expel you.
Following the completion of the investigation, the University makes a finding of whether the alleged assault occurred or not. This determination is made a lower burden of proof than the criminal legal burden of proof “beyond all reasonable doubt.” Following the finding, a student may request appeal. Typical sanctions imposed where a student has been found responsible include immediate suspension or expulsion.
Even where the University DOES NOT find you responsible for a Title IX violation, it will retain the records of the investigation (a FERPA hearing has to be requested to amend or redact certain parts of the investigation records.)
These issues are complicated, and you need a lawyer to advocate for you and protect you at disciplinary hearings. Title IX violations (sexual assault, sexual harassment, etc.) are particularly complex, and require a lawyer with an in-depth knowledge of, and who is well-versed in handling, such allegations. I have handled multiple Title IX investigations for students at the University of North Texas, and have represented students at dozens of Code of Conduct hearings for non-Title IX issues.