Case Studies: Unrepresented Students

Unrepresented Graduate Student Suffers Suspension Recommendation Over Title IX Charges

A teaching program at a public university in the Northwestern United States charged our client with Title IX sexual misconduct violations. The charges related to our client's breakup with a female girlfriend also in the teaching program. Initially, both students continued to attend their common classes, avoiding one another with some embarrassment and discomfort. But before long, the ex-girlfriend reported to the university's Title IX coordinator that our client had sexually assaulted her on the night of their breakup. When served with the charges, our client mistakenly believed that the coordinator would recognize that the false complaint was just to get him out of her classes. Our client planned to offer to rearrange his schedule for that purpose. But when our client attended the coordinator's informal hearing alone before retaining the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, our client realized that the coordinator intended to suspend him. The coordinator's Title IX investigator had secretly built a discipline file and drafted a report that supported suspension. Our client retained us only after receiving the adverse suspension recommendation. We were nonetheless able to invoke our client's right to a formal hearing offering our client the right to have his attorney advisor cross-examine his ex-girlfriend and any other adverse witnesses. That hearing before an independent panel, where our team's attorney advisor represented the client and conducted cross-examination, resulting in a rejection of the suspension recommendation and dismissal of the charges. Our client nearly lost his case for lack of early representation. Early retention of the Lento Law Firm's student defense team would also likely have avoided our client's severe stress of an adverse recommendation.

Unrepresented Undergraduate Student in Psychology Program Suffers Academic Misconduct Suspension

An undergraduate psychology program at a large public university in the Northeastern United States charged our unrepresented client, a junior student, with academic misconduct related to her attempted unauthorized collaboration on research paper assignments. Our client understood from the written notice of charges that they had to do with her attempts to assist and get assistance from several classmates in her study group on the research assignment. She knew that her classmates had rebuffed her requests and offers based on the instructor's non-collaboration requirement. But our unrepresented client believed that her conduct had been in good faith, did not really violate any instruction, had not succeeded in inducing any collaboration, and would not result in her friends' support of the disciplinary charges. So, without advice and counsel, our client submitted only a brief statement to that effect in her defense, trusting in the disciplinary official's summary findings in her favor. Yet to the contrary, the disciplinary official issued a one-semester suspension. Our client promptly retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to appeal her suspension before it ruined her semester's studies. Our team filed an emergency appeal arguing that our client's brief statement reflected an inadequate presentation of the full context, that a suspension was excessive even under the presumed facts, and that our client deserved an appeal hearing. Fortunately, the disciplinary official suspending our client supported our appeal, inducing the appeal official to remand the case to the disciplinary official for rehearing. We then helped our client prepare a complete presentation that accepted appropriate responsibility while advocating for positive alternatives to discipline. The disciplinary official reinstated our client conditioned on our client's additional academic work that the ruling treated as remedial rather than disciplinary. Our client lost her case while unrepresented but won her case with the Lento Law Firm's skilled and experienced representation.

Unrepresented Medical Student Retakes Exams After Losing Academic Misconduct Charges

A private medical school in the South Central United States charged our client, a second-year student, with cheating in preparation for exams in two courses. Our client had passed the exams and begun the next semester's courses before receiving the school's notice of charges. Mistakenly believing that he could explain any purported evidence of cheating because he knew he was innocent, our client did not seek any advice or representation. Instead, our client attended an informal hearing with the school's disciplinary official without first learning any details of the charges or preparing to rebut the charges. At the hearing, our client first learned that the instructors in those two courses maintained that our client's actual study practices and resources for those two exams constituted cheating. Our client was completely unprepared to respond because our client had assumed that the charges had to do with mistaken allegations of other cheating activities, not a dispute over exam preparation conditions and limitations. Unfortunately, the medical school gave our client failing grades in the two courses. Our client then retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to appeal the discipline. Our appeal succeeded in convincing the appellate panel to permit our client to retake the courses without credit for prior work but also without reflecting those prior courses as ending in failure. Under the circumstances, our client accepted that he would have to repeat the courses but that our representation had succeeded in removing failing grades from his transcript. If our client had retained us before the informal hearing, our representation would likely have led to a better outcome avoiding full course retakes and the severe stress of failing grades as discipline.

Unrepresented Online University Student Suffers Unsatisfactory Academic Progress Dismissal

An online university headquartered in a Southwest city but serving a national student population charged our client with unsatisfactory academic progress and dismissed the student from its degree program. Our client was earning credits in biology courses that our client expected to transfer to a four-year institution toward a bachelor's level nursing degree. Our client, then unrepresented, had received but ignored the university's unsatisfactory academic progress warning and, later, the university's notice of SAP probation. In both instances, our client had trusted her online classmates' advice, shared freely in chat groups and other forums, that the university never followed through on those warnings and notices. Our client expected to improve her grade point average and regain good academic standing in the coming terms as she improved her study skills and adjusted to the biology content. Unfortunately, the university dismissed our client the following term on the same grounds of being out of SAP policy compliance. Still unrepresented, our client undertook her own SAP appeal but failed to document the appeal or submit a recovery plan as the university's SAP appeal procedures required. Our client lost her SAP appeal as a consequence, only then retaining the Lento Law Firm's student defense team. Our SAP appeal team confirmed that the university had a second-level SAP appeal review. Our team helped our client prepare, document, and submit the second-level SAP appeal, this time satisfying the university's strict documentation and plan requirements. Our recovery plan also gave our client clearer and more-achievable steps to regain her good academic standing. The university granted our SAP appeal and reinstated our client, who then continued with her biology education.

Unrepresented Community College Student Suffers Behavioral Discipline Despite Disability Defenses

A community college serving a large metropolitan area in the Southeastern United States charged our client with assault and endangerment. The charges related to an incident in which another student had accidentally frightened our client. Our client, disabled with a psychiatric condition including paranoid schizophrenia, had responded with an exaggerated and unreasonable emotional outburst that scared nearby students and staff members. Our client did not retain an attorney advisor to defend the charges in part because the client had not physically struck or hurt anyone. The student also assumed that the college would understand that his outburst was due to his psychiatric disability. The notice of charges nonetheless warned that the college could suspend or dismiss the student based on the student's response to the charges. The student's response constituted only a one-page statement explaining and attempting to excuse his bizarre conduct. The college's disciplinary office responded with a notice of summary suspension. The notice informed our client that he would remain suspended indefinitely unless reinstated after a hearing. Only then did our client retain the Lento Law Firm's student defense team. Our team undertook to appeal our client's indefinite suspension, after careful documentation of our client's condition, including reports on its control and effects. We also induced our client to revisit his psychiatrist for a new regimen of medication and counseling that we could present to the college's disciplinary office in the course of our appeal. We then scheduled an in-person appeal hearing for which we prepared our client and his parents with a written analysis, reports, plans, and medical documentation. The college's appeal officer granted our client's appeal and reinstated our client with conditions relating to the psychiatric regimen and psychological counseling to which our client had already committed. Unrepresented, our client lost his case with the worst result. With representation, our client regained his educational footing.

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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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