Student Conduct Hearings, Suspension & Expulsion
My education defense and Title IX defense practice focuses on defending students and student athelets accused of violations of school rules or violations of their university code of conduct. My clients are generally facing suspension or expulsion at public schools, private schools and Universities in Washington State. Most schools and universities have a "code of conduct," and it is generally a broadly defined code that is open to different interpretations. For instance, you can find the University of Washington's code of conduct here Title 478 WAC - University of Washington. Many students find themselves accused of sexual misconduct or sexual assault and under investigation. If you or your child is under investigation for an accusation of sexual assault of sexual misconduct it is important to consult with a Title IX defense attorney that is familiar with this narrow and rapidly changing field of law.
What is Title IX?
Sexual Assault, Sexual Misconduct, Sexual Harassment and Rape on a University Campus are considered "gender-based discrimination." These types of sexual assault and misconduct are considered so serious that federal laws considers them "so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively bars the victim's access to an educational opportunity or benefit.”
Colleges and Universities in Washington State are required to investigate and prosecute cases where a student has reported that he or she has been a victim of sexual misconduct. The Title IX investigation and hearing process can lead to the suspension or expulsion of the accused student. It also often leads to the loss of the accused students reputation on campus.
What is a Title IX advisor?
Federal Law guarantees you, as an accused student, the right to have a Title IX "advisor" present during all stages of the proceedings. Your Title IX advisor is not required to be an attorney, but may be an attorney. By selecting an attorney that is familiar with the Title IX investigation and hearing process your attorney will be able to:
1. Ensure that you or your child or student receives due process. This means access to a meaningful hearing or trial where the accuser is questioned.
2. Be present during the investigation phase of the proceedings. This means the right to have an attorney/advisor present at all phases of the investigation.
3. Prepare you for the trial or "hearing" phase of the proceeding. Preparing questions for the accuser is at the heart of my job.
Should I involve an attorney? What should I say?
You should understand that the Title IX process is much different than the internal discipline process of a university. If you are the subject of a Title IX investigation you have the right to an attorney because you face expulsion. If you or your child are contacted by a school official about a Title IX investigation you should remain silent until you have obtained counsel.
Many students are hesitant to involve their parents or an attorney because of embarrassment. A student may believe they can handle the matter themselves or that it will "blow over" if they are cooperative. This is generally not the case in Title IX actions. An accusation of sexual misconduct or sexual assault is so serious that these cases generally never simply fade away.
If you are the subject of a Title IX investigation and you have been asked to attend a meeting with school officials or administration you should delay the meeting until you have time to talk to a Title IX defense attorney and formulate a strategy.
Campus Sexual Assault
Schools and Universities have broad authority to do as they see fit to protect students on their campus. In many situations an allegation of sexual assault may be launched by a parent or student. These allegations of sexual assault can even happen on campus, at a dorm, apartment or fraternity house. The Washington Administrative Code (WAC) and Title IX defines sexual assault as:
Title IX includes a opportunity for the parties to settle or resolve the matter prior to a full hearing taking place. This is called a "informal resolution" and is generally a negotiated settlement between the parties. This requires a skillful attorney and cooperation from both the University and the complaining party. This type of settlement is generally possible in cases where the parties are able to come to some agreement about how to proceed without a full hearing that could be damaging to the reputations of both parties.
Getting a Fair Student Conduct Hearing
I have experience at every level of educational institution, from public schools and private schools to university's. I have successfully represented students accused of misconduct, academic dishonesty and sexual assault and sexual harassment. I am experienced at negotiating with school administration, in many cases it is possible get an excellent outcome before a full hearing is conducted. However, in many cases it is necessary to proceed to a full hearing.
These hearings are often conducted by school officials that are untrained in the law or investigative procedures. They see their job as "increasing accountability" and not as impartial, fair and disinterested arbitrators of justice. Having an attorney that is experienced with the rules of evidence, witness cross-examination and hearing procedures is essential to getting a fair and full hearing.
Find an attorney who is prepared to fight
In a criminal charge, the court may provide the defendant or juvenile respondent with a public defender. However, in university or school discipline cases there is no such lawyer provided. However, you have a right to involve your own attorney in the process to ensure you are treated fairly.
I practice at all High Schools, Colleges and Universities in Washington State.
Four Year State Institutions:
University of Washington
Washington State University
Western Washington University
Eastern Washington University
Central Washington University
Evergreen State College
Pacific Lutheran University
University of Puget Sound
Walla Walla University