Allied health professionals are a critical component of the healthcare industry, and they spend a considerable amount of time and money on education to serve in their positions. Allied health professionals fall under a vast umbrella of medical fields and, to name a few, they include:
- Dental hygienists
- Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs)
- Marriage and family therapists
- Medical sonographers
- Occupational therapists
- Physical therapist
- Speech-language pathologists
Regardless of the specific niche an allied health practitioner's focus falls in, one thing is true across the board—each one worked hard to get there. As students, the rigors of allied health profession education are fierce. The last thing a student needs added to their plate during their education is having to defend themselves against allegations of misconduct.
Unfortunately, many students will have to navigate the disciplinary process. The good news is that their chances of overcoming allegations made against them significantly improve when they've hired an experienced allied health profession student defense attorney.
A student can be investigated for any number of reasons. Sometimes the misconduct is related to academic performance, or sometimes it's because a student has been accused of a lack of professionalism. Other times, the accusations are of more serious violations, like sexual misconduct.
The consequences of academic misconduct are severe. Those accused may face probation, suspension, or even dismissal. Not only will an academic misconduct investigation create added stress while in school, but disciplinary actions may also result in ongoing consequences. Those who their allied health profession school has disciplined might be unable to later transfer schools or have difficulty obtaining their board certification. At the end of the day, they could be unable to secure employment in the profession they worked so hard to practice in.
According to nearly all school codes of conduct, academic misconduct occurs when a student commits acts of:
- Unauthorized collaboration
Of the actions listed above, plagiarism and cheating are the most frequent offenses. Plagiarism is defined as stealing or using another's work under the guise of presenting it as your original work or ideas. Notably, there are degrees of plagiarism, and sometimes, a student finds themselves accused when they didn't even realize they were committing the misconduct. It is one thing to copy another's work word for word, and it is something entirely different to rely on another's research that you didn't realize you were repeating their ideas.
When you're accused of plagiarism or cheating, it's important to understand your school's policies so that you can better defend yourself. Defenses to cheating or plagiarism may include lack of intent—accidents do happen, after all. Sometimes, a student is accused of academic misconduct by another student who is jealous or angry. Allied health profession students compete in rigorous environments, and sometimes, it gets personal.
Those who go into an allied health profession education can expect to be evaluated based on professionalism. This metric can have a lot to do with a student's personality and how they interact with others.
Examples of professionalism issues include:
- Chronic tardiness
- Poor communication
- Lacking bedside manner
- Hostile social media etiquette
- Substance abuse
Some students don't realize that their actions can have negative consequences, even with outstanding grades. Since professional schools are designed to train professionals, student behavior is, in fact, monitored. Violations of professionalism codes can lead to disciplinary action and remediation, or even expulsion if the behavior isn't sufficiently curtailed.
It is essential to understand that allegations of unprofessional behavior sometimes occur after an isolated incident. Perhaps you were having a bad day or going through some tough family issues. Even if the stress of your personal life has passed, those facing professional misconduct accusations must still answer to the disciplinary board.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento understands that when there are assertions of professionalism issues, a student needs to demonstrate to the disciplinary board that they can correct their behavior and move forward in a way that meets the allied health profession school's guidelines. An experienced attorney like Mr. Lento will help students navigate the disciplinary process in the best way possible.
Title IX and Sexual Misconduct
Sexual misconduct is taken very seriously at every academic institution, especially in today's political climate. Under federal law, schools that receive federal funding must comply with Title IX mandates which prohibit:
- Sexual harassment
- Sexual assault
- Discrimination on the basis of sex
Even private schools that receive no federal funding prohibit sexual misconduct, and if you've been accused of such behavior, you will almost certainly face an investigation. Sexual misconduct allegations require a serious and thorough defense.
Many students don't realize the severity of the accusations when they occur because they see it as a misunderstanding or even a complaint lodged by someone upset with the way a relationship ended. Even these questionable allegations will become the subject of an investigation, and the stakes are too high to simply brush off. You also need to understand the severity of the long-lasting stigma associated with sexual misconduct allegations. Your entire future is at risk and your best course of action is to seek the help of an experienced student sexual misconduct defense attorney like Joseph D. Lento.
The Disciplinary Process
Your allied health profession school's disciplinary process is likely to move at a quick pace. You need to be adequately prepared to defend yourself in the face of allegations against you. The best way to mount a defense is with the help of an attorney.
Students often make the mistake of putting off the acquisition of professional legal help because they incorrectly assume that they can handle it on their own. What they don't understand, however, is that schools hire professionals to handle matters like misconduct investigations and related hearings. You should similarly hire a professional to advocate for you.
Each school will have its own policies regarding student misconduct, but they generally follow a similar template. The process often goes as follows:
- School receives a complaint
- The school sends the student a formal notice of the complaint
- The student is notified of a formal investigation
- A date for a formal hearing is set
- The accused and the accuser present evidence at the hearing
- The disciplinary board issues a decision
The speed at which the board moves through this process varies depending on their policies and availability, but most often, it moves quickly. It's important to begin collecting evidence of your defense as soon as you suspect you're going to be investigated or as soon as you receive notice of an investigation.
Often, the allied health school is part of a larger umbrella system. For example, Caruth School of Dental Hygiene is a branch of Texas A&M University. The smaller branches of niche professional programs most often defer to the larger universities' misconduct policies and investigatory processes. So, while a student may feel a sense of community within their allied health profession program, they may not realize that they will be dealing with a much larger and unknown entity if accused of misconduct.
As a part of the disciplinary process, many accused students encounter remediation mandates. Remediation is the work a student is required to do to correct their behavior. In many ways, remediation can demonstrate that you're willing to get back on track and that you understand the consequences of any actions the disciplinary board finds improper. Sometimes, though, remediation can harm a student's ability to move forward.
A school sometimes imposes remediation on a student without understanding the full cause of the misconduct. For example, when a student is accused of academic misconduct, sometimes undiagnosed underlying medical conditions can be the root cause of falling grades. Sometimes, the burden should actually be shifted to the school rather than the student because the school failed to make reasonable accommodations according to law that would give the student an equal chance of success.
Remediation can be helpful, but it can also be an ineffective band-aid that fails to solve the real issue. Worse is that when remediation isn't beneficial, it wastes time and often creates additional expenses that only complicate matters. Hiring a skilled attorney who understands when remediation is helpful and when it is not is the best course of action. In addition to the attorney's legal knowledge, they're also able to guide you through the process and help you make the best decisions during a high-stress time in your life.
Dismissal from Allied Health Student Program
Dismissal is the most dire consequence to result from a student's failure to progress or an accusal of misconduct. Not only does dismissal mean that the student has spent tens of thousands of dollars and countless years in vain, but it also translates into lost job opportunities going forward. Those who seek allied health degrees do so, at least in part, because a degree of this caliber will open up better and more lucrative career options for them. When an allied health student is dismissed from their program, their earning potential can be so severely impacted that they have difficulty paying back their student loans. In short, dismissal has life-long implications.
Dismissed for Progression Issues
When allied health students are accused of academic underperformance, they may not realize that they'll only be afforded so many opportunities to get their grades back on track. Academic progression is the reason a student is at school, after all. Unfortunately, just because a remediation plan is put into place, there is no guarantee that the plan will work. When the remediation plan fails, the academic review board may opt to ultimately dismiss the allied health student. The standards for dismissal vary from school to school, and even from class to class. In some instances, a student may be given a second chance to repeat a course or even an entire semester. Other times, the allied health student will be held back from moving forward until they successfully complete the benchmark. If the student never moves forward, then they will be dismissed.
Dismissed for Misconduct Issues
Allied health students who are dismissed for academic or behavioral misconduct issues face the same losses as those who are dismissed for progression issues. They will lose out on the benefits they thought they would reap upon graduation and instead, be faced with the daunting task of finding alternative career paths.
Dismissal for misconduct issues often carries additional stigma, however, and those who find they've been dismissed for any kind of wrongdoing - be it academic misconduct, Title IX sexual misconduct, code of conduct violations, or professionalism issues - will discover they must clear especially difficult hurdles to even return to their normal lives. Even when circumstances behind a student's dismissal are intended to be kept confidential, it can be almost impossible to escape the stigma associated with any kind of misconduct allegation, especially sexual misconduct.
When you're facing threat of dismissal from your allied health professional program, you need to assert every defense at your disposal. Even if the dismissal proceedings don't go your way, you may still be able to appeal the decision. With so much on the line, you need to elevate your chances of success in the appeals process by hiring allied health professional student defense attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has vast experience defending professional students in dismissal cases and he knows that you need aggressive advocacy when you're facing your disciplinary board.
The Appeals Process
Appealing a grade or a decision by your school's disciplinary board is often a matter of timing. Each allied health profession school is different, but they all likely impose a deadline for an appeal. It's common for the deadline to appeal a grade to be as short as a month or a month and a half. If you plan to appeal a grade given to you before you are placed on academic probation or otherwise punished, you should carefully collect any evidence that could contribute to your appeal.
Importantly, if you feel that discrimination played a role, or that your school did not offer reasonable accommodations for a disability you have, you should immediately contact an attorney. This may seem like an aggressive move, but the law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or disability. You probably aren't alone in your struggles if a teacher or school is violating discrimination policies.
Additionally, there are times when a student disciplinary hearing will result in unfavorable results that you find inappropriate. Again, there is a strict timeline for which you may file an appeal. An experienced allied health profession student defense attorney will ensure that you comport with the timetable and guidelines of your school's appeal processes.
What Should You Do If You've Been Accused of Student Misconduct?
If you've been accused of misconduct by your school, there are steps you should take right away. In addition to contacting a student misconduct defense attorney, you should review your school's policies and the policies of any larger institution your allied health profession program may be a part of. Reviewing the policies you've been accused of violating will help you understand what you need to do to demonstrate that you didn't act in violation of the rules. A review will also help you discover what justifications may be available to you.
Once you understand your policies, it's essential to collect evidence to help you demonstrate your defense. This may be communications between you and your instructor, other students, or even individuals outside your school. It may also be witnesses who can attest to either your behavior or that of your accuser.
It's important not to engage in aggressive discourse with your accuser, either online or in person. This can be used as evidence against you in sexual misconduct or professional misconduct investigations. You should ensure that your behavior, moving forward from the moment you receive the formal notice of complaint, demonstrates your good character. In some cases, it may even be wise to proactively seek professional treatment for issues related to behavior.
At the end of the day, the single most helpful action you can take to protect your reputation and position within your allied health profession program is to hire an experienced attorney who will walk you through the process and help you understand your best course of action.
Hiring an Allied Health Profession Student Defense Attorney
It is difficult to overstate the stakes of a misconduct accusation against an allied health profession student. While there are numerous types of allied health profession programs, the competent defense of academic, professional, or sexual misconduct is critically important. Attorney Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm has handled countless Allied Health student cases throughout the country, and he understands that you need a fierce advocate who will fight for your future. To learn how Attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm can help you today, call 888-535-3686.