Clearing a College Record of Disciplinary Issues

You may think of college and university records as involving transcripts of courses completed with grades awarded and degrees earned. Yet college and university registrars increasingly maintain discipline records, too. And those discipline records can negatively affect a wide range of student opportunities, from the ability to transfer or gain admission to graduate school to the ability to obtain a professional license, employment, or career.

If you or someone you know has a record of college or university discipline that needs correction or deserves to be clear, then retain national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento to help make the case. Clearing a record isn't usually the easiest thing to do, but attorney Lento knows how to show institutions when it's the right thing to do.

What's in a College Record?

The American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers once held that noting disciplinary offenses on a college or university transcript was not a best practice. The prevailing wisdom was then that college and university records were properly academic, not behavioral, in nature. In 2016, though, the Association noted a change in the prevailing norms, causing the Association to shift from a not recommended to an optional stance on including discipline on transcripts.

The Association's survey at the time reported much greater willingness among registrars to note major discipline than minor discipline. The Association's members sensed that the public wanted more transparency from colleges and universities, a sense bolstered by the fact that both New York and Virginia enacted legislation requiring disciplinary transcript notations. The Association's more recent 2017 report on the same subject noted a continuing split among colleges and universities, some not recording discipline at all on transcripts, while others record discipline either when charged or only when final.

Even if the discipline does not appear on the student's academic transcript, the college or university is very likely to retain a record of the discipline in another form. When someone requests the transcript with the student's consent, college and university practices differ. Some will produce only the academic transcript, while others will produce both the academic transcript and the student's record of discipline. Other institutions produce the discipline record only when the requester asks and student consents. But the requester is also likely to ask the student about any record of discipline. So, what's in a college or university record? It depends on who asks and for what they ask. But the student is always better off with a clean record.

What's Wrong with a Disciplinary Record?

Graduating with a degree, perhaps earned with academic honors, is the college or university student's goal. Yet a disciplinary record can undermine much or all of the value of that highly laudable goal. The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, permits a student to control most disclosures of academic records. A 2002 U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision held that FERPA also protects the disclosure of student discipline records. In most instances, a student with a discipline record may keep others from seeing it without the student's consent.

Yet, students have many good reasons and common needs to share their academic records. Those reasons include transferring to another school, gaining admission to graduate school, qualifying for scholarships or grants, or for jobs, licenses, contracts, and other career-related goals. More than likely, a student with a record of discipline is going to need or want to disclose the student's other academic record, resulting in the disclosure of the discipline. A disciplinary record may thus prevent transfer, graduate education, hiring, licensure, and more.

Grounds for Record Relief

Just because behavioral misconduct occurred does not mean that it must or should appear on a permanent student record. Colleges and universities educate, not only in academic ways but also in social norms. Students who commit some of the more minor forms of behavioral misconduct like unauthorized alcohol or illegal drug use, misuse of university property, disorderly conduct, or trespassing may be adjusting to adult norms. With the right advocacy around a student behavioral discipline record, institutions may recognize their role in socializing a student to adult norms and be willing to clear an otherwise unblemished record.

Even students who engage in behavioral misconduct of other, more serious types, including vandalism, theft, and fraud, may find the college or university more understanding and willing to clear or adjust a record, when the student presents compelling grounds for relief. Those grounds may include positive things like the student's strong academic record and another record of extraordinary good conduct, or mitigating circumstances like temporary mental-health issues, disturbing family or relational issues involving suicide, abuse, or death, and homelessness, poverty, or other socioeconomic disadvantages.

Getting record relief from disciplinary offenses, though, takes more than wishful thinking. It can take the skilled advocacy national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento. Attorney Lento's many years of experience successfully representing college and university students accused of misconduct has given him the insight and foresight to know how best to approach an institution for disciplinary record relief.

Procedures for Clearing Disciplinary Records

School disciplinary procedures, although differing fairly widely, typically offer several opportunities for skilled counsel to advocate that the institution not create a permanent record of any discipline. Disciplinary procedures often begin with the institution's effort at informal resolution, especially when the behavioral misconduct is of a less serious form. Informal resolution creates an ideal opportunity to advocate against any permanent discipline record and for short-term corrective action. Even if the misconduct charges proceed to hearing, the hearing itself presents a great opportunity both to challenge the charges and to advocate for meaningful outcomes short of permanent discipline records.

Once a disciplinary proceeding concludes, opportunities may still exist to advocate for clearing a discipline record, especially if the student with the discipline record has completed the terms of any sanction and otherwise maintained a good behavioral and academic record. The institution may offer some procedure for addressing the non-academic content of a school record, about which the school's registrar would surely know. But even if not, some registrars may feel that they have the institution's authority and responsibility to listen to such requests. The student in such a case may have to make a compelling case for a relief, but such cases do not exist. Educational institutions naturally recognize their role in shaping behavior, including rehabilitating character. 

When you cannot discern an appropriate process to advocate for relief, or the process you followed with the registrar or other academic official has not gained you deserving relief, national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento may be able to help. Many colleges and universities have an Office of the Ombudsman to help members of the academic community address special situations deserving of relief. Institutions of higher education generally also have an Office of the General Counsel where lawyers representing the institution will consider special matters raised outside of the typical academic and grievance processes. These offices will in some cases exercise special authority to gain appropriate student relief, especially when national academic attorney Joseph Lento can help the office see the justice in a creative approach to such relief.

Retain the Best Available National Academic Attorney

National academic attorney Joseph D. Lento has made a nationwide practice of helping students who face behavioral misconduct charges keep a clean record. Attorney Lento also makes a practice of helping students who have records of discipline clear those records on a showing of a good reason for relief. Don't face alone the challenge of keeping a clean record against misconduct charges or clearing a record of prior discipline. Do what hundreds of college and university students have done in entrusting their academic records to national academic attorney Joseph Lento and the Lento Law Firm. Call 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation, or use the online service.

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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 our offices today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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