Representing Your Rights After a College Disciplinary Finding
If a disciplinary board decides that you violated the college code in some way, the finding will go on your academic record and you may face one or more sanctions. Having a mark on your record can affect your ability to get accepted into additional educational programs or even receive certain professional licenses down the road. Sanctions for serious misconduct allegations – such as sexual assault – can include suspension or expulsion. It can then be difficult to get into another school and may impact your entire future.
Because of the serious implications of disciplinary sanctions at colleges and universities, it is important to examine the possibility of an appeal. You should discuss your options with an experienced college code attorney as soon as possible.
Who Gets an Appeal?
Schools are not required by law to provide the opportunity for students to appeal disciplinary findings. However, most schools do provide a process for appeals, at least for certain types of violations. Each school may have a different process with different requirements and deadlines, so you should always be aware of the specific policy at your college or university.
Title IX governs sexual misconduct cases on college and university campuses as part of its protections against sex discrimination in education. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) provides guidance to schools regarding Title IX compliance, including appeals. When it comes to sexual misconduct cases, most schools provide both the complainant and the respondent the opportunity to appeal a finding they believe is unfair or inaccurate. The previous OCR guidance stated that Title IX required schools to allow appeals to both parties if they allowed appeals at all.
The newest guidance from 2017, however, allows schools to decide whether they allow appeals for no parties, both parties, or only the responding party. This not only conflicts with the previous official OCR guidance but also seems to allow schools to have different rules and policies for students of different genders, which violates Title IX. If your school has an unfair appeals policy, you should have an experienced education attorney examine the situation.
The Appeals Process
The first step in a college code appeal is to decide whether you want to appeal the finding, the severity of the sanctions, or both and determine which grounds for aeppa are allowed by the school. If you were adjudicated guilty of something you did not do or the findings were otherwise inaccurate, you may want to appeal the entire decision of the disciplinary board. In some cases, however, you may not necessarily disagree with the findings but may believe that the sanctions are too harsh and are disproportionate to the violations. In that situation, you may be able to file an appeal of just those sanctions.
Colleges and universities can have a wide range of disciplinary sanctions. Some may include mandatory writing assignments and other minor requirements, which may not be worth appealing. Others may include probation, disqualification from athletics or other activities, suspension, or expulsion. Sanctions may have collateral consequences beyond the sanction itself. For example, if you cannot play sports, you may lose your athletic scholarship or a suspension may cause you to lose financial aid. This may prohibit you from finishing your education altogether. Your future may be on the line and it may be worth filing an appeal.
As mentioned, your school will have its own rules for appeals, which can be complicated and strict. Some schools give you only a few days to prepare and file your appeal, so it is wise to have legal assistance as soon as you learn of the finding – if not before. An experienced college code attorney can ensure that your appeal meets all requirements and sets forth a persuasive argument to overturn the finding or sanctions.
A skilled lawyer can also examine whether your school violated your due process rights, which are protected by both Title IX and the Constitution of the United States. In such cases, an appeal may need to take the form of an administrative complaint or even a civil lawsuit.
Common College Code Violations
Each school will have its own college code with its own violations. While some schools may have significantly stricter rules than others, some of the more common college code violations include the following:
- Sexual Misconduct
- Relationship violence
- Misconduct of college organizations
- Misuse of social media or texting
- Bias-motivated conduct
- Drug offenses
- Alcohol violations
- Housing policy violations
While having a beer in your dorm room may seem harmless at the time, the situation can become significantly more stressful if you then face an alcohol violation. In many cases, having an attorney’s help from the beginning of the process can help you avoid a finding of guilt in the first place.
How an Attorney Can Assist You
In any situation, you want to ensure that your appeal is as strong as possible and that it adheres to your college or university’s rules. This may be the one chance you have to keep your education on track after a disciplinary finding, so you want to make the most of it by hiring the right legal representation. Not every school allows a lawyer to be present during disciplinary or appeal hearings. If this is the case at your school, you should still have the counsel of an attorney and assistance preparing you for your hearing, as well as preparing and filing your appeal.
Contact a College Code Defense Attorney for Help Today
The lawyers of Duffy Law have extensive experience with college disciplinary cases, including Title IX complaints of sexual misconduct. We fully understand the legal rights of students and work to protect the rights of our clients at every stage of their case. We have represented many students facing allegations of college code violations and we can advise you of your options. Whether you have recently been accused of a violation, believe your Title IX rights were violated, or would like to discuss appealing a finding, please do not hesitate to call our office at 203-946-2000 or contact us online to discuss your case today.