Case Studies: Community College Defense

Naturalized Student Preserves Community College Enrollment After Cheating Charges

A large metropolitan area's community college system, located in a Southern border state, dismissed our client on cheating charges while offering our client an appeal for reinstatement. Our client then retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to ascertain the best strategic defense approach. We learned that our client was a naturalized U.S. citizen raised in a Spanish-speaking home where he learned English as a second language. Our client was a decent student through secondary school but not greatly prepared for college. Our client had never written and submitted a school paper for credit, despite graduating from high school on time with his peers. In our client's first community college course, the instructor required all students to complete a five-page research paper on their own initiative without outside support or student collaboration. Our client did not understand the instructor's instructions because of the language barrier and unfamiliarity with academic standards. Our client submitted the paper timely but only after having requested help from several students and received help from a relative with a college education. When the instructor learned from other students that our confused client had asked for student help, our client admitted to the instructor that our client had also received his relative's advice about the paper. We recommended that our client appeal for reinstatement on the grounds of our client's confusion and lack of academic experience and preparation. The college's designated disciplinary official accepted our appeal arguments made in written form and supported by a meeting with our client. The official acknowledged the college's role in guiding and initiating unprepared students into college expectations. The college removed any record of charges or discipline, while our client accepted a college academic mentor to speed up his adjustment process.

Freshman Student at Urban Community College Avoids Dismissal After Fighting Charge

A large community college system in a metropolitan area in the Northeastern United States charged our client with violating the college's policy against physical threats and violence, related to a fight in which our client had been involved. Our client was the son of parents who were both employed lifelong in education. Our client was a paranoid schizophrenic who, with the help of his parents, with whom he still lived and would always live, controlled his condition well with medication and behavioral techniques. Our client had not suffered an incident related to his condition for several years since his high school graduation. But in our client's first semester at the community college, another large male student approached our client in a manner that our client mistook as threatening imminent violence. Our client shoved the other student and, when the other student objected, struck the other student, resulting in a further struggle looking like a fight. When our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to contest the fighting charge, our investigation showed that our client had missed his medication. Our interview of eyewitnesses to the incident further showed that reasonable individuals could also have misinterpreted the other student's approach and that our client's shove of the student might have been reasonable self-defense. We also prepared an analysis of applicable disability laws suggesting the community college's obligation to reasonably accommodate our client's psychiatric disability. As a consequence, the community college's disciplinary official dismissed the fighting charge at an informal conference, after we helped our client offer assurances of consistent medication. Our client also adopted the practice of having fellow students voluntarily accompany our client around the campus to avoid misunderstandings.

Single-Mom Student Successfully Appeals Community College Charge of Failure to Academically Progress

A small community college in a Rocky Mountain state charged our client, a single mother of infant children, with failure to academically progress, dismissing her from the college. Our client was the ambitious daughter of legal professionals. She had been out of the workforce and school for several years while delivering and raising her infant children, despite her desire to join her parents in the legal profession. The local community college was her only viable option for getting a start on her college education. Our client's return to school as a single mom had been difficult. Although she was only taking two courses each semester, her grades had kept her right at the minimum grade point average standard. She then failed two courses in the next semester, when she should have taken incomplete grades in both courses while she dealt with daycare issues triggered by illnesses of her preschool children. Her parents retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to represent her in grade appeals or SAP appeals, for which our client lacked the time, insight, and energy. With swift investigation and action, our team was able to help our client submit grade appeals in both failed courses while communicating with her instructors, student advisor, and the registrar. Our grade appeals and communications influenced the college to turn her failing grades into incomplete grades. By that time, our client was also able to complete requirements in both courses to turn the incomplete grades into passing grades. Her passing grades once again drew her grade point average above the college's minimum SAP requirements. Our client returned to school to continue her education toward entering the legal profession.

Student Business Owner Avoids Community College Dismissal With Appeal of Cheating Charges

A large community college serving a suburban population in a populous Southern state charged our client with cheating related to a wider scandal involving dozens of other students. The scandal arose out of one student sharing exam information, obtained in advance of the exam from early test takers, with the rest of the students in the course. Our client was a business owner needing to improve his credentials to qualify for new work for his small company. Community college coursework and credit, and an associate degree from the college, would have served our client's educational and business goals. The cheating charges alarmed and embarrassed our client, a mature individual with sophisticated business experience and a good reputation. Our client's goal was to preserve his business reputation more so than remain enrolled at the community college. Our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team with that overriding goal. Our investigation confirmed that our client had not cheated in the way that other charged students had cheated but had also not reported the cheating when the college maintained that our client and the other involved students had the duty to report. The presentation our team prepared thus focused on showing the college's disciplinary official that our client was not one of the cheaters and that our client had not been in any position to observe or learn of the cheating. Our forensics consultant helped our client locate the inculpatory student email in our client's spam filter. That electronic and documentary evidence convinced the college's disciplinary official to dismiss the charges against our client before the proceeding went to a hearing. Our client suffered no public association with the scandal, meeting his goals and preserving his desire to continue with his education.

Freshman Community College Student Avoids Discipline for Alleged Misuse of School Computers and Identification

The chief disciplinary official of a large community college system located in a populous Western state charged our client with violating the college's computer-use rules and college identification rules. Our client, a freshman student taking a full course load in her second semester at the college, had problems accessing her school electronic accounts, including email, the college's course management system, and even the internet, using her school account web browser. With a full course load, our client feared falling behind in her studies. So, while working with the college's information technology office, our client borrowed a student friend's school username and password to temporarily preserve her access to course assignments and resources. When the IT office learned of our client's temporary workaround, which violated college identification and computer-use policies, our client's friend denied that she had consented to our client's practice. The notice of charges threatened our client's dismissal. Our client's parents, one of whom was a business executive with significant ambitions for his daughter, retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to preserve her clean academic record and enable her to continue her education. Our team confirmed from interviews of other students and information from the IT office that the college did not ordinarily suspend or dismiss students under the circumstances our client reported, only if fraud, damage, or other harm resulted. We helped our client document to the disciplinary official that she had acted in good faith with her friend's permission and that no harm resulted. The disciplinary official gave an oral warning but dismissed the charge leaving no record of discipline.

Community College Student Avoids Suspension or Dismissal for Drunk Driving Related to School Functions

A small community college serving a rural, mountainous area of an East Central state charged our client with violating state and local law related to a drunk driving charge. Our client promptly retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team on the recommendation of his local criminal counsel, who didn't handle academic administrative matters. Our team promptly communicated the Firm's retention to the college's disciplinary official while indicating our client's intent to contest the disciplinary charge through all available proceedings. In the course of those communications, the college's disciplinary official indicated to our team that the college did not ordinarily discipline, suspend, or dismiss students for drunk driving convictions unless they related in some way to the college's functions, such as on-campus drunk driving, drunk driving with other college students as passengers, or drunk driving in the course of a school-related activity such as travel to off-campus college functions or sporting events. The disciplinary official was under the impression from other students' reports that our client's drunk driving charge was related to travel to a college sporting event and involved student passengers. Our investigation and client interview confirmed that the official's information was incorrect. Our client was also contesting the drunk driving charge. The disciplinary official dismissed the college's charge on the basis of our documentation and negotiation. Our client avoided discipline while continuing his community college education.

Community College Freshman Avoids Discipline Over Allegations of Classroom Disruption and Disorderly Conduct

A large community college serving a suburban metropolitan population in the Great Lakes region charged our client with disrupting the classroom, disorderly conduct, insubordination, and refusing to obey direct orders from school officials. The charges arose from an incident in which our client maintained that another student had referred to our client using a racial and sexist slur in the classroom before class, overheard by our client as she entered the classroom. The other student, a male student of a different race, had in our client's account used a forbidden racial term and a common sexually derogatory term identifying our client, who was a female minority student. Our client admitted that she had lost her temper after the male student and students with whom he had been speaking denied his use of the terms. She maintained that the words and references to her were unmistakable. Our client further maintained that the students had been condescending and disrespectful in their denials, further aggravating her in her emotional response. Our client also maintained that the instructor had acted in a similarly disrespectful and disbelieving way when coming into the room while the students were disputing. Our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team when after an informal conference the college's disciplinary official insisted on pursuing the charges. Our appearance on our client's behalf moved the college's investigation to the student affairs vice-president's level and consultation with the college's general counsel. Negotiations with those college officials resulted in dismissal of all charges.

Working Student Avoids Community College Dismissal for Failure to Academically Progress

A community college serving a small metropolitan area in a South Central state charged our client, a truck driver, with failure to academically progress after our client withdrew from several courses over several semesters. Our client's grades in the courses he completed were good, easily satisfying the college's SAP standard for a minimum grade point average. But the college's registrar maintained that our client's frequent course withdrawals plus two course incompletes had caused our client to fall below the college's SAP standard for the percentage of courses completed. Because our client had completed many credits toward his associate degree and planned to continue his college education online through another university, he retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to preserve his substantial investment of time and finances and his future education. Our investigation showed that the college's complex formula for calculating that percentage involved careful interpretation of what constituted an attempted course. Our client had withdrawn from some courses for which he had registered before the semester even began. He had also withdrawn from other courses after the semester began but before losing any tuition. When our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, our SAP appeal team researched the college's SAP definitions and applied those definitions accurately, showing that our client remained in compliance with the SAP percentage completed standard. We helped our client present the analysis in communications with the college's registrar, who dismissed the charge without the necessity of a formal SAP appeal.

Community College Student Defends Academic Misconduct Charges Relating to Project Hours

A community college serving a mid-sized city along the Eastern Seaboard charged our client with academic misconduct relating to hours our client had claimed and recorded for a course-based community service project. The instructor required students to select a community service project, devote a specific number of hours to the project, and report on the results of the project as the course's main assignment. Our client, an earnest student planning to follow her mother into the social work field, completed her project and submitted her hours record and class report timely. The instructor's initial review resulted in positive comments on our client's class project. But the instructor had an acquaintance at the project site who, when conversing with the instructor about our client's project, grossly underestimated the time our client had spent on it. The instructor rejected our client's explanation that she had fulfilled the hours, instead believing her acquaintance. When the instructor complained to the college's student affairs director, who charged our client with academic misconduct, our client and her mother retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to ensure that our client preserved her ability to pursue her future career as a social worker. We helped our client reconstruct from calendars, texts, emails, notes, and observations of friends and family members the days, times, locations, and activities our client performed completing the project hours. Our client successfully used our presentation reconstructing the hours to convince the student affairs director to dismiss the charges.

Community College Student Successfully Defends Misconduct Charge Relating to Parking Enforcement

A popular community college serving an upscale urban population in the Pacific Northwest charged our client with behavioral misconduct relating to an interaction with the college's parking enforcement officer. The charges alleged that our client had disobeyed, disrespected, and physically assaulted the parking enforcement officer. In the incident, the officer was ticketing our client's vehicle for parking at a street location for longer than the two hours the ordinance permitted. Our client had come upon the officer as the officer was placing the ticket on the vehicle's windshield. The officer maintained that our client had bumped the officer when attempting to reach past the officer to remove the ticket from the windshield and discard it into the street and that our client had refused to move his vehicle at the officer's direction. Our investigation, document requests, and review of the officer's incident report showed that those allegations were the complete basis for the charges. Our client, the son of computer engineers at a prominent technology company, had retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to clear his name and reputation of all wrongdoing. Our client's account was that he had not intended to bump the officer or to discard the ticket but that the officer had turned quickly and bumped our client, causing our client to drop the ticket in the street. Our client had attempted to explain to the officer that he had, in fact, taken his vehicle on an errand and returned to the exact spot within an hour so that he had complied with the two-hour ordinance. The officer, our client maintained, misconstrued his explanation as a refusal to comply. Our client also explained that he had moved his vehicle as soon as the officer left, as was our client's intent throughout their confrontation. We assisted our client in recording and presenting this account to the college's disciplinary official, who dismissed the charges after attempting unsuccessfully to reach the parking enforcement officer.

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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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