Case Studies: School Due Process Violations

Nursing Student Gains Reinstatement After Proving Due Process Violations in Presumptive Discipline

A nursing program at a public university located in a populous Northeastern state charged our client with professional misconduct relating to clinical coursework. The charges, sought by a clinic supervisor, alleged our client's neglect of nursing duties, failure to appear for clinical hours, and failure to document nursing activities. The nursing program, though, did not notify our client of the charges until after its clinical director had already referred the complaint to the clinical review hearing panel, and the panel had recommended suspension with a reprimand. The notice of charges our client received also included the decision, suspension, and reprimand. Our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to challenge and remove the discipline. Our investigation confirmed that the nursing program had not followed its own due process commitments or met federal Fourteenth Amendment due process protections. Our research documented the federal case law tending to confirm the violations while also indicating the appropriate relief in the form of immediate reinstatement and a full and fair hearing. Our client had simultaneously worked with her program advisor to evaluate and address the underlying reviews and evaluations resulting in the charges. Our client had also met with the evaluators and gained their commitment to advocate the resolution of the charges. Under the weight of our due process challenge, communicated to the clinical program director and university oversight officials, the school withdrew the charges. Our client then continued with her nursing education without further proceedings or discipline.

Undergraduate Student Reverses Title IX Discipline After School Refuses Regulatory Right of Cross-Examination

The Title IX coordinator for a large public university located in a Central Atlantic Coast state brought charges of sexual misconduct against our client, an undergraduate student in an engineering program. The charges alleged our client's unwelcome sexual advances toward, and nonconsensual sexual touching of, a female student at a social event. The charges further alleged our client's intoxicated condition and disorderly and offensive conduct. An informal conference did not resolve the charges, which instead proceeded to a formal hearing. Our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to attend the hearing and conduct the cross-examination of the complaining female student and any other adverse witnesses whom the disciplinary officials called. Our research confirmed our client's right under Title IX regulations and interpretations to attorney cross-examination of those adverse witnesses. Our team's attorney representative attended the hearing prepared for cross-examination, but the hearing panel chair denied cross-examination and further declined to question the complaining witness or other adverse witnesses. The hearing panel imposed a suspension of our client despite the sharply divided testimony. Our appeal of our client's suspension focused on the hearing's due process violation and the close nature of the factual dispute, doubtless affected by the due process violation. The hearing panel granted our client's appeal, reversing the suspension, and sending the case back for rehearing under cross-examination. The Title IX coordinator then abandoned the charges after the adverse witnesses declined to cooperate and testify. Our client resumed university studies without discipline or a record of discipline.

College Junior Successfully Defends Misconduct Charges After Remand for More Definite Statement

A prominent private university in the Northeastern United States disciplined our client for alleged academic misconduct. The discipline followed the university's written notice of unspecified misconduct. Our client replied to the notice in a timely manner, requesting a clearer statement of what our client allegedly did wrong and what academic policy he allegedly violated. Our client also requested the university's evidence of the alleged violations. The university failed to respond. Instead, the university's academic integrity committee reprimanded our client with a direction to repeat the course in which the misconduct had allegedly occurred. Although our client by then suspected what the charges referenced, the university made no such disclosure either in the charges or the purported findings and imposed discipline. Our client then retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to challenge the discipline after learning the misconduct on which the university allegedly based it. Our team summarized and documented the above facts to present to the university's disciplinary office and oversight officials. Our presentation included research and analysis of the federal case law on the due process the Fourteenth Amendment likely requires for such discipline. Our request was that the university dismiss the charges for lack of specification and supporting evidence or alternatively specify the charges, disclose the evidence, and provide a full and fair hearing. The university granted the first request, dismissing the charges without further explanation. Our client later learned that the charges had indeed involved what he suspected, although that matter did not approach any plausible charge of academic misconduct.

Medical Resident Successfully Defends Residency Program Dismissal on the Basis of Due Process Violation

An offshore medical school in the Caribbean charged our client, a graduate resident in an associated residency program, with failure to attend to duties and fulfill the commitments the residency contract required. Our client had a strong basis for disputing the charges, in part from his supervisors' permission to take leaves of absence and in part on errors in the program's recording and calculation of his rounds, responsibilities, assignments, and hours. He would also have documented the well-known issues his particular residency program had with failing to provide residents with adequate breaks, rest, equipment, and support. But instead, the residency program and medical school dismissed our client from the program before granting our client any hearing. Our client then retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to challenge his dismissal and either gain reinstatement or expunge his discipline record for placement in another residency program. Our team researched the applicable due process law and medical school and residency program procedures. The program's procedures should have provided our client with the due process hearing but had not. We thus prepared and served on the program and school a demand for a full and fair due process hearing, with a supporting brief. Outside retained counsel responded to our demand, offering expungement of the discipline and an alternative residency placement, which our client gladly accepted. His alternative placement was in the residency program for which he had initially aimed, making the outcome more favorable than he had hoped and anticipated.

High School Student Successfully Reverses Out-of-School Suspension After Due Process Denials

The principal of a large rural high school serving the entire county-wide district suspended our client, a senior in his Fall semester heading toward Spring graduation. The suspension was for more than ten days, until further notice. The suspension further required our client's parents to support and facilitate our client's remote schooling at home or another location the parents arranged or supervised. Our client's parents, both working, had no capability to fulfill that requirement. Our client also maintained that the principal had no basis for suspending our client. Our client and his parents were confused and without a clear understanding of any rationale for the suspension, only suspicions that it may have involved allegations by certain unfair staff and students. When the principal and school district failed and refused to provide any details, rationale, or explanation, our client's parents retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team. We promptly notified the principal and oversight officials at the district office that the school had violated our client's due process rights. Our communication cited the federal law, state statute, and school board policy confirming those rights. Our demand included specification of the charges, disclosure of the school's inculpatory evidence, and a hearing before impartial decision-makers. Instead, the school district superintendent offered a conciliation conference at which the principal, our client, our client's parents, and two teachers agreed to reinstatement of our client and reassignment to a new class schedule avoiding certain antagonistic teachers and students. The key to the winning challenge was invoking our client's due process rights before responsible oversight officials.

University Undergraduate Prevails at a Due Process Hearing After Threatening Civil Litigation

A public university located in the Northeastern United States suspended our client from all of her second-year courses after charging that our client had endangered other students with reckless and threatening behavior. The suspension was without hearing, based on the university's claim of emergency safety concerns. Our client attempted to obtain a hearing, but disciplinary officials ignored or refused. Our client then retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to challenge her suspension and gain reinstatement. Our client was prepared to show that she had not engaged in any threatening, endangering, or reckless conduct and that certain students had instead exaggerated and misrepresented a dispute they'd had with our client. University disciplinary officials also ignored our requests for a hearing, despite our showing that university rules and constitutional due process required it. Only after we communicated with the university's oversight officials, citing our client's ability to file a federal lawsuit if the university continued to refuse, did the disciplinary officials arrange a hearing. We then helped our client prepare her presentation in defense, including identifying supporting witnesses to bring to the hearing and questions for adverse witnesses. No adverse witness appeared at the time and place of the hearing, leaving our client to present her defense uncontested. Without any evidence supporting the university's charges, the hearing panel had to rule in our client's favor, dismissing the charges. With our further help communicating with the registrar and other school officials, our client gained reinstatement from suspension and expungement of her disciplinary records.

Student Expunges Discipline Record After School Reprimands Without Charges or Hearing

A small private college entered discipline on our client's academic record without notifying our client of the charges or discipline. Our client, a senior at the college applying to graduate schools, only learned of the discipline through a graduate school's inquiry about the transcript notation referring to discipline. When our client inquired of the college's registrar when and how she had suffered discipline about which she had not learned, the registrar was unable or unwilling to respond. Other college officials with whom she inquired referred her inquiries to one another without any explanatory disclosures. When the registrar refused to remove the notation of discipline, our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team for a due process or related procedural challenge. Our research confirmed that while the notation alone might not reflect harm to a substantial enough property interest and that the private college may not have owed our client constitutional due process for other reasons, both the college's discipline procedures and applicable state law assured our client of due process protections related to any written or recorded discipline that our client would have to report to subsequent schools, licensing bodies, or employers. We made that presentation of authority to the college's president, who retained outside counsel to review our challenge. Outside counsel subsequently communicated the college's willingness to expunge the discipline notation. We then assisted our client in confirming that the expungement took place promptly and that the registrar supplied corrected transcripts to the graduate schools to which our client had applied, with an explanation of the correction.

Undergraduate Student Prevails in Title IX Proceeding After Challenging College's Refusal to Identify His Accuser

The Title IX coordinator at a small private college in a Central Plains state served sexual misconduct charges on our client, who promptly retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team. Our team then invoked Title IX protective procedures for a formal hearing at which to challenge the complainant's allegations. Our intent was to exercise our client's Title IX regulatory rights to cross-examine the complainant and any other adverse witnesses. The coordinator's charges did not identify the complainant, whom our client only suspected. So, our team requested that the coordinator specify the details of the charges, including the alleged time, place, date, and conditions of the sexual misconduct and the alleged victim with other complaining witnesses. The coordinator refused to comply with our request. We then presented to the coordinator and oversight officials our research and analysis of the applicable Title IX regulations, confirming our client's likely right to confront and cross-examine his accuser with attorney assistance. When the college's officials persisted in their refusals to identify any complaining witness or victim, along with their intent to persist in the charges, and retained outside counsel, our team prepared a draft federal complaint for an injunction against the college. Our team served the draft complaint on the college's outside retained counsel for consideration before our filing. After further communications and negotiations, outside retained counsel communicated the college's intent to dismiss the charges. Our client continued with his education without discipline or record of discipline, only later learning through student accounts more about his probable anonymous accuser.

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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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