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There are a variety of legal issues that may affect college students. Addressing these matters properly can aide students in protecting their rights, continuing receiving education, and pursuing future opportunities. Like all adults, university students can take inadvisable actions, and they may face consequences for certain types of behavior. In addition to addressing violations of school policies that may lead to disciplinary action, students may also need to defend against accusations that they have violated the law. By understanding the potential criminal charges that students may face, they can determine their best options for defense that will help them minimize legal and administrative penalties.

Common Charges That College Students May Face

There are multiple situations where students may be accused of violating the law including:

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Students have the right to pursue an education and other opportunities while attending college, and they are protected against discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. This discrimination may come in a variety of forms, including sexual harassment, sexual assault, and gender-based violence. Students who have experienced harassment or who have been accused of harassing or assaulting someone else can work with a lawyer who provides legal representation for students. An attorney can provide guidance on how the laws apply in a particular situation and ensure that students understand the options for resolving these matters successfully.

Protections Against Sexual Misconduct

Sexual misconduct may involve unwelcome sexual actions, sexual harassment, and verbal or physical abuse based on a person’s sex or gender identity. Title IX, the federal statute that addresses sexual discrimination at educational institutions, prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Sexual misconduct may be considered discrimination if it interferes with a student’s ability to pursue educational opportunities or participate in activities on a college campus.

Sexual misconduct can take many forms, including:

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Historically, the NCAA has prohibited college student-athletes from accepting money in return for endorsements to ensure athletic programs were not “pay for play.”  Until recently, the only way student athletes could legally receive compensation was through scholarships. Many believed that this was unfair to student-athletes, since universities could make a great deal of money from TV broadcasts and licensing deals, and even though these earnings would not be possible without students’ participation, the rewards received by many students were very limited. However, this has changed in recent years as multiple states have passed laws allowing students to earn money through licensing rights for their name, image, and likeness (NIL). In response to these laws, the NCAA created a new policy in 2021 allowing student-athletes to engage in these types of endorsements. For those who are considering earning money or other compensation with their NIL, it is important to work with an attorney who can provide representation for college student athletes and ensure that their rights and interests will be protected.

NIL Licensing for Student-Athletes in Wisconsin

Under the NCAA’s new policy, college athletes can benefit from the use of their NIL, and they can use professional services providers such as agents, accountants, marketing companies, or attorneys. Any NIL activities must be consistent with the laws of the state where the college is located and the activities should be reported to their school.

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It is not uncommon for college students to pursue sexual relationships with others. However, despite best efforts to ensure consent, there can sometimes be mixed signals or miscommunication.  There are also unfortunately instances where no form of consent is obtained. In some cases, students may be accused of committing sexual assault or other forms of sexual misconduct. These students will need to understand the potential consequences they may face, including criminal charges and administrative penalties at a university. To ensure that their rights are protected, those who have been accused of misconduct should work with an attorney who is experienced in representing college students.

Administrative Penalties for Sexual Misconduct

A student who is accused of committing sexual assault or other forms of sexual misconduct may face penalties from their school, even if they are never charged with or convicted of a crime. Once a complaint of sexual misconduct is made to a school’s Title IX office, the school will perform an investigation to gain information about the facts of the case.  In some cases, the school holds a hearing to determine whether misconduct occurred, and issue penalties, which may include suspension, expulsion, or restrictions on the types of activities a person can participate in or their contact or communication with the alleged victim. 

In a college setting, “sexual misconduct” includes more than just sexual assault. These cases can involve sexual harassment such as unwelcome sexual advances or offensive comments, sexual exploitation such as taking or distributing photos or videos of private body parts or sexual activity without a person’s consent, stalking, or dating violence committed against a romantic partner.

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As students pursue a college education, they should all be treated fairly and equally. Unfortunately, there are a variety of situations where students may face discrimination, and they may be treated differently based on their sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. In cases where a student has experienced discrimination, they will need to understand how Title IX, a federal civil rights law, addresses their situation and provides them with protections. By working with an attorney who can provide representation for college students, victims of discrimination can take legal action to protect their rights.

Protections Under Title IX

Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex at educational institutions. In addition to discrimination based on sex or gender identity, schools are also prohibited from treating students differently based on issues such as marital status, pregnancy, or parental status. This law applies to any school or program that receives financial assistance from the federal government. Title IX provides protections against discrimination in multiple situations, including:

  • Harassment - Students are protected from sexual harassment and sexual assault or other forms of harassment based on their gender or gender identity. A college must respond promptly and effectively to reports of harassment. Students should be aware of their various options both under Title IX and within the criminal justice system if they are the victim of any form of sexual harassment, sexual assault, or sexual violence.
  • Admissions - Male and female students who apply for admission to a university cannot be treated differently. A college cannot limit the number of admissions for a certain sex or rank applicants separately by gender. However, a college can take affirmative steps to address existing disparities.
  • Financial aid - Different types or amounts of financial assistance cannot be provided to students based on their gender. Eligibility for financial aid cannot be limited on the basis of sex, and a university cannot apply different criteria for financial aid based on a student’s gender. Certain types of sex-restricted scholarships may be administered by a university through wills, trusts, or bequests, but the overall effect of these scholarships cannot result in discrimination on the basis of sex.
  • Athletics - Male and female students should have equal opportunities to participate in athletic programs. Students should also be treated equally in terms of the quality of equipment provided, scheduling of games and practices, financial support for travel expenses, opportunities for tutoring, and locker rooms, sports fields, or other facilities of comparable quality.
  • Employment - Colleges cannot treat employees, including students who participate in work-study programs, differently based on their sex. Hiring practices cannot disproportionately affect one sex, and a university cannot provide different benefits based on a person’s gender identity.

Contact Our Milwaukee Title IX Attorneys

If you have experienced discrimination while attending or working at a college or university, the attorneys of Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown LLP can help you understand your rights and the best ways to address these issues. We will help you take legal action to ensure that you will be treated fairly and equally and that any negative effects you have experienced due to discrimination are mitigated as much as possible. Contact our Milwaukee, WI college student discrimination lawyers at (414) 271-1440 to arrange a confidential consultation.

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