Are you a student or the parent of student at a Alabama school, college, or university facing a school-related issue or concern? Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can help. The world of academia is unique, and the Lento Law Firm has unparalleled national experience bringing its problem-solving approach and fighting spirit to address school-related injustice. Attorney Lento and his Firm have helped countless students and families in Alabama and across the United States at the school level and in court. Please click on the following links for more information. Please also see our expanded list of school practice areas.
- Title IX Defense
- Academic Misconduct
- Code of Conduct Disciplinary Charges
- Student Rights
- Academic Issues
- Medical Student Issues
- And more...
Joseph D. Lento has helped countless students and others in academia in Alabama protect their academic and professional future, and he can do the same for you. Contact him today at 888-535-3686.
An Overview of Alabama Student Discipline and Student Rights
Is your student attending a college or university in Alabama? Or are you a student yourself?
If so, this is the page for you.
While everyone hopes that college is a seamlessly enjoyable experience with a marketable degree waiting for them at the end, it can be a lot harder than it seems to graduate with a clean reputation. Hopefully, the focus during your stint at an Alabama school will be on making friends, acing your courses, and figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life.
If instead, you bump into disciplinary charges or questions regarding your academic abilities, you could have a very different collegiate experience.
More and more college students are having to deal with the intricacies and stressors of due process, as colleges are increasingly cracking down on any instances of even perceived misconduct. Whether you're dealing with allegations of punishable behavior or simply an inability to keep up with your peers academically, your school will investigate the matter, and may threaten to suspend you or even expel you.
This can have repercussions that last for the rest of your life. If your permanent student record indicates that you were involved (even erroneously) in academic integrity issues or code of conduct infractions, it could be a lot harder than necessary for you to enjoy the successful career you're working towards.
If it seems like academic concerns or conduct allegations could be in your future, you need to put on a proactive mindset. These types of situations can snowball out of control before you know it — making quick action an absolute necessity.
At the Lento Law Firm, we believe that having a firm grasp of what can happen in a disciplinary process is one of the two best things you can do to be prepared for when these stressful events happen. (The other is to have the help of a good national student defense attorney.) That's why we've gathered the information Alabama college students need to succeed on this handy reference page.
What Schools Are In Alabama?
There are many incredible public and private schools in Alabama. If you're already attending one, you know that it's a great state to study in! In this section, we'll provide a quick list of the main colleges or universities in this Southern state:
Public schools in Alabama
- Auburn University
- University of Alabama (and its many satellite campuses!)
- Jacksonville State University
- University of South Alabama
- Troy University
- University of Montevallo
- Alabama A&M
- Alabama State University
Since the University of Alabama is such a large and significant university system (with almost 40,000 students!), we'll reference its procedures whenever we need to make a point. Your university may do things slightly differently, so it's always a good idea to check out your own school's materials to see if there's anything specific that you need to be aware of. However, the policies at the University of Alabama are likely representative as to how many schools in the state will handle these types of issues.
Private schools in Alabama
- Birmingham-Southern College
- Samford University
- University of Mobile
- Spring Hill College
- Tuskegee University
- Huntington College
- Faulkner University
- Oakwood University
- Stillman College
- Columbia Southern University
This is far from an exhaustive list; there are many top-tier private institutions in Alabama!
While it's true that private colleges and universities may operate with a little bit more freedom than public schools, private schools still comply with most government regulations. For example, private colleges comply with Title IX, a federal regulation that oversees the way schools need to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct. A private school might wish to offer its student a consistent, safe experience and so operate under the same standards as other schools in the state. A private school may also wish to remain eligible for federal funding, even if it doesn't take or require any support in any given year.
Since this is the case, it's a good idea to have a general idea of the various higher education laws and government bodies that influence the way schools in Alabama are able to run. We'll provide a quick list in the next section.
Statewide Higher Education Laws and Government Bodies in Alabama
- The Alabama Commission on Higher Education is an external authority that oversees the ways that all colleges and universities in Alabama are able to operate. This commission also serves as the keeper of a large list of laws that apply to schools in the state. These laws include regulations about the ways schools can spend money, admit students, and compensate their teachers. This commission has also recently requested more money from the state to fund higher education, so it's possible that benefit for state schools will be seen in the future as a result of this initiative.
- Alabama is in the Eleventh Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. This court could issue an opinion that affects the way your school is able to run, so it's a good idea to keep an eye on the cases it will be overseeing.
In many situations, such as in sexual misconduct instances, Alabama schools follow federal regulations (e.g., Title IX). It's important to note that the ways that schools need to follow these regulations are often in flux on a national level, making it somewhat confusing to determine whether a school is acting in line with standards or not. Your student defense attorney can review your school's code of conduct, your state's standards, and federal regulations to support you as you work towards a favorable outcome at your school.
What Happens if I'm Academically Failing to Progress at My Alabama School?
Whether you're in your first or fourth year at your Alabama school, it's certainly not your goal to fail to progress.
Quite the opposite. You likely chose your courses with care, excitement, or at least some level of confidence that you'd be able to finish them. Unfortunately, it can be very easy to find yourself midway through a semester, suddenly wondering if you're going to be able to work your way through to the end of the year successfully.
Sometimes, you may not even be aware that you're failing to progress. Instead, a teacher may pull you aside and inform you that what you thought was a few low grades or a single product that didn't turn out well is evidence that you're simply not performing well enough academically to continue.
This can be shocking, heartbreaking, and stressful.
Many schools say that they'll provide adequate resources for their struggling students (e.g., tutoring, flexibility on deadlines, or even mental health services). Many schools don't follow through on these promises when a student is actually struggling. Instead, they will simply suspend or dismiss the student.
If you're facing an investigation due to academic issues and concerns, it can be hard to figure out what you need to do.
The first step is realizing that this is a big deal. This is not something you should simply ignore. If your school decides to suspend you, you may suddenly find that you're no longer eligible for scholarships or for being a member of an athletic team. If you're suspended, you'll be away from school for a time, which will only make your current academic struggles more difficult than they need to be. You'll also have a gap on your transcript that you'll need to explain later on in life when you take work or internship interviews.
Those conversations will not go well.
The second step is to do some research and figure out what your school defines as a failure to progress. The problem is your school may leave this type of assessment up to your instructor or only leave a very vague definition in your code of conduct.
Here are a few examples of academic failure to progress:
- The failure to complete course requirements, as determined by your educators or stated in your course curriculum
- The repeated failure to complete background activities (such as required reading) for your courses
- The repeated failure to prepare materials for coursework or for lab experiments
- The failure to take on a minimum accepted number of credits for your student status
- Repeated or allegedly unimproved grades on a series of course exams
- Repeated incompletes, withdrawals, or attempted withdrawals for your courses
However, if your school's own standards are vague or if your school allows your teachers to determine failure to progress, virtually anything could qualify you for disciplinary action in this category.
Failure to progress isn't even the only reason you might attract attention from your school. In the next section, we'll discuss code of conduct infractions.
What Are Code of Conduct Infractions at My Alabama School?
Your school's code of conduct is a document, likely located on the school website, that details the behavior expected of you as long as you're a student. It also lists out some other helpful policies that you may need to reference, such as the types of discipline your school tends to recommend and what happens after an allegation of misconduct.
We'll talk more about allegations and due process in a minute. For right now, let's talk about the three general types of code of conduct infractions. The University of Alabama's student conduct code may serve as a good reference for examples, but it's always a good idea to check your specific school's documentation as well. The first type of misconduct we'll discuss is sexual misconduct.
What qualifies as sexual misconduct at my Alabama school?
As a general rule, any sexual activity that occurs without the express consent of all persons involved could be sexual misconduct.
The standards and environment at your school can strongly influence what can be interpreted as problematic. Here's a quick list of common inclusions in lists of prohibited behavior:
- Sexual exploitation
- Dating violence
- Domestic violence
This is not a full list, and there can be lots of gray area that makes navigating allegations of sexual misconduct very confusing. To complicate the matter, there's a legal requirement for your school to investigate all allegations of sexual misconduct in a timely manner.
Title IX, a federal regulation that governs the way schools respond to allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment, requires schools to formulate a quick response to these types of reports. This does not always result in fair, reasoned, and empathetic behavior. If you're an accused student, you may experience rushed or sloppy treatment. People may not treat you very nicely or start to assume things about you. Even if you're innocent (or if the allegation is based on a misunderstanding or miscommunication), you may receive long-term damage to your reputation and academic career.
It's key to realize that you can work towards a more successful outcome (e.g., reduced sanctions, a salvaged reputation) as long as you start early. Keeping yourself informed is a great start, but the best thing you can do is contact a student defense lawyer. Otherwise, you may find that a seemingly small complaint about lewd behavior could end up ruining your academic experience and following you around as you begin your career.
What qualifies as academic misconduct at my Alabama school?
When you see the phrase “academic misconduct” (or academic dishonesty, or academic integrity issues), you may pause and wonder: Didn't we just talk about that?
Academic dishonesty and failure to progress may seem similar, but they are distinct issues.
Typically, in a failure to progress scenario, you may have difficulty keeping up to your educator's standards — but you won't have done anything that specifically breaks a stated rule. In an academic misconduct situation, you do break a rule.
Examples of academic misconduct are as follows:
- Plagiarism - or the act of using another person's work or words as your own without proper citation or attribution
- Cheating - or copying another person's work, accessing answer keys, or performing other actions that give you an unfair advantage over your peers in the academic sphere
- Unauthorized collaboration - or working with one of your classmates on an assignment or exam that you're supposed to tackle on your own
This is not an exhaustive list. For example, destroying school property, illicit access of materials, and fabrication of data can all constitute examples of punishable academic dishonesty. Anything that might be against your school's honor code is probably a candidate for this category.
This includes situations in which you are an accomplice to academic misconduct - even if you're unaware that this is happening to you. If your school finds that another student has copied your homework, you may be punished as well.
Are there any other types of code of conduct infractions at my Alabama school?
So far, we've discussed sexual misconduct and academic dishonesty issues. While these may make up the bulk of infractions that many colleges see, there are other punishable behaviors that many colleges will list out. This is where it's a particularly good idea to check your own school's code of conduct, as specific items your school will investigate may appear here.
However, we've found that many schools will punish the following as general code of conduct infractions:
- Drug use
- Alcohol use (for those under 21)
- Hate crimes
- Hazing (particularly when it goes too far)
- Residential misconduct (e.g., violence or theft in dormitories)
Regardless of the specific cause, your school's code of conduct processes will likely begin when your school receives an allegation of misconduct. After this happens, your school will take some time to determine whether or not the allegation merits a response. If your school decides it wants to learn more, then it will send you a notification and initiate an investigation.
In the next section, we'll discuss best practices for handling an investigative and adjudicative process.
What Happens After My School Receives an Allegation of Misconduct (Against Me)?
In short, your school will spend some time making an effort to learn what happened through an investigation. Representatives from your school will determine whether or not you are responsible for the alleged event, and then they will make a recommendation regarding the sanctions that you'll have to undergo.
Before we get a little more into the details, we'd like to emphasize that the single most important thing you can do in order to achieve a successful outcome is to hire a student defense attorney early on in this process. Once your school's disciplinary processes begin, things can happen very quickly. You'll want to be prepared!
Here's a quick rundown of what might happen after your school decides it wants to learn more about your alleged misconduct:
- You'll receive a notification from your school detailing your specific allegations and discussing next steps
- You'll undergo an investigation from your school. (Your student defense attorney can help you make sure this experience is as positive as possible)
- You'll meet with representatives from your school. Depending on the severity of your alleged misconduct and your school's processes, this could be a one-on-one with your instructor or a formal hearing in front of a panel of school representatives
- Your school will issue a decision about your responsibility for the alleged infraction.
- Your school will recommend a sanction to go along with your alleged misconduct.
You might feel a little wary of the potential sanctions you could face. We'll talk about what sanctions you might face in the next section.
What Sanctions Are on the Table at My Alabama School?
If your school has decided that you are likely responsible for your misconduct or that some kind of sanction is appropriate for your academic issues, you might be looking at your school's expansive list of sanctions with some trepidation.
Here's the thing: You should definitely be worried about the outcome, but not necessarily because your school might hit you with any of a wide range of sanctions.
First, let's talk about what you may be seeing in your school's code of conduct. In the sanctions section, you may see a long list of potential sanctions, including:
- Loss of privileges
- Loss of scholarship
- Housing changes
- Course changes
- Written warnings
- Monetary fines
- Behavioral contracts
While your school may have all of these options available as sanctions, in many instances regrettably, it's far more likely that your school simply decides to suspend or expel you. A suspension is often the most common sanction you'll face. If you're allegedly responsible for severe or repeated academic misconduct or many forms of sexual misconduct, you may face expulsion.
Unfortunately, even if you're “just” facing a suspension, that's still a very big deal. Whether your school makes a note on your student record or there's just a worrisome gap on your transcript because you weren't in school for a period of time, it'll still be clear from your transcript that something interesting happened.
Later in life, when you apply to a job or another school or a key internship, the people interviewing you for that opportunity will notice that gap on your transcript (or the note that your school left). This ramification of a suspension can follow you for years after school, damaging your reputation and turning down opportunities left and right.
That's why it's vital to act quickly to make sure that you don't receive any sanctions or are at least able to negotiate with your school regarding a reasonable resolution, including the possibility that there's no permanent record of your disciplinary experiences.
In the next section, we'll begin to talk about how you might be able to achieve this preferable outcome.
How Do I File an Appeal at My Alabama School?
If you've decided to file an appeal, keep the following steps in mind:
- File your appeal quickly after your school issues its initial decision. Depending on your school's processes, you may only have a few days to get this done!
- Make your appeal as persuasive as possible. Typically, your school will only allow you one shot at a strategic appeal. That's why we recommend working with your student defense attorney before this point, so they have the background to help you make your appeal one that's likely to succeed!
If your school indicates that it's amenable to negotiations, your student defense attorney can help you steer the conversations towards an end that's favorable to you.
If not, it may be time to consider alternative action.
What If it's Time to Sue My School in Alabama? What Do I Do Then?
Deciding to sue your school can feel scary. It's a lot - we get it!
Litigation against your school does constitute drastic action. The repercussions of a lawsuit can also be dramatic: Very likely, after you sue your school, you won't be able to enjoy your status as a student there anymore. Instead, you'll have to sever your ties with your school and seek admission to another academic institution.
At the Lento Law Firm, we've seen great success when a national student defense attorney reaches out on behalf of a student to a school's general counsel. If you decide to pursue this as a course of action, your lawyer will discuss your case with your school's lawyers in an effort to smooth things over without a dramatic (and expensive) lawsuit. Very often, this will get you towards your goal, so ask your student defense attorney if this is something that they would be ready to do for you.
Aside from a lawyer to lawyer conversation, you should consider the following actions, as well, before you decide to file a lawsuit:
- First, ensure that you've done everything you can at the school level—e.g., you've filed an appeal, and you've tried to pursue negotiations. Even if you don't believe that it'll do anything, these types of actions will show that you tried to work towards success in the ways that your school recommends. They'll also provide the basis for a lawsuit, should it come to that.
- Secondly, file a complaint with the Alabama Commission on Higher Education. This complaint will also provide the basis for a lawsuit and can show your school that you're serious about your efforts to work towards a more favorable outcome.
- Finally, if nothing seems to be working, it may be time to think about a lawsuit. Your defense advisor will be able to help you determine if this is the right step for you at this time.
Which Other Alabama Laws Do I Know About as a College Student Attending School in the State?
While the vast majority of your actions on campus will fall under the oversight of your school's code of conduct regulations, there are some local laws that you should probably keep in mind. You'll need to follow these laws whenever you're off-campus, and your school may use these laws as a starting point for its own regulations.
The laws most relevant to your experience might include:
- Alabama Laws about Underage Drinking: The underage consumption laws in Alabama are quite strict. If you are under the age of 21, you can neither possess nor consume alcohol on campus.
- Alabama Laws about Drinking and Driving: Much like underage drinking, Alabama frowns on drinking and driving. You'll face steep penalties if you are caught doing so.
- Alabama Tenant Responsibilities: Decide to live off-campus as a student? Great - just make sure that you pay your rent on time and honor any of the other stipulations in your tenant agreement (that's a legally binding document!).
- Alabama False Identification Laws: In Alabama, it is illegal to show a fake ID to a police officer or use one to attempt to purchase alcohol as a minor.
Alabama, just like every other state in the nation, has its own statute of limitations laws. These regulations define the length of time after an event that you or another involved party can initiate related legal action. It's good to keep these in mind!
Statute of Limitations Laws in Alabama
- Injury to Person: Two years
- Libel: Two years
- Slander: Two years
- Injury to Personal Property: Two years
- Trespassing: Six years
- Contracts: Ten years
- Judgments: Twenty years
If you're a current Alabama student or a parent of one, this is important information to keep in mind. While it may seem like a lot now, this is the stuff you'll need to know should you ever find yourself in a sticky situation in your school. We'd recommend reading through this now, so you've got a good knowledge base and bookmarking this page for later use.
Reach Out to Joseph D. Lento, a National Student Defense Advisor, for the Information Alabama Students Need
Whether you or your student is facing a surprising failure-to-progress concern or a sudden sexual misconduct allegation, you're probably stressed. You may be scared—or even frustrated at how little your Alabama school is doing to help your family through this experience.
Unfortunately, it's not going to get easier. These types of adjudicative and disciplinary situations tend to do a lot of long-term damage to a student's career, so this isn't going away anytime soon. It's vital that you and your family take the time now to make sure that your student's transcript remains clear.
For help with persuasive defenses, coaching for hearings, strategic appeals, and more, rely on the expertise of the Lento Law Firm. Joseph D. Lento is a national student defense attorney who's ready to help you, wherever you are. In these situations, it's always best to choose a top-quality lawyer instead of whoever happens to be nearby. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped hundreds of students across the nation achieve successful outcomes after allegations of misconduct or disheartening academic issues. He and his team can do the same for you.
Interested in attentive support and assistance through your school's investigation, adjudication, and more? Reach out to attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation or fill out our online contact form for a timely response.