Listing Sexual Offenses on University Transcripts Raises Constitutional Questions

When convicted of a sexual assault crime, it should come as no surprise that one of the possible penalties could include being listed as a sexual offender on a public registry. To end up on such a list, a defendant likely had to plead guilty to or be convicted of an offense.

States Starting to Require Transcripts be Noted

But many states are now requiring that universities that have dismissed or expelled students for sexual assault list those students as expelled for a “code of conduct violation” (or other more detailed notations) on their transcripts. Recently, New York state passed such a law, right after Virginia.

Maryland recently tried to enact a similar statute that failed and never became law. The rationale for rejecting it echoes the reason why many people oppose such a law: Doing so creates a kind of sexual offender registry, and doing that would require academic proceedings to contain full-blown constitutional protections the same way the legal system does. Many are concerned that requiring such protections and due process could actually make it more difficult for schools to punish and expel sexual offenders.

Furthermore, the entire system only works based on the idea that the investigations conducted by schools are correct. But most schools simply don’t have the time, procedures, or ability, to actually assert whether a sexual assault allegation is true or not. The standard for expelling is often significantly less than what the law would require to convict someone. And, the investigation and hearing procedures for one school may differ vastly from others, making the entire system lack consistency.

Proponents Advocate Protecting Other Students

Proponents claim that marking a transcript this way allows the schools where the expelled student might transfer to know they may be accepting someone with a history of sexual offenses. Schools should know if they are accepting someone who may be a criminal risk to other students, and there is a concern that sexual offenders may simply bounce from school to school.

In fact, an Oregon school was recently sued for recruiting college athletes that were involved in an assault. The suit claims that the school should have known about the athlete’s history but because there was no notation on the transcript, the school denies having any such knowledge.

Law Could Make Lawsuits Easier

Schools may see the transcript issue as a mixed bag–on the one hand, requiring expulsions may help schools keep out students they fear will cause trouble. But on the other hand, having the notations there could make the school civilly liable if the student is ultimately accepted and commits another crime, as the school could no longer use lack of knowledge as a defense to a civil suit.

The issue is a controversial one, as these laws risk creating sexual offender lists, without the constitutional protections or uniformity that ordinarily would be expected in such cases.

Sexual offense crimes are serious, and can have long lasting ramifications. Make sure you get top legal advice from attorneys who understand how serious the charges are. The attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience at all stages of the criminal defense process. If you or someone you know was arrested or charged with a crime in Maryland, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.