Case Studies: Alternative Special Relief

Engineering Student Avoids Suspension Related to Academic Misconduct Charges

A premier small private engineering school in a North Central state threatened to suspend our client for cheating after our client obtained copies of several prior exams from the school's own exam bank, analyzed the exams, and prepared a study sheet that enabled our client to make an unprecedented perfect score on the exam. Our client had a history of going to great lengths to obtain perfect or outstanding scores on exams, well beyond peer practices and course requirements. When asked how he got the perfect score, our client openly admitted to the professor and fellow students his method for obtaining the perfect score, which no school rule or professor's condition prohibited. Our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team when the professor nonetheless insisted that our client had cheated, and the school issued charges threatening to suspend our client. We worked closely with our client to establish and document that our client was simply a hyper-organized individual whose study practices ensured that he performed not just to high levels but to the highest possible level. Our communications with the school's disciplinary officials also showed that our client's method of analyzing test instruments that the school itself publishes to students for study use is a presumptively reasonable practice. The school accepted our arguments at the informal conference stage, recognizing that our client had just outperformed other students at generally accepted study practices. The school dismissed the cheating charges, enabling our client to continue with his engineering education after deciding to transfer to another school that respected and valued his hyper-diligent study practices.

Graduate Student Gains Reinstatement Through Oversight Channels After Behavioral Misconduct Dismissal

A large public university system on the West Coast dismissed our client, a graduate student in a healthcare-related field, after our client appeared to attend classes and take exams while under the influence of drugs or intoxicants and otherwise allegedly engaged in bizarre but non-threatening behaviors. Unknown to school officials, our client had multiple medical conditions requiring careful monitoring and balancing of multiple medications. The side effects of some of those medications included psychotic episodes or other symptoms of psychosis. Our client attempted to handle her interview, hearing, and appeals on her own, without our representation. The university dismissed our client and affirmed its dismissal through all published appeal procedures. When our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to pursue litigation or other avenues, we promptly contacted the university's general counsel for review of our client's complex situation and oversight of the university's disciplinary actions. Our presentation to the general counsel showed that the university had ignored its obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act when dismissing our client. Although our client may have been insufficiently specific in her requests for ADA accommodation, the general counsel agreed that reinstatement and accommodation were the preferred courses of action to civil litigation, especially with our evidence that our client had addressed her medical situation satisfactorily in the meantime. The university reinstated our client and removed all discipline from our client's university record, allowing our client to proceed with her graduate education.

High School Student Avoids Alternative Placement After District General Counsel Intervenes

The principal of a large rural high school in a Lower Midwest state suspended our client summarily, reassigning our client to the district's alternative placement program conducted by the local community college. Our client's parents, concerned for their son's mental health away from his peers and without school schedule and structure, retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to challenge the summary alternative placement. Our team researched the applicable state placement laws and their conditions and restrictions. Our team further confirmed the state's and school district's protective procedures for students, like our client, who attended school under the federal and state authority of an individualized protection plan (IEP). Those procedures mandated an IEP team review before any alternative placement of a qualifying student, like our client. The high school's principal had not convened a team review before reassigning our client, despite the parents' request and the team leader's support. The principal maintained emergency authority for the summary placement, but the factual grounds for exercising that authority as to our client appeared to be absent, without the principal's explanation, which the principal refused. Our team thus reached out to the district's general counsel, with whom our team had prior productive communications in another matter. The general counsel directed our client's reassignment to his traditional high school until such time as the IEP team could review, evaluate, and produce a recommendation. The general counsel further directed that he and the district superintendent would review any recommendation for reassignment to the alternative high school. Our client continued his high school education without further interruption.

Nursing Student Avoids Title IX Discipline After Conciliation Conference Arranged Through Oversight Channels

A premier nursing program at a state university in a Central Heartland state charged our client, a male student in his third year, with Title IX sexual misconduct reporting violations. When the male student retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to contest the unusual Title IX charges, our team learned that our client had been the initial Title IX complainant against a nursing program faculty member whom our client maintained had disparaged males of his sexual orientation and had accordingly created an unlawfully harassing hostile environment. The university's Title IX coordinator dismissed our client's complaint after ruling that it did not state a qualifying Title IX claim. The faculty member whom our client had accused then lodged a complaint against our client for false reporting that the Title IX coordinator declined to dismiss, instead serving charges on our client. Our team answered and denied the charges on our client's behalf while simultaneously alerting the university's ombuds office that the charge did not meet Title IX false-reporting standards and instead violated our client's rights to report suspected Title IX violations. The university subsequently obtained outside counsel review, resulting in the withdrawal of the false-reporting charge against our client. Our role was to involve oversight officials who had the legal knowledge, skill, and experience to ensure the university complied with its federal regulatory requirements. Our client continued his nursing education without discipline, further charge, or disruption.

International Student Avoids Deportation After College General Counsel's Office Intercedes

A prominent private college located in the Upper Midwest issued charges against our client for falsifying his application information. The college had a substantial international student population, many members of which had their education funded by the government of their Middle Eastern country. Our client was one of those students. Many of those students gained admission to the college through their government's program, relying on their government's representations and documentation of their qualifications. Our student was one of those students whose application the government had processed. Our student gained admission to the United States as a foreign national on an F-1 educational visa, dependent on his continued enrollment at the college. The college's charges had to do with our client's inability to obtain a promised transcript of his home country schooling. The college's registrar had a policy of issuing misconduct charges against any student not supplying promised documentation by a certain date into the term, maintaining that federal loan regulations required consistent enforcement of that policy. Our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team on the recommendation of his home country's education program. Our team had dealt with the general counsel of the college on prior cases involving the alleged misconduct of the college's international students. On our contact communicating our retention for our client in the disciplinary matter, the college's general counsel undertook an independent review of our client's disciplinary file and recommended waiver of the transcript policy, relying on assurances of the government program officials that the transcript would come. Our client continued with his education without further administrative challenge.

Undergraduate Student Avoids Discipline Over Computer Misuse Charges After Oversight Relief

Disciplinary officials at a large public university in a Gulf Coast location charged our client with misusing or attempting to misuse school property and property belonging to other students. The charges had to do with our client's efforts to download, install, and activate proprietary software on school computers and laptop computers he borrowed from other students. Our client had the license and skills to do as he did but not the university's express permission or the express permission of the students whose computers he borrowed. Our client's efforts were in part motivated out of misguided generosity, believing that he was supplying program capacity from which the university and its students would benefit. But the university maintained that our client also had his own profit-making motive in multiplying the number of computers using and promoting his proprietary software. When our client was unable to convince the university's information-technology director that his conduct violated no university policy, our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to challenge the charges. Because our Firm had dealt successfully with this university's general counsel on other cases, and because this case was unusual in its disciplinary nature, without substantial guiding precedent, our team began by alerting the general counsel to our retention on our client's behalf. Investigation, communication, and negotiation remained through the general counsel's office until the case concluded with a dismissal of all charges. While the matter took months to resolve, our client suffered no interruption in his university education. Resolution included our client's commitment not to repeat his conduct and the university's clarification of its computer-use policies.

Master's Degree Student Obtains Alternative Special Relief From Misconduct Charges

The student affairs director of a teaching school at a major public university in a Northeastern state served misconduct charges on our client. Our client was a second-year student in the school's master's degree program, seeking to retain her teaching employment. Our client needed less than one more semester's worth of credits to complete her degree and timely satisfy her school employer's timetable for earning her master's degree. The disciplinary charges arose out of a dispute our client had with an adjunct instructor. The instructor alleged that our client was disrespectful, threatening, and disruptive and admitted to intentionally violating the instructor's directions for submitted work in a way that constituted academic misconduct. Our client was unable to resolve the charges on her own in communications with the director. When the director dismissed our client, our client appealed the dismissal to a hearing panel of professors and administrators who denied the appeal without permitting the in-person appearance and witness attendance our client requested of the panel. Our client then retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team. Our team had successfully negotiated the resolution of other cases at the university through the university's general counsel's office. We communicated with that office, indicating that the teaching school had not provided our client with adequate due process despite her requests. Our communications led to an oversight review and reversal of our client's dismissal without further proceedings. Our client timely completed her remaining coursework for the degree without further interruption.

Senior Student Dismissed From Online University Obtains Reinstatement After Special Appeal

An online for-profit university serving students nationwide dismissed our client, a senior student close to earning her communications degree, on charges of unsatisfactory academic progress. The charges involved both a barely below-minimum grade point average and the percentage of courses completed. Our client appealed the dismissal on her own, without attorney advisor representation, resulting in the appeal's denial. Our client then retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to investigate alternative avenues for special relief, to save her substantial investment of time and tuition in the degree, arguing that the university's registrar had not considered her appeal materials or understood the nature of her appeal. Our team first confirmed that our client had grade appeal rights she had not yet exercised and could also still complete coursework in a course for which she had an incomplete grade. Our team then identified the university's outside retained counsel through the online university's administrative channels. Our Firm had substantial prior dealings with that outside retained counsel on other cases involving other colleges and universities. Those dealings had often resulted in a negotiated reinstatement of our clients or other substantial alternative relief after our client had exhausted formal disciplinary procedures. In this instance, outside retained counsel recommended reinstatement conditioned on our client's grade appeal and prompt completion of the incomplete coursework. We assisted our client with her successful grade appeal while she submitted her incomplete coursework. Our client was then able to proceed toward graduation and her communication degree.

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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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