Don’t Be Pressured Into Doing Something Dumb
Often school officials will tell you they need to meet with you very soon – sometimes the same day that they reach out to you or the next morning.
Do not go to that meeting.
Every school is required by the federal government to let you have an advisor. The school may want you to go to a meeting so they can tell you what the accusations are and get you to tell them something they can use against you. Don’t let them.
If a school official is pressuring you into meeting with them immediately, simply respond that you want to talk to your parents and get an advisor and that you will get back to them very soon. Then talk to your family immediately about what’s happening.
Lock Down Your Social Media
Expect that the school and your accuser will look at every bit of social media you have – Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook, and so on. Every social media platform will let you protect your content. You should do that – immediately.
Do not delete your content, though. See number 4 below. Just make sure you control access to your information.
Preserve Other People’s Social Media
Other people may have content on their social media platforms that would help your case. Go through the social media account of each person who may be involved and save anything that might be relevant.
Maybe there’s a video of a party on Facebook that you need. Or a late-night tweet that shows whether someone was sober enough to send a tweet. Or a friend request that shows that how someone felt changed over time.
Whatever it is, know that cases are won or lost on facts. And the information on social media can be locked away as soon as the user decides that should happen. Before it’s too late, save everything you can on social media.
One note – make sure you are anonymous when you do. If the other user can see that you’re on his or her page, think carefully about whether the benefits of saving the information are worth the risks of having someone see what you’re doing.
Do Not Delete Anything
Do not delete any information that you have that could be at all relevant to what the school is looking into. Don’t delete text messages or social media posts or emails.
This doesn’t mean you should share it with anyone else, but make sure every bit of information you have is retrievable.
Comply with the no-contact order
Once you’ve been accused, the school will impose a no-contact order between you and your accuser. Make sure you comply with it. The no-contact order will feel incredibly unfair. If you didn’t do anything wrong, why should you have to change where you go on campus or who you hang out with? But schools take these very seriously.
There is nothing more frustrating than beating a sexual assault allegation but losing on a no-contact order violation. We’ve had students accused of violating no-contact orders by talking to their friends, who also happen to be friends of the accuser. We once had a client who was accused of violating a no-contact order by performing in public, just because he could have known his accuser would be in the audience. To be sure, that’s ridiculous—but it shows how seriously schools take these things.
Do Not Talk About Your Case to Anyone But Your Lawyer
Your friends may be a good source of support, but we’ve seen friends become former friends because they repeat what one of our clients has said about a case to someone else.
Please, for your sake, don’t talk about your case or what happened or the person who is accusing you to your friends, your professors, people from high school, or anyone except for your lawyer, a mental health professional, and your parents.
Tell Your Lawyer Everything
Sometimes a person caught up in a Title IX proceeding doesn’t want to share everything with his lawyer. This is a mistake.
Even minor things can matter later, and it’s good for your lawyer to know what’s going to happen. If you bump into your accuser on campus, or if you hear someone talk about the case, or if something happens in the case—all of these are things you need to let your lawyer know.
Be Wary of the School Officials
Even if the school people are nice, don’t trust them. Most people who work at colleges or universities are nice people. People, in general, don’t like conflict.
School officials are not there to help you. They are looking out for the school’s interest, not yours. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that someone who acts like your friend is your friend. Those are the people who can often do the most damage.
Do Not Put Your Head in the Sand
College life has a lot of demands. You have homework and extracurriculars and a social life. It’s hard enough to think about classes and everything else that goes along with college, let alone thinking about your disciplinary case.
Moreover, thinking about your disciplinary case is unpleasant. It is completely understandable to not want to deal with it.
But, as understandable as it is, you need to be actively engaged with your case. You’ll have to represent yourself, which means you need to prepare for any interview or hearing. It may be that you have a test that you need to study for. Any lawyer will work with you as much as possible, but it may be that there are times when your case has to come first.
Come Together as a Family
Some of our clients’ parents tell us that having a child face an allegation of sexual assault on campus is the hardest thing they have been through as a family.
Other times, we see people who told their parents too late that they are facing a disciplinary charge, and their case can suffer tremendously.
Giving advice about being a family is, of course, far outside of our expertise. But we’ve seen a lot of different families go through this, and the ones who emerge on the other side—to our eyes—are the ones who support each other, try to understand each other, and have each others’ backs. We’ve also seen families who use an allegation as a way to dredge up past events, or talk about things that could have been different. To our eyes, that adds stress to an otherwise very stressful situation.
Every family is different, and navigating how much should be shared within the family is difficult for everyone. But we’ve seen people do better when there’s no question that the family is in this together.