Case Studies: Student Athlete Defense

College Athlete Successfully Challenges Unsatisfactory Academic Progress Charges

Our client was a scholarship athlete in a major sports program at a South Central United States public university in a major athletics conference. Our client's best hope for improving his life was to maintain his athletic scholarship while completing his university education. But in our client's second year on campus, approaching his second athletics season, our client's university charged that our client had not maintained satisfactory academic progress, threatening our client's eligibility to participate in his upcoming sports season. When our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, we scrutinized our client's academic performance and records to determine all options to restore our client's satisfactory academic progress. Our investigation, communication with university officials in the registrar's office, and research of university SAP policies confirmed that our client could appeal one grade, remove an incomplete from his academic record, and complete extra credit in a third course, to restore his satisfactory academic progress. We also discovered a miscalculation of a grade that, once corrected, helped to restore our client's good academic standing. Our negotiations with school officials, and our invoking our client's SAP appeal rights in the meantime, enabled our client to obtain extensions, accommodations, and academic support to accomplish all three options in time to preserve our client's eligibility for athletics. As a result, our client remained in good academic standing and completed his athletic season without interruption. Our client also retained his athletics scholarship, which was critical to his continuing education.

Student Athlete Overcomes Due Process Violations to Establish Innocence on Vaping Charges

Our client was an outstanding high school athlete with the potential for a collegiate athletic career. Our client was also strong academically, ready to graduate early with honors relating to co-curricular activities. Yet allegations arose that our client had been vaping in the school's restroom during the school prom. No student or school staff member had seen our client vaping, so that the school had no eyewitnesses to the false charge, only circumstantial evidence that some student, not necessarily our client, may have been vaping. Yet the school principal rushed the matter to a misconduct finding against our client and our client's out-of-school suspension. In doing so, the principal gave no proper written notice to our client of the nature of the charges and had no corroborating evidence. The school principal gave our client no fair opportunity to tell his side of the story. When our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, we prepared a convincing appeal to the school board, showing not only the lack of evidence to support the finding but also the clear due process violations that led to the false findings. The school board and superintendent agreed with our presentation, reversing the discipline, expunging the suspension record, and ultimately clearing our client's record of any allegation or finding of misconduct. As a result of our adept appeal, our client proceeded through high school with his good reputation intact.

Student Athlete Avoids Athletic Teams Activity Ban by Successfully Defending Related Misconduct Charges

A small public college serving a mid-sized city in an agricultural area of a Midwest state charged our client with disrupting an athletic activity at the college. The charge resulted in our client's immediate suspension from athletic training and competitions and threatened a permanent athletics ban. Our client, a sophomore at the college, was a walk-on participant in a popular sport for which the college offered only a limited number of partial scholarships. Our client nonetheless highly valued her participation in the sport and on the team, while believing that she would earn one of the small number of scholarships when her participation continued as a junior and senior. Unfortunately, our client was involved in an incident with a competitor leading up to a sanctioned competition. Our client maintained that the competitor had insulted and threatened our client and other team members before the competition. Our client further maintained that when she had attempted to object to the competitor's actions, informing the competitor's coach and the competition official, the competitor and competitor's teammates had falsely alleged that our client was the disruptive competitor. The official ejected our client, requiring the college to suspend our client from the team. When our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, we researched the applicable athletic conference and college procedures. We then helped our client prepare appeals and presentations, including teammate witness statements, invoking both the athletic conference and college proceedings. Our advice and assistance through both proceedings resulted in our client's exoneration, dismissal of all sanctions and charges, and reinstatement to the team for full participation in all athletic activities.

Student Athlete in Rowing Sport Avoids Suspension and Dismissal on Performance-Enhancing Drug Charges

A major public university in a Central Midwest state charged our client with using performance-enhancing drugs relating to her participation in the university's rowing team competitions. Our client, a university junior, had led her rowing team at her prep school, earning a partial scholarship for her university rowing team. By the time of her junior year, our client was on full scholarship with the rowing team and a leader on the team. Because the team competed in a nationally sanctioned athletic conference, regular drug testing was part of our client's participation. Our client had never had any drug testing problems and had never used drugs or even supplements to enhance her athletics performance. The disputed drug test result, though, showed that our client had an unnaturally high level of a certain performance-related hormone, just outside the limits permitted for female rowing competitors. When our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, our physiology consultant obtained and analyzed our client's prior and latest test results. The analysis showed a natural rise in our client's performance-related hormone coincident with her rigorous training regimen. Partial records for prior years suggested a similar, though less dramatic, rise. We helped our client appeal her drug test results and suspension. Our winning appeal resulted in an opportunity to retest for permissible hormone levels, which our client passed so that she could resume future competitions. Our client cleared her name and reputation of wrongdoing while protecting her university's reputation. Our diplomatic approach and communications with university officials seeking a win-win outcome were key to our client's success.

College Athlete Retains Right to Compete After Successfully Defending Title IX Charges

A large public university system along the West Coast charged our client with Title IX sexual misconduct over an athletic dormitory room incident. Our client was a scholarship athlete at the school living in a university dormitory serving student athletes along with other male and female students. The dormitory segregated male and female students into different floors with hours restrictions on when students were permitted on floors other than their own floor. After complaints from two female student athletes, the university charged that our client had on several occasions visited their floor during restricted hours to engage in sexual activities with other female students. When our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, our investigation showed that students habitually disregarded the dormitory hours and floor restrictions, which the university had not enforced in any case other than ones involving theft, drugs, or violence. Our investigation further showed that consensual romantic activities were common among students on the same floor and between floors. Our research further showed that our client's alleged consensual sexual activities did not violate Title IX or any related university rule against nonconsensual sexual activity. Those alleged activities also did not constitute sexual harassment or a sexually hostile environment for the two complaining female students or any other student. We helped our client prepare this defense presentation for the formal hearing, at which a representative of our team attended to assist our client. Cross-examination of the two complaining witnesses confirmed our client's defense position, resulting in a favorable ruling recommending dismissal of the charges. The university's Title IX coordinator approved the recommendation, enabling our client to resume all athletic and other university activities.

Student Athlete Successfully Defends Cheating Charges Relating to Athlete Academic Support Program

A large public university in a Southeastern state charged our client with academic misconduct relating to academic support services for the university's student athletes. Our client was a freshman scholarship athlete facing a difficult academic transition from his rural high school. Our client was an outstanding athlete with a high school academic record that would not have qualified him for university admission without consideration of his athletic accomplishments. The university initially promised substantial academic support for our client and other entering student athletes. But our client struggled with the support provided, often from other students who, though academically skilled, lacked experience and skill in instructional support of other students. One of those students provided our client with outlines and model exam answers that the relevant course instructor later claimed were inappropriate, confidential, and proprietary and constituted cheating. When the university charged only our client student athlete, our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team. Our investigation confirmed these facts, including that our client had acted at all times in good faith, relying on student support services the university alone provided. Our investigation further confirmed that our client had not made significant use of the offered materials. Our communication of our client's position to the disciplinary investigator assigned to our client's case resulted in a recommendation for dismissal of the charges. When the chief disciplinary official resisted that recommendation, we appealed the charge to a formal hearing, following which the disciplinary official informally dismissed the charge. Our client successfully avoided any interruption of his academic studies or athletic competition.

Student Athlete Turns Back Threat of Discipline for Receiving Stolen Goods and Inappropriate Benefits

A mid-sized private university in the Pacific Northwest threatened our client, a scholarship athlete in a major sport, with charges of receiving stolen goods and inappropriate athletic benefits. Our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to address the university's threat and attempt to resolve the matter before the university filed formal charges and the matter became public. Our client's account was that he had received athletic shoes, gym bags, and athletic clothing from a longtime advisor who was a member of his family's church and a good friend of his father and other family members. One of the assistant coaches for his university team had questioned him about the items and then cautioned him to clear gifts of that kind with the team's compliance officer before accepting them. The compliance officer later contacted our client, saying that he had investigated the gifts and believed not only that they constituted an inappropriate benefit but that some of the items were probably stolen. Our client helped us reach out to the advisor, who confirmed that he had purchased the items and given them to our client without any outside connections or expectation of inducing future obligations. We obtained supporting documentation of the advisor's account and helped our client share our report and documentation with the compliance officer. After reviewing our materials, the compliance officer withdrew his threat of disciplinary charges. Our client continued his career as a student athlete without undue public attention or disciplinary interruption.

Student Athlete on Partial Scholarship Avoids Scholarship Loss Over Failure to Academically Progress Charges

A mid-sized public university with an NCAA Division II athletics program charged our client with failure to academically progress, threatening our client with the loss of his partial athletics scholarship and barring him from further athletics competition. Our client's parents retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, believing that our client's athletics participation was his key to succeeding academically. Our client indeed expressed reluctance to continue at the university if he could not participate in scholarship athletics competitions. Our investigation showed that our client's grade point average had fallen below the university's SAP standard in our client's latest semester due entirely to a failing grade in a single course. Our team confirmed that our client could still appeal the failing grade if he could demonstrate a sound appeal basis. Our client was unable to articulate that basis until he consented to our communication with his academic advisor and student support services. We learned that they had suspected that our client had a learning disability interfering with his studies and exam performance and that they had recommended educational psychology testing for a diagnosis and accommodations. Our counsel to our client encouraged him to disclose the disability issue to his parents, which led to his agreement to submit to testing. Our client's learning disability diagnosis became the main grounds for a successful grade appeal. The university's disability services office also approved exam accommodations for our client's retake of the failed course, which our client passed with a higher grade than he had earned in any of his other courses. Our client continued at the university as a scholarship athlete working toward his graduation.

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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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