Code of Conduct: Do You Know What's in Yours?
When your college or university accepted you, and you placed your deposit, you became a student at the school, and at some point before your classes started, you were given a copy of the school's code of conduct. It might have been during Orientation, or perhaps during a freshman weekend over the summer. The code of conduct is usually quite long and can often be found either in the student handbook or via an online portal or link that your school provides. However, it was brought to your attention, it was your responsibility to make sure you were familiar with its contents.
Nearly every college across the United States has its own code of conduct. The code of conduct outlines the guidelines that the school has created in order to support an academic and collegiate environment. The rules often reiterate the school's dedication to integrity, fairness, and honesty. They're similar to the laws that govern the country, state, and city. However, they only apply to the campus—or to those affiliated with the school. If you look through the code of conduct, you'll see that it speaks to academic integrity as well as a range of behaviors that are condoned. The code of conduct also details the process for addressing any violations (often called disciplinary proceedings), as well as potential sanctions (or penalties) they may impose.
Code of conduct violations may seem less serious than breaking a local, state, or federal law, but they should not be underestimated—plus often schools make violating local, state, and federal laws also a violation of their code of conduct.
What Are Some Examples of Assault and Battery Code of Conduct Violations?
Each university or college will have its own examples of what constitutes assault and battery, and so you'll want to consult your own handbook or code of conduct for the particulars of your school. Here are some examples to give you an idea of what it might look like.
Penn State University's Code of Conduct lists assault as the first entry; however, they call it abuse/endangerment: “ABUSE/ENDANGERMENT: Physically harming or threatening to harm any person, intentionally or recklessly causing harm to any person or reasonable apprehension of such harm or creating a condition that endangers the health and safety of self or others.” You can see here that for them, physical harm or the threat of physical harm fall under the same item.
In contrast to that, Georgetown University's Code of Conduct specifies “Physical Assault: Use of force on another individual and/or any intentional touching, or threat of such touching, that results in bodily injury or that places a person in reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm.”
You can see by looking at the two items that the two schools have slightly different language but are speaking of some overlapping behaviors that aren't allowed.
Finally, Boston College offers a third example and name for similar behavior: physical violence. Their code states: “Physical violence includes, but is not limited to, any physical contact that results in harm or was intended to cause harm, and any fighting/brawling, slapping, spitting, shoving, and restraining. Students are expected to avoid physical conflicts at all times. Under no circumstance is physical violence an acceptable means to resolve problems, disputes, or interpersonal relations.” This definition is perhaps the most explicit of the three, and also includes a hint of editorialization in the final sentence that physical violence isn't an acceptable way to resolve conflict.
Your school's code of conduct might use the word “assault,” “physical violence,” “assault and battery,” or another term. This is why it's critical that you take the time to read through your handbook, especially when you receive notice of a violation.
How Can an Attorney-Advisor Help Me?
If you or a loved one is facing a code of conduct violation for assault and battery, you should understand that most schools tend to take these offenses very seriously. An attorney-advisor with expertise in college disciplinary proceedings can help you plan an effective strategy for your defense and will be able to apply their experience and know-how to your particular circumstances. An attorney-advisor can explain your school's process and identify strengths and weaknesses in the evidence of the case. Schools have someone who's looking out for their best interest during these proceedings, and so should you.
Occasionally, a school will not allow outside advisors to attend a hearing. In those instances, it still is important that you consult with an attorney-advisor. They can prepare you for the hearing and for potential questions or concerns, even if they can't accompany you to the hearing itself.
Additionally, an attorney-advisor can potentially take steps with applicable administrators and others at the school, including the school's Office of General Counsel (the school's attorneys), to address concerns that may arise during the course of a disciplinary case. Such concerns can include, for example, the school not providing a fair process or the necessary due process and procedural protections to an accused student.
Sanctions and Collateral Consequences of Assault and Battery Violations
Assault and battery allegations can result in two different types of consequences if you are found guilty by your school. The school, first of all, will most likely impose sanctions. Sanctions are penalties that are designed to meet the severity of an offense. Possible sanctions might include any of the following:
- Disciplinary probation;
- Loss of student housing;
- Loss of financial aid or scholarships;
There are other possible sanctions, such as educational workshops or psychological evaluation and treatment. Alongside the sanctions, however, the second type of consequence is often referred to as “collateral consequences.” This means that they accompany the sanctions but are not the primary “punishment,” per se.
If an assault and battery violation is noted on your permanent academic record, for example, it could impact your ability to attend graduate school. Medical schools and law schools are very competitive, and the mark could detract from your likelihood of acceptance. Other collateral consequences could include an impact on your reputation or an increased financial burden because of losing financial aid.
Because allegations of physical assault are incredibly serious, and because colleges and universities are always looking out for their own interests and potential liabilities, the prospect of a severe sanction is likely if a disciplinary case is not handled as best as possible. An attorney-advisor can help offset these concerns by taking the necessary steps on an accused student's behalf to fight allegations and to otherwise mitigate an outcome when necessary.
Experienced Code of Conduct Defense Team
With so much at stake, you want to do everything in your power to fight for the best possible outcome. A code of conduct attorney-advisor who specializes in school disciplinary proceedings can stand by your side while you navigate this challenging time. Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have helped thousands of students nationwide as they and their families faced similar challenges. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888.535.3686 or reach out online to learn more about how they can assist you in your pursuit of justice.