Title IX and Student Conduct

What happens if someone is wrongfully accused of violating Title IX or of violating student conduct rules? The Law Office of Ruth O'Meara-Costello aims to protect its clients' rights in all kinds of disciplinary proceedings and has been able to exonerate its clients in numerous cases.

Massachusetts Title IX and Student Conduct Attorney

Ruth’s commitment to individual rights and due process informs her work with college and university students facing discipline. She knows how devastating and frightening it is for students to contemplate a serious sanction like expulsion or suspension. She also recognizes that even lesser sanctions can affect ambitious students’ ability to pursue further education and may impact employment and professional licensing. She takes student conduct matters very seriously and can help to ensure that students’ rights are respected, and their stories heard. 

Title IX and Sexual Misconduct

Ruth has represented numerous clients accused of sexual harassment or assault at colleges and universities in Massachusetts and nationwide. Students accused of Title IX violations are entitled to have an advisor, who can be an attorney, accompany them at all meetings and hearings. Under current regulations, students are also entitled to a live hearing and to have their advisor cross-examine the witnesses against them. 

These regulations will likely change in the near future, resulting in many schools abandoning live hearings and returning to a model where a single investigator makes findings, including deciding whether the accused student is “responsible” or “not responsible.” Under either model, an experienced attorney can help a client prepare to answer questions, marshal evidence in their defense, and present mitigating information. Ruth has been extremely successful at helping her clients convincingly present their stories, whether at a live hearing or to a single investigator. As a result, many of her clients have been fully exonerated of wrongdoing. 

Academic Honesty

Many colleges and universities have very stringent policies on academic honesty, and surprisingly often, students can run afoul of those policies even without intending to act dishonestly. At many schools, even unintentional plagiarism is still plagiarism—but Ruth can help students convincingly present mitigating evidence to minimize the sanctions they face. In other cases, students who are innocent of wrongdoing face accusations of cheating. Ruth can help these students to ensure that their rights are respected in the disciplinary process, advocate for them to have a meaningful opportunity to be heard and to challenge the evidence against them, and help them to prepare their case before meetings or hearings. 

Student Disciplinary Appeals

It is always a good idea to at least consult with a lawyer as early as possible in a student disciplinary process. Even for clients who have already gone through a disciplinary process and have been found responsible, however, there may be options that an experienced lawyer can help you to explore. Most schools offer some form of appeal for students who are found responsible for violating the code of conduct. The grounds for appeal are generally limited. An attorney can help you to think creatively about whether the process you went through was fair and whether new evidence or procedural violations might give you a right to a new hearing. Ruth has helped many clients to win new hearings or reduced penalties. 

Civil Litigation

Litigation against a college or university should almost always be a last resort due to its considerable financial and practical costs. There are times when it is the only remaining option to challenge a deeply unjust and damaging result in a disciplinary case. Not all cases in which a student has been found responsible are viable cases for litigation. Each case needs careful assessment of possible claims, including claims under Title IX, claims based on a student’s contract with the university, and (at public institutions) due process claims. 

Ruth offers clients a down-to-earth assessment of the merits of possible legal arguments and the advantages and disadvantages of commencing litigation. She has litigated federal and state court cases on behalf of students and faculty who faced discrimination, unjust disciplinary action, or violations of their contracts with the university. In addition to bringing civil lawsuits, she has also assisted clients with other legal options, including administrative complaints to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination or the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. 

Criminal Exposure in Student Conduct Cases

Ruth’s extensive experience handling criminal cases, particularly sexual assault cases, complements her work with accused students and allows her to provide comprehensive legal representation to the students she represents. 

Facing criminal charges? Tenure being threatened? Unsure of how you should handle a Title IX matter? The Law Office of Ruth O'Meara-Costello can help.
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