Elizabethtown College located in Lancaster County was founded back in 1899. The current undergraduate enrollment now exceeds 1,500 students. The leadership of the institution promotes “high community standards for personal behavior, integrity, and social responsibility.” The Vice President for Student Life enforces the disciplinary process to ensure safety, protect property, and maintain academic integrity.
Benefits of Retaining a Student Rights Attorney
College and university leaders create procedures for investigating, assessing evidence, and reaching conclusions in student disciplinary matters. These proceedings are not intended to imitate the judicial processes that exist in a court and they may lack some safeguards that protect the rights of accused parties.
Students and their loved ones are often sacrificing significant financial assets when pursuing a collegiate education. When students are the subject of a disciplinary investigation, their future goals may be placed in jeopardy if harsh sanctions and penalties are imposed. It is critical not to underestimate the potential consequences that could result.
Most schools do encourage all parties involved to select an advisor that will provide aid and support. It is important that an attorney that is well-versed in this area of practice be retained to serve in this capacity. Students are also strongly encouraged to pursue legal representation shortly after being notified of the allegations. This is important to ensure you have sufficient time for preparation.
An experienced lawyer will carefully review your school's distinctive policies and guidelines. He or she will help you in preparing to present effective statements and respond to questions confidently. Your attorney may enter into negotiations on your behalf that could result in a mutually acceptable resolution.
In today's highly-competitive landscape, academic institutions are cognizant of the importance of sustaining an excellent reputation. The administrators assigned to investigate and complete the disciplinary process are often pressured to hold students accountable for misconduct. At the same time, many schools are minimizing their staff in response to financial problems. These combined factors may indirectly hurt students accused of disciplinary violations.
Overworked staff may speedily navigate the disciplinary proceedings without properly considering your rights of due process. The penalties that may be imposed could be disproportionate to the severity of the violation. Having a lawyer that frequently works in this area of practice is important to protect your rights.
Student Rights Attorney
Disciplinary violations are often categorized into one of three segments. These include “general” disciplinary violations, those associated with academic integrity and acts that violate federal Title IX provisions.
Title IX Matters
Title IX was originally established in 1972 by the U.S. Department of Education. The purpose is to prevent acts of sexually-based discrimination are properly responded to allegations. Currently, enforcement is the responsibility of the Office of Civil Rights (OCR).
Schools that fail to abide by these requirements may lose eligibility for critical federal funding. The provisions of Title IX have continued to evolve. This is a reason why those faced with allegations should seek assistance from an experienced student rights attorney that is abreast of the changing guidelines.
Some of the actions that are prohibited under Title IX include the following:
- Sexual harassment: These are acts that may create a hostile educational environment for the victim. Common examples include inappropriate sexual advances or requests for favors.
- Sexually-based violence: These include physical sexual acts made against unwilling victims. Victims of rape or coercion may not have given consent to participate in sexual activity. This also applies to situations where a victim is incapable of consenting. For example, the victim may be too young to legally consent, be impaired from drugs or alcohol, or have an intellectual disability.
- Gender harassment: May include verbal abuse that seeks to intimidate. Harassment may involve false stereotypes or slurs that are “based on a student's actual or perceived sex.”
The administration is focused on maintaining an environment of “personal integrity, civility, and mutual respect” that is free of sexually-oriented discrimination and misconduct. The Title IX Coordinator is the Director of Diversity, Inclusion & Title IX.
General Disciplinary Violations
The Student Code of Conduct addresses the types of violations that may be classified as “general.” Conduct that is disruptive or disorderly falls within this category. This may involve unruly behavior that may infringe on others in the community. This also applies to those attending off-campus activities.
Other common general violations may relate to the school's Alcohol and Other Drug Policy (AOD). Examples may include underage alcohol consumption or unlawful drug possession. Any misuse or intentional destruction of the institution's technology or property may be deemed as general.
Students who live in campus housing are subject to residency rules. Some of the potential violations may include excessive noise, tampering with fire safety equipment, smoking, and more.
The Academic Standing Committee at Elizabethtown College handles matters of “academic dishonesty, grade appeals, academic probation, and academic dismissal” through the Academic Judicial System.
Rights of Due Process for Academic Misconduct
Students that are alleged to have committed an act of academic dishonesty are afforded the following rights:
- The respondent will receive a written summary of the infraction and any potential penalties that may be imposed
- An opportunity to answer the allegations in a hearing before the Academic Standing Committee
- A hearing is required when the sanctions that may be imposed include dismissal from the College for violations of academic integrity
- Permission to access all information related to a potential violation compiled by the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
The Standards of Integrity prohibit all potential forms of cheating. Examples include “giving or receiving unauthorized information” during an exam. Plagiarism is also defined as “taking and using writing or ideas of another without acknowledging the source.” All sources of information used should be properly referenced or cited.
Other types of dishonest academic behavior include falsifying, fabricating or otherwise creating untruthful information. A breach of academic integrity may occur when a student knowingly aids or otherwise assists another individual with committing acts of academic dishonesty. In addition to any sanctions or penalties that may be imposed, the student will receive a grade of F in the course.
Possible Criminal Charges
Student disciplinary matters may coincide with an arrest for criminal allegations such as from a campus police department or other local law enforcement agency. Fortunately, Joseph D. Lento is also an experienced criminal defense lawyer. He provides effective representation for clients both inside and outside of the courtroom.
Students Rights Attorney for Campus Disciplinary Matters in Pennsylvania
College and university students faced with allegations of misconduct should promptly seek assistance from a lawyer that is familiar with this area of practice. Clients of the Lento Law Firm can expect diligent defense that is part of a comprehensive strategy to obtain a positive outcome. Contact the office today at (888) 535-3686.