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Title IX & Student Conduct Code Blog

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How Do Sanctions Impact Transfer to Another School?

Whether deserved or not, sanctions from a college or university can cause a student to want to change schools and make a fresh start somewhere new. How easy is it to do that, exactly? Can you transfer readily or would you be denied admission at most schools? If a school admits you, will they put you on some sort of probation? Will you be allowed to participate in athletics or other activities? Will you be banned from Greek Life?

The team at Duffy Law helps students assert their rights in a variety of situations, including instances where a student seeks to transfer after disciplinary action was taken against them for Title IX issues or other violations. Here are some of the impacts we’ve seen over the years and the information we’ve learned to help clients.

Communication is Critical

Schools impose sanctions for a reason, and it is not a positive one. Disciplinary action on a student’s record indicates that the student was found “responsible” for some type of wrongdoing. While the threshold for that finding may have been very low, and the student may not have actually taken the action, the dark mark on the record is obvious and must be addressed. 

Sanctions could involve moral culpabilities, such as cheating or fraud. They could involve violent or hurtful actions such as sexual misconduct, harassment, or vandalism. Or they could simply be due to poor academic performance.

It is important for a student seeking to transfer to be able to communicate the reason for the sanctions and in some cases, the standard on which the sanctions were based. If you were issued a formal warning based on an unsubstantiated allegation of cheating, for instance, explain that you did not have the opportunity to defend yourself in a formal hearing or locate evidence in an investigation.

It is even more important to effectively communicate remorse and the steps taken to prevent similar problems in the future. For example, if the student was dismissed for bad grades, they might explain that they were unprepared for the academic rigor and were undisciplined in their approach to studies. But since the dismissal, they have worked with a tutor to remedy deficiencies and develop study schedules, and they have taken several online classes with successful outcomes.

If a student was expelled for insensitive conduct toward other students, that student would need to present sincere remorse. They might also explain that they have been undergoing therapy for anger management issues and have completed sensitivity training and volunteered with different community service organizations to help bring positive changes.

When wrongdoing relates to violent or sexual misconduct, demonstrating rehabilitation can be trickier. An attorney experienced in protecting students’ rights could help prepare statements and coach a student on how to answer interview questions in a way that presents their qualifications in the most positive light.

Many schools require transferring students to directly answer questions about whether they have been subjected to disciplinary action. The school may then confirm the student’s story against the records from the student’s former school. Even when a school does not use this formal process, however, it is important to communicate fully and effectively about the sanctions, and this is one area where assistance from an experienced attorney can prove particularly valuable. 

School Policies Make a Tremendous Difference

The policies of the school that issued the sanctions are important because conduct that is treated with a slap on the wrist at one college may be grounds for expulsion at another. If you were expelled from the latter and are attempting to transfer to the former, that explanation alone could get you over the hurdle.

Of course, the policies at the school you hope to transfer to are of vital importance. Their policy guidelines might specifically say, “if you’ve been sanctioned for XYZ, you will not be permitted to participate in ABC.” This is true, for instance, of colleges that have adopted the “Tracy Rule” for athletes accused of sexual violence. The rule dictates that students who have been disciplined for certain specified offenses or been convicted of certain types of criminal conduct may not participate in athletic practice or competition or receive athletic scholarship money. Thus, transfer students who hope to play on a new campus are out of luck unless they can explain the situation in such a way that they convince the school to issue a waiver.

In many cases, the school policies may be silent about the ability of a sanctioned student to be admitted or participate in activities. The school may not dig deep to determine whether a student has faced disciplinary proceedings. Or the situation of each transfer student may be determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the facts.

School policies carry tremendous weight. If you have been suspended or expelled, the rules at one school may prohibit you from transferring, while a transfer could be allowed under the rules of another school. In some cases, a transfer may be allowed if you can provide an appropriate explanation that satisfies administrators that you have taken steps to reform your behavior. 

Schools Consider the Type and Severity of the Disciplinary Measures

Not surprisingly, the reasons for the disciplinary action and the severity of the sanctions are also likely to affect a student’s prospects as a transfer. Violation of a school code will generally be treated with more leniency than a violation of criminal law, for example. Violating school rules about alcohol will be more likely overlooked than violations of sexual assault rules, but treatment does depend on the culture of the school at the time. If the Board of Trustees decides it is time to get tough on underage drinking, they may choose to deny admission to students disciplined for this type of offense.

Sanctions range from minor to severe. A formal warning or imposition of academic probation may not appear on a student’s record at all or it may be on some pages not likely to be noticed when the school is looking primarily at grades. Similarly, if a school imposes community service requirements or demands monetary restitution for damage to school property, that might also not appear on a student’s record and may not affect opportunities as a transfer student. 

Suspension or expulsion, on the other hand, will be obvious and could make a student look like a danger to others. If an attorney has been able to negotiate with a school to allow a student to withdraw instead of being expelled, they can have a much easier time transferring to a new academic environment.

A Student Advocate Can Help Students Transferring After Sanctions

A student’s ability to gain admission and enjoy activities at a new school after they have faced disciplinary action in a previous enrollment can depend considerably on the student’s ability to explain what happened and why it should not be held against them. Given that students are often still developing their skills in persuasive communication, this can prove challenging without assistance.

At Duffy Law LLC, we help students protect and assert their rights in a variety of ways so that they can experience the best opportunities in their academic careers and beyond. Students who suffered sanctions for Title IX violations or other violations on campus have paid the price for their mistakes and deserve the opportunity to move on. For a confidential consultation to discuss how we could assist in your situation, contact us today.

Felice Duffy

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Attorney At Duffy Law

Attorney Felice Duffy served as an Assistant United States Attorney for ten years after beginning her legal career at two prestigious firms (one in CT and one in NY) and then clerking for two federal judges. A life-long Title IX advocate, she brought a legal action under the then-new Title IX statute against UCONN while an undergraduate to compel the creation of its women’s varsity soccer program. She went on to become a first-team Division I All-American, was selected to be on the first U.S. National Women’s Team, and spent 10 years as Head Coach of the Yale women's soccer team. Attorney Duffy has Ph.D. in Education/Sports Psychology and has spoken to, and conducted trainings for, over 50 schools and organizations on a wide range of topics involving athletics, the law, and social justice. You can reach Felice at (203) 946-2000.