Case Studies: Professional School Defense

Chiropractic Student Avoids Dismissal Over Professional Misconduct Charges

The Doctor of Chiropractic program at an Atlantic Coast school threatened to dismiss our client after a patient in one of our client's clinical courses alleged that our client had made inappropriate sexual remarks and engaged in inappropriate sexual touching. The program immediately suspended our client from all clinical coursework, further threatening to delay our client's graduation even if reinstated. When our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, we made a swift and thorough private investigation into the allegations. Our investigation revealed that the patient may have made similar complaints against other students in the chiropractic program or at other medical, chiropractic, and dental clinics in the area and that the chiropractic program's disciplinary officials were aware of other similar complaints. We also helped our client confirm that others present or nearby during the patient's treatment heard and saw nothing inappropriate, leaving the allegations incredible and uncorroborated. Our information at a pre-hearing conference led the school to reinstate the student's clinical privileges under supervision while the school continued with the proceeding. Our client thus lost no significant clinical time and suffered no delay in his education. The program subsequently dismissed the charges when the patient refused to appear for the hearing. We ensured that the school cleared our client's school record of all charges. The school also indicated its intent to ensure that it has supervisors or other third parties in the treatment rooms at all times, as school policies already provided, to protect students against false charges.

Nursing Student Gains Restart After First Term Dismissal for Failing Grades

The nursing program at a small Midwestern private college dismissed our client after her first term for two failing grades and other low grades. In the student's own appeal of her dismissal before retaining the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, the school established that it had dismissed her in keeping with the school's published academic standards. The school had not made any mistakes in its grade and grade point average calculations or in applying its minimum academic standards. When the dismissed student retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, we were able to take a second appeal under the program's unpublished review procedures to the program's academic dean. Our appeal both showed and documented our client's exigent circumstances, including the serious illness and then the death of our client's mother during our client's first term in the nursing program. Our client had confided in her instructors about her challenges but had not sought to withdraw from or take incompletes in her courses. Our appeal also showed our client's recovery plan, including a term off, grief counseling, and additional study aids. The nursing program's dean granted our appeal, offering our client a restart in the nursing program with a clear record and tuition credit for the dismissal term. Our client accepted the program's offer, restarted her program, and did well completing her first term and subsequent terms. The key to the winning appeal was a thorough and documented showing of our client's compelling exigent circumstances.

Student in Teaching Program Avoids Dismissal Over Unsatisfactory Student Teaching Placement

A large public teaching college in a Northwestern state dismissed our client over an unsatisfactory performance in a student teaching placement. Our client had previously been on and off academic probation for low and failing grades and incomplete courses. Our client maintained good causes for his prior probation, including job loss, financial hardship, illness, and the birth of a child with special medical needs. College officials had previously accepted our client's explanations and granted him the extensions and appeals necessary to reach his last year in the program. But the college dismissed our client when his field supervisor at his student teaching placement indicated that he had failed to complete his placement. The college offered the dismissed student an appeal for reinstatement. When the dismissed student retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, we investigated and documented our client's reasons for not completing the student teaching placement. Our documentation showed the college that our client had stood ready, willing, and able to be present at the field placement daily, teach the class when asked, and support his supervisor's teaching but that his supervisor had missed extended time on medical leave. The college's faculty supervisor had also not interceded for our client to ensure a productive placement, despite our client's frequent documented requests. In response to our appeal, the college's field placement office admitted that it had dropped the ball on the student's interrupted placement. As a consequence, the college reinstated our client with a tuition credit for the student teaching placement, partial credit for the placement, and an opportunity to complete a special intensive placement to keep the student's graduation on track.

Nursing Student Avoids Professional Misconduct Discipline and Dismissal over Alleged Neglect, Failure to Follow Orders, and Malpractice

A leading nursing program at a major public university in the Midwest charged our client, a nursing student in the final year of her program, with patient neglect, failure to follow physician's orders, and nursing malpractice. The charges followed the death of an elderly dementia patient who had made wild claims of nursing abuse and neglect against our client and several others shortly before her death. Her surviving adult children had heard those complaints, reported them to the hospital and nursing school, and after their mother's death insisted that the hospital and nursing school pursue disciplinary charges, incorrectly believing that abuse and neglect had contributed to their mother's demise. Although the school's disciplinary officials were well aware of the dementia patient's false and exaggerated reports and further aware that the patient's death was due entirely to her advancing illnesses, the disciplinary officials charged our client in the matter. Those officials charged none of the other allegedly involved nurses in an apparent attempt to blame our client as a scapegoat for the entire complicated situation. When our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, we retained the consulting experts and conducted the records review necessary to absolve our client of all wrongdoing. Our defense team further invoked the school's formal hearing procedures. We then helped our client present a substantive defense before the hearing committee, members of which clearly understood the unfortunate institutional dynamic. The committee at first absolved our client of abuse, neglect, and malpractice but admonished her for failing to communicate and document the patient's condition and communications adequately. We helped our client appeal the admonishment to the nursing school dean, who remanded the discipline to the hearing committee. The committee then withdrew the admonishment, leaving our client with a clear record. She continued in the nursing program toward graduation.

Graduate Student in Psychology Program Preserves Enrollment With Winning SAP Appeal

A large Southeastern public university charged our client, a graduate student in a dual master's degree and Ph.D. degree psychology program, with unsatisfactory academic progress after our client failed a second semester course and got other low grades in her other first semester and second semester courses. The SAP notice placed our client on academic probation and threatened her dismissal the following semester if her academic performance did not substantially improve. Doubting her ability to make the required grades in the following term, our client retained the Lento Law Firm's SAP appeal team to review her options and improve her prospects for regaining her good academic standing. Our team researched the graduate program's SAP requirements and the procedures for a prompt and effective SAP appeal. We also reviewed our client's academic work in the second semester course she failed and researched the university's grade appeal procedures. Our team then helped our client appeal her failing grade while also documenting and filing a compelling SAP appeal. Our client's SAP appeal argued that her diagnosed and treated learning disability had responded differently to the graduate program's instructional norms and practices than her undergraduate program's instruction. We helped our client articulate a recovery plan that entailed adjusting her study practices to the graduate program's expectations. Our client's grade appeal prevailed, resulting in a passing grade for the failed course. The improved course grade lifted our client's grade point average above the SAP standard for the university's graduate programs, resulting in the registrar's automatic grant of our client's SAP appeal. Our client continued in her dual psychology degree program in good standing.

Online Graduate Program Student Successfully Defends Academic Misconduct Charges

An online university headquartered in the Southwest but serving students nationwide dismissed our client from its graduate Master of Business Administration program for business executives. The online university's disciplinary official charged that our client had submitted the same or similar work twice for academic credit without instructor permission. The same disciplinary official had charged several other students with the same misconduct in the same course after the new adjunct instructor had turned the students in, alleging their violation of course rules against using prior work. Our client and several of the other charged students had admitted to the adjunct instructor that her course assignment was so similar to another instructor's assignment that their submitted projects were also necessarily similar. The adjunct instructor's program dean had recommended that the instructor seek discipline against the students, without reviewing the adjunct instructor's syllabus and other course materials and instructions or the nearly identical assignments. When our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, our appeal of the charges and proposed dismissal showed the university's disciplinary official that our client had violated no course instruction. Our appeal also showed that our client had contributed original work to his submission despite the fact that the project was basically identical to a prior assignment in another course. The disciplinary official ruled in our client's favor, dismissing all charges and clearing our business executive client's academic record.

Graduate Student in Healthcare Administration Avoids Dismissal Related to Domestic Abuse Allegations

A graduate program in healthcare administration at a major private university charged our client with Title IX violations and professional misconduct after our client's separated spouse, also a student at the same university, alleged domestic abuse in the couple's pending divorce proceeding. Our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team when the university's Title IX coordinator invoked emergency procedures to immediately suspend our client from the graduate program and bar our client from the university campus. Our investigation showed that our client's spouse did not allege physical threats or violence, only emotional abuse. Our investigation further confirmed that our client's spouse had not intended to interfere with our client's university education, bar our client from campus, or even obtain a no-contact order, which the spouse had expressly declined in the divorce proceeding. We promptly invoked the university's protective procedures for an emergency hearing to restore our client's right to attend classes on campus. The Title IX coordinator approved that request when our client's spouse failed to attend the emergency hearing but communicated agreement to the Title IX coordinator. A subsequent informal resolution conference resulted in the dismissal of all charges, enabling our client to continue in his graduate program without delay. The key to this victory was our prompt action invoking the university's emergency procedures, while helping our client communicate and negotiate with his spouse to cooperate in the proceeding.

Graduate Pharmacy Program Student Avoids Dismissal Over Alleged Drug Possession and Delivery

A graduate pharmacy program at a prominent Northwestern public university dismissed our client over allegations that our client had offered and shared controlled substances with fellow students at a social gathering at our client's home. The dismissal was without advance notice and hearing, despite university procedures promising the contrary. The dismissal instead offered a reasonably prompt appeal for reinstatement. Our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team immediately upon receiving the notice of dismissal. We promptly invoked the university's appeal procedures, obtaining a hearing date within one week of the dismissal. Our team then worked with our client to prepare for the hearing, including by getting statements from several of the classmates who attended our client's social gathering. The presentation we helped our client prepare and make to the university's disciplinary committee showed that our client was a responsible husband, father, and friend who had substantial experience in pharmaceutical sales. Our client was pursuing his graduate pharmacy degree to advance in his sales and sales management career, not in pharmacy practice. Our client admitted to showing pharmaceutical samples to the curious students who attended his social gathering. When a student had jokingly asked if our client had anything for a headache, our client had shown samples of the kinds of drugs a physician might prescribe. Accounts differed over whether our client had offered drug samples. Our client's positive presentation, good reputation among school faculty and student peers, and strong assurances convinced the disciplinary committee to reinstate our client along with dismissal of the charges. The key to our client's winning appeal was building our client's credibility as a trustworthy industry representative.

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