ADHD and Academic Misconduct Defense

If you are a student with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or if you have a student with ADHD, you know that these students face some unique challenges in school. Symptoms of ADHD like an inability to sit still, maintain sustained attention in the classroom or while doing homework, or difficulty controlling impulses, can lead to discipline and academic issues throughout a student's academic career.

According to a study from Ohio State University, students who have problems paying attention are also more likely to admit to cheating. That's why it's important to ensure that you or your child have the support needed at school to be successful with ADHD. Under federal law, schools must provide eligible students with disabilities like ADHD with a free and appropriate public education. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are laws that provide eligible disabled students with special education services and accommodations in schools. With proper academic support, you or your child may be able to avoid accusations of academic misconduct in the first place.

Unfortunately, schools also sometimes fail to consider how their disciplinary policies and procedures may interfere with students' disability rights. If you or your child end up in this situation, an experienced academic misconduct attorney can give you important guidance for handling academic misconduct allegations with ADHD.

Disciplinary Process for Students With ADHD

Even with an ADHD diagnosis, you're still subject to the same code of conduct and disciplinary procedures that all students must follow. It's your responsibility to know and follow the rules in your school's conduct code, academic conduct code, or handbook.

However, students with disabilities under IDEA and Section 504 are allowed special procedures for incidents that involve removing the student from their typical educational setting. Procedures for IDEA and Section 504 disciplinary matters are similar but vary slightly. If you're unsure how your ADHD may impact your school's code of conduct, you should contact the student affairs office, your school's disability office, or your high school guidance office.

Notifying Your School of Your ADHD Diagnosis

If you have an ADHD diagnosis, you don't have to notify your school. If you don't feel that your ADHD will significantly impact your academic progress, extracurricular activities, or campus life, you don't have any obligation to let your school know. However, there are advantages to notifying your school, particularly if you feel you may need reasonable accommodations to help you succeed academically, emotionally, or socially.

Schools Must Make Reasonable Accommodations for ADHD

For students with qualifying disabilities that are “substantially limiting,” like ADHD, schools must make reasonable accommodations, evidence-based interventions, and scientifically based services. The purpose of accommodations and services is to ensure that you have an equal opportunity to succeed based on your needs compared to your peers without ADHD. This standard is also known as a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE).

  1. Examples of Accommodations

Accommodations are typically included in a written plan and may include examples such as:

  • Allowing additional time for tests or homework
  • Providing a quiet place to work in school
  • Ensuring the student has clear and simple directions for all assignments
  • Using an audio recording of classes or allowing a student to copy notes
  • Creating an assignment or communication notebook so parents and teachers can track your daily progress
  1. Changes to the Disciplinary Process in K-12 Schools

Under Section 504 and IDEA, disciplinary processes for students with ADHD are the same as a school's typical procedures unless they involve a suspension or expulsion of more than ten days. However, even if expelled or suspended, students are still entitled to a “free appropriate public education.” After ten days, the school must hold a “manifestation determination” or meeting to decide if the behavior that led to the student's suspension or expulsion was related to their disability. If there is a direct relationship, the school can't send the student you or your child to an alternative education placement. If there is no direct relationship, the school can discipline the student in the same manner as any other student.

  1. Colleges and Universities

Under Section 504, colleges and universities must also provide reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities like ADHD. Your college or university must first determine that you qualify. While transitioning from high school to college, you should contact your school's disability office and find out the available resources and how to transfer your accommodations to the college setting.

Making “reasonable” accommodations doesn't mean that your school must fundamentally change the nature of the course or incur undue financial hardship while doing so. Examples of accommodations in college might include:

  • Allowing the use of a calculator on tests
  • Additional time for exams
  • Allowing audio recording of classes
  • Allowing the use of a laptop to take exams
  • Priority course registration
  • Use of audiobooks
  • Use of text-to-speech programs
  • Copying notes from a classmate

College Academic Misconduct Violations and ADHD

Facing academic misconduct allegations at college can be stressful, particularly if related to your ADHD. Unfortunately, sometimes use of your accommodations under Section 504 may be mistaken for academic misconduct by some students and teaching staff. In other situations, poor impulse control, organizational skills, or ability to concentrate, hallmark symptoms of ADHD, can affect your ability to progress academically.

  1. What is Academic Misconduct?

Unfortunately, sometimes use of your accommodations under Section 504 may be mistaken for academic misconduct by some students and teaching staff. “Academic misconduct” is a broad category encompassing everything from cheating to failing to maintain the necessary grade point average. Other examples of academic misconduct include:

  • Plagiarism: Taking or copying someone else's work or ideas without attribution
  • Bribery: Offering someone something of value to influence a grade or academic program
  • Cheating: Cheating is a catch-all that can include continuing to work on an exam after the completion time ends, copying someone else's work, submitting someone else's work, using materials the professor has forbidden to complete work, or allowing someone else to copy your work
  • Dishonesty: Falsifying information or providing misleading information to be excused from an assignment or class or providing misinformation on another student's behalf
  • Disrupting a classroom
  • Falsifying data or records
  • Research misconduct: Fabricating or falsifying data, copying someone else's work, or fabricating research results

As you can see, many incidents that may be considered academic misconduct could also include legitimate accommodations offered to a student with ADHD. For example, if a proctor or a student saw you continuing to work on an exam after the announced end time, they could mistakenly accuse you of academic misconduct. For example, if another student sees you copying the lab notes of another student after class, they might accuse you of misconduct without understanding that your Section 504 accommodations allow you to do so.

However, sometimes simply difficulties organizing, keeping up with work, and poor impulse control can lead a student with ADHD to do something they otherwise wouldn't. For example, while taking notes for a research paper, if you aren't well organized and lose track of citations for a source, you might unintentionally fail to cite another's ideas properly. Or, if you're far behind in a class, you might look for answers for an assignment on the internet or buy a term paper online out of desperation.

  1. Penalties for College Academic Misconduct

Penalties for academic misconduct can vary widely depending on your college or university. Most schools have a code of conduct published online that list possible penalties. Still, the punishment will often depend on the severity of the incident and whether you have a history of academic misconduct issues. Some penalties for academic misconduct can include:

  • A failing grade on a test or assignment
  • A written warning
  • A failing grade in a class
  • Having to retake a class
  • Losing academic credits
  • Suspension
  • Expulsion
  • Losing a degree
  1. Responding to Academic Misconduct Allegations

If someone accuses you of academic misconduct, there can be a great deal at stake. That's why it's so important for you and your parents to discuss the matter with an academic misconduct attorney advisor as soon as possible. Don't assume that you can handle this yourself or that you can explain your way out of a misunderstanding. If you make any statements to an administration member or a professor, the college could hold it against you in a disciplinary proceeding. If you haven't already notified your school about your ADHD diagnosis and believe the allegations are related, you should notify your school's disability office immediately.

  1. College Disciplinary Hearings

Not all schools will offer a disciplinary hearing for potential academic misconduct. Many will allow professors to handle them on their own for simple matters, or the school may invite you to discuss the matter with an administrator and your professor. In more serious cases, such as those that can involve expulsion, losing credits, or losing a degree, your college or university may have a formal hearing process. It's important that you and your parents discuss the matter with an academic misconduct attorney as soon as you hear about the allegations against you.

K-12 Academic Misconduct Violations

Academic misconduct allegations may seem to have fewer consequences in a K-12 setting, particularly before high school. However, having academic dishonesty or misconduct on your child's record can greatly impact their academic future.

  1. High School Academic Misconduct

High schools often take a more hands-on approach to services and accommodations related to disabilities like ADHD. As a parent, you may have annual meetings with your student's teachers and staff to ensure that they receive the most suitable accommodations and services to provide a “free appropriate public education.” But it's still possible to encounter problems with school staff members and teachers that don't fully understand your child's IEP or Section 504 plan in the academic context.

Some common high school academic misconduct allegations include:

  • Cheating or plagiarism
  • Improper use of technology
  • Receiving unauthorized assistance with assignments or homework
  • Violating test conditions set by a teacher or standardized testing service
  • Disrupting a class
  • Bribery
  1. Penalties for High School Academic Misconduct

Punishments for academic misconduct in high school courses may include:

  • Doing assignments over
  • A conference with you, your parents, the teacher, and the administration
  • Receiving a failing test or assignment grade
  • Receiving a failing course grade
  • Needing to retake a class or attend summer school
  • Disqualification from extracurricular activities
  • Suspension
  • Expulsion

Often your student's school will note academic misconduct on the record that colleges and universities receive during the application process. In many cases, a notation of academic misconduct or failing grades can prevent you from reaching your full college potential, obtaining scholarships, obtaining internships, or getting a part-time job.

  1. High School Academic Misconduct and ADHD Policies

It's also important to know whether your school's code of conduct mentions students with disabilities. Most high school codes of conduct contain ambiguous definitions of academic misconduct and leave much discretion to teachers and the school administration. However, it's important to have someone advocate for you if your school fails to consider how your student's ADHD diagnosis, accommodations, or services affect the allegations of academic misconduct against them.

An Experienced Academic Misconduct Attorney Can Help You

If your child with ADHD faces academic misconduct allegations in high school or college, the results can be serious. Academic misconduct allegations, failing grades, or suspensions on a school record can affect your child's ability to get into college or graduate programs and their professional future. Experienced Academic Misconduct attorney Joseph D. Lento can help. He and the skilled team at the Lento Law Firm have helped college and high school students and their parents across the country. Call the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 for a consultation or contact them online to discuss your options.

Contact Us Today!


If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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