If you are a student who has been accused of sexually assaulting another student, please get help quickly.
Too often students who are accused of serious misconduct in a student disciplinary proceeding keep silent, assuming that if they just tell their version of what happened, everything will work out fine.
This is a mistake.
I have represented students in school disciplinary proceedings who have been accused of sexual assault. It is impressive how many resources a university can bring to investigate and discipline its own students.
THE SCHOOL'S INTEREST
The school's interest is not in being fair. The school is not trying to make sure that the truth comes out. Rather, the school is trying to make sure it protects itself.
The United States Department of Education has told schools that it takes allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault very seriously. The Department of Education can cut all federal funding to a school – money for federal student loans and money for faculty research – if the school handles a rape complaint in a way that the Department of Education doesn't like.
If a student complains about rape on campus and the school doesn't handle the situation aggressively, the school can be sued, and the Department of Education can start a lengthy, and expensive, investigation of the school.
If the school decides that you sexually assaulted another student, that can follow you for the rest of your life.
A school can expel you or suspend you if you are found guilty of rape on campus. They can ruin your future without ever calling the police.
Perhaps worse, the school can put a mark on your transcript. If it does, every school you apply to in the future will see that you were found guilty of sexual assault. Very few schools will accept a student with that mark on his transcript. If you want to transfer, if you want to go to law school or graduate school, you will have a much harder time.
A campus disciplinary hearing can quickly dim a bright future.
A UNIVERSITY DISCIPLINARY HEARING
In a university disciplinary proceeding, you don't have the same rights as in a courtroom:
◦ You aren't presumed innocent.
◦ You don't get to ask questions of the person who is accusing you.
◦ It's your word against the other students, and they only have to believe her a little bit more.
◦ They may not have to tell you what evidence they have against you.
◦ You can be found guilty if they just think her version is more likely than yours.
◦ You may not have the right to appeal.
◦ Your judges may be biased against you.
INVESTIGATION IS KEY
In many cases of campus sexual assault, a diligent investigation by the student who has been accused needs to happen as quickly as possible. Promptly starting an investigation can be the best way to bring out the truth, and to clear your name.
Immediately, every email, text message, or other communication that is relevant to the accusation against you needs to be found and saved. A trained investigator needs to talk to each person who could be a witness to what happened – and what happened before what happened. The truth is only on your side if you preserve it and find it quickly.
THE LAW IS COMPLEX
University disciplinary hearings are complex legal proceedings. The rules vary by each school and are set out in your student handbook. Many courts have held that this student handbook is a contract between you and the school – the school has to follow its own rules when it tries to discipline you.
The Department of Education makes rules that schools have to follow when someone on campus says that they have been sexually assaulted or raped. Campus rape allegations can trigger a strong reaction from the Department of Education.
We have successfully represented students who have been accused of sexual assault on campus. By diligently investigating the facts and navigating the University procedures, you can take dramatic steps to protect your future and your good name. Our founding attorney, Matt Kaiser, has taught other lawyers how to help students who are accused of sexual assault on campus. You can see some information from that class at this link.