When it's time to get ready for a college experience in Florida, there's a lot to get done. You want to make sure that you've spent time preparing for success in all the right ways. You might carefully work on leveling up your academic skills, spend time working out, curate the perfect slate of dorm room accessories, or simply enjoy a great last summer prior to starting your college career.
All of that sounds great—and you or your child should absolutely take time completing these activities. Yet as you go about preparing for college, there's one type of preparatory activity that often gets missed (and is incredibly vital for your college success).
You need to go through your Florida school's code of conduct.
While this may not sound like fun, think about it: Between you and your diploma stands several years of intense academic experiences. You know that you need to maintain a high standard of academic success in order to earn your degree. You also need to stay in the good graces of your school. Your school's code of conduct should tell you exactly how to do this. If you end up in a disciplinary situation with your school, your school's code of conduct should also detail what will happen as a result.
Unfortunately, this document may also be confusing, lengthy, and overly detailed. It can be difficult to discern specifically what it's saying and how it applies to your case. At the Lento Law Firm, we believe that it's time to equip you with all of the information you need to succeed. That includes knowing your rights and responsibilities as detailed in your FL school's code of conduct. In this helpful resource page, we'll start by providing an outline of the common code of conduct charges, then discuss the various ways that you may be able to defend against them.
Florida Code of Conduct Issues: What Types of Misconduct Are There?
While your school's code of conduct may organize things differently, typically, there are three different types of misconduct: academic, sexual, and more general charges. We'll take a moment to define each of these:
Academic dishonesty or related misconduct will involve behaviors like plagiarism, classroom disruption, cheating, fabricating data, and unauthorized collaboration. Often, these behaviors will be against your school's honor code. While your instructor may simply award a failing grade for these types of actions, they can also refer you to the administration for more severe consequences.
Sexual misconduct will almost always result in steep sanctions. Your school's documentation may clarify this category more concretely but will include such actions as incest, rape, stalking, domestic or dating violence, and sexual exploitation.
Examine your school's policies carefully: Your school may have a sexual misconduct section in the code of conduct as well as a separate Title IX policy. One of the first decisions that your school will make about your case could involve deciding under which policy to adjudicate your case. In some instances, Title IX may offer increased protections for the accused. Regardless, you'll want to stay informed: Your Florida school may wish to take care of your sexual case harshly to send a message or avoid notoriety. This can result in poor treatment for you.
General misconduct tends to serve as a catch-all for some universal behaviors that most schools will tend to punish. While you should check out your school's policies to see whether there's anything specific at your school that is considered punishable behavior, the most common examples of general infractions include:
- Possession of alcohol or drugs. Many Florida schools will echo state law and prohibit the underage consumption, possession, or use of alcohol. Your school may have a similar policy prohibiting the use of many controlled substances, including (recreational) prescription drugs, steroids, and narcotics.
- Hazing. If there are any social or sports groups at your school that have harmful or embarrassing initiation rituals, they may actually be prohibited. There have been some splashy media cases recently involving hazing, so many schools are actively seeking to ban it before it goes too far.
- Residential misconduct. For many students, college is the first time that they are living on their own or away from their parents. In the dormitories, this can result in a lot of tensions running amok. To help curb any dangerous situations, your school may have dorm-specific conduct rules, such as ones prohibiting personal property destruction or a blanket ban on fighting or assault in the dorms.
- Hate crimes. If a student is involved in an embarrassing or painful offense that can in some way be connected to the victim's sexual orientation, race, age, color, or gender, the infraction may be labeled as a hate crime. Being associated with a hate crime can do long-term damage to an involved student's reputation.
This is not an exhaustive list. It's a good idea to familiarize yourself with your school's specifically prohibited behaviors before you even set foot on campus, just in case.
In the next section, we'll begin to discuss what could happen after your school receives an allegation against you.
Your Florida School's Code of Conduct Processes
Your school will likely launch into its adjudicative processes once it learns of the allegations against you. First, it will ascertain whether it's necessary to learn more about your case. If so, your school will initiate some kind of investigation.
Before it does so, your school should send you a formal notification regarding your charges. This notification should contain a reference to the specific part of your school's code of conduct that you have allegedly broken.
This should serve as a call to action on your part. If you haven't already, once you receive that notification, now's a good time to:
- Research the specific section of your code of conduct that your school will be using to adjudicate your case
- Gather as much information as you can about what happened, and begin to pull together an outline of what happened
- Hire a student defense advisor. It may seem early to do so, but these types of cases can spiral out of control very, very quickly. Moreover, cases like these are often lost or won in the investigative stage. You're going to want a professional on your side in these early days; otherwise, by the time you call in a lawyer, it could be too late to pursue helpful action.
Now's also a good time to establish some boundaries. Aside from your parents and your student defense attorney, you should talk to no one during your school's investigative and adjudicative processes. (Your advisor will help you determine when it's okay to speak with an investigator.) Why? Simply put, you don't know who you can trust. It's totally normal to want some type of comfort at this time, but even your mentors at your school or your closest friends could turn against you. Now is not the time to say anything to anyone that could later come back to bite you.
During your school's initial investigation, you and your advisor will work together to make the most of each meeting with the investigative team. You'll also gather evidence and review your list of witnesses. After the investigative stage is over, your school may invite you to a formal hearing in front of a panel of representatives from your school.
Your Florida School's Disciplinary Hearing: What to Expect
At a formal disciplinary hearing, you'll stand in front of a group of school officials. This panel may include members of the school's administration, instructors, and even some of your fellow students.
At your hearing, you'll have the opportunity to present your side of the story. You'll also be able to review the evidence against you and maybe even interview witnesses. You'll have to ask questions from the panel, and, at the end, you'll receive some type of decision from your school regarding your participation in or responsibility for the alleged event.
Your school may or may not allow you to bring your defense advisor into the hearing with you. If not, it's still in your definite benefit to have an advisor on your side for these reasons:
- Your defense advisor can coach you for the hearing and make sure you're comfortable with the information you need to present.
- Your defense advisor can comb through your school's code of conduct for you and make sure you're aware of any niche precedent or loopholes in your school's regulation.
- Your defense advisor can make sure that your school respects your rights during the entire adjudicative and disciplinary process.
In addition, your school is simply much more likely to take you seriously if you've hired a professional to help you with your case. In the event that your school decides to slap you with harsh sanctions, your advisor will already be there to help you negotiate a reduced punishment.
The Sanctions Florida College Students Can Face
At the end of your school's disciplinary hearing, your school will issue recommended sanctions. The list of sanctions you technically could face includes bans on privileges, losses of scholarships or housing, or education relating to your alleged offense.
Even though these sanctions may be on the table, the most common sanction by far is a suspension. This, unfortunately, is not a small deal. You need to take the possibility of a suspension very seriously.
If you receive a suspension, your school attendance will (by definition) not be consistent. As a result, you'll have a gap on your transcript. While this may seem insignificant, later, when you're applying for a key internship or looking to get a great job, you'll need to produce that transcript. The committee awarding the sought-after opportunity will notice the gap. You'll have to explain precisely what happened. That will not be a good conversation. Very likely, you won't end up getting the job or internship you want, all because of that gap.
That's why it's crucial to make sure that you take action now to ensure this doesn't happen to you later.
If you're not interested in carrying out the recommended sanctions, you and your defense advisor have a few options before you. We'll discuss these in the next section.
Filing an Appeal and More: How Florida Students Can Respond to Code of Conduct Charges
First of all, if you've already worked hard to stay informed, stay quiet, and hire a student defense advisor, you've already made a world of difference in your case. From the moment you were first accused, these were some of the best practices you could follow to increase your chances of success.
If it seems that you've reached the end of your school's disciplinary process and all that lays before you is simply carrying out your suspension, your advisor may first advise you to file an appeal. Your school's specific procedures may vary slightly, but, in general, you'll carry out the following steps:
- First, you'll determine the basis for your appeal. You will want to make this as strong as possible. If you can clearly demonstrate that your school did not follow its own regulations during the adjudicative process, if you can show that the sanctions your school recommended are clearly disproportionate, or if you have more compelling evidence that has come to light since the investigation, highlight that!
- You'll write a strategic, very persuasive argument providing the strongest basis possible for reduced sanctions.
- You'll file this argument with the proper authority at your school—typically, the Dean of Students.
In most cases, you'll only have a very short window of time (e.g., five business days) to make this happen. Additionally, you only get one shot: Once your school responds to your appeal, their decision will be considered final. This is another reason why it's so important to be working with a defense advisor from the very beginning!
If your school does not appear to be interested in opening negotiations, you still have options you can pursue. These may include:
- Contacting the Florida Department of Education and filing a complaint. This governmental body may be able to exert some external pressure or authority and so be able to convince your school to reconsider your case. Even if this doesn't work, having an official complaint on file will help form a solid basis for any later legal action you may take.
- Having your student defense advisor reach out to your school's office of general counsel. Even if your school has officially rejected your appeal, having two teams of lawyers discuss a mutually beneficial resolution to your case can often be much more successful than you think. No one wants a lawsuit, and having your lawyer make it clear that one could be coming could be a very effective way to resolve any remaining concerns you may have with your school.
- If neither of the previous two options have resulted in any relief, you may need to consider litigation against your school. This is dramatic but will be effective. However, it may require a large investment in time and money and will probably terminate your relationship with your school. If this is an option you wish to pursue, discuss your options with your advisor.
This may seem like a lot of information. (It is.) At the Lento Law Firm, it's our goal to make sure that you don't have to go through these types of situations alone.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento is Ready to Help You Defend Your Case at Your Florida School
Your school's code of conduct process can overwhelm you from the start. Especially if your alleged infraction is the result of a miscommunication, mistake, or misunderstanding, you may find yourself drowning in due process, surprised by unfair allegations, and scared about your future.
You don't have to figure out how to proceed all by yourself. In fact, you shouldn't. Negotiating sanctions with your school and navigating your school's investigations can be a tricky minefield of delicate conversations. You need to make sure that these conversations are conducive to a successful outcome for you.
To make sure that happens, rely on the deft, practiced skills that Attorney Joseph D. Lento can bring to the table. Joseph D. Lento is a student defense attorney with years of experience helping students in your precise situation. Whether you require support through your school's adjudicative processes or appeals procedures, litigation, tense negotiations, or more, Joseph D. Lento will be ready to assist. He can help you gather evidence to bolster your case, delve through your school's regulations, coach you for tough conversations and hearings, and more.
Don't be tempted to handle this alone. Instead, call Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today to schedule a consultation at 888.535.3686, or simply contact us online.
Florida colleges and universities where Joseph D. Lento can help as your or your student's code of conduct defense advisor during investigations, hearings, and appeals include, but are not limited to, the following schools:
- Acupuncture and Massage College
- AI Miami International University of Art and Design
- American InterContinental University South Florida
- Argosy University Sarasota
- Argosy University Tampa
- Ave Maria University
- Aviator College of Aeronautical Science and Technology
- Barry University
- Beacon College
- Bethune Cookman University
- Brevard Community College
- Broward College
- Brown Mackie College Miami
- Carlos Albizu University Miami
- CBT College Cutler Bay
- Centura Institute
- Chamberlain College of Nursing Florida
- Chipola College
- City College Altamonte Springs
- City College Fort Lauderdale
- City College Gainesville
- City College Miami
- College of Business and Technology Flagler
- College of Business and Technology Hialeah
- College of Business and Technology Kendall
- College of Central Florida
- Daytona State College
- DeVry University Florida
- Digital Media Arts College
- Eckerd College
- Edison State College
- Edward Waters College
- Embry Riddle Aeronautical University Daytona Beach
- Embry Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide
- Everest Institute Fort Lauderdale
- Everest Institute Hialeah
- Everest Institute Kendall
- Everest Institute North Miami
- Everest University Brandon
- Everest University Jacksonville
- Everest University Lakeland
- Everest University Largo
- Everest University Melbourne
- Everest University North Orlando
- Everest University Orange Park
- Everest University Pompano Beach
- Everest University South Orlando
- Everest University Tampa
- Everglades University
- Flagler College St Augustine
- Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University
- Florida Atlantic University
- Florida Career College Clearwater
- Florida Career College Miami
- Florida Christian College
- Florida College
- Florida Gateway College
- Florida Gulf Coast University
- Florida Hospital College of Health Sciences
- Florida Institute of Technology
- Florida International University
- Florida Keys Community College
- Florida Memorial University
- Florida National College Main Campus
- Florida Southern College
- Florida State College at Jacksonville
- Florida State University
- Fortis College
- Fortis College Largo
- Fortis College Miami
- Fortis College Tampa
- Fortis College Winter Park
- Fortis Institute Pensacola
- Full Sail University
- Golf Academy of America Altamonte Springs
- Gulf Coast State College
- Herzing University Winter Park
- Hillsborough Community College
- Hobe Sound Bible College
- Hodges University
- Indian River State College
- International Academy of Design and Technology Online
- International Academy of Design and Technology Orlando
- International Academy of Design and Technology Tampa
- ITT Technical Institute Fort Lauderdale
- ITT Technical Institute Fort Myers
- ITT Technical Institute Jacksonville
- ITT Technical Institute Lake Mary
- ITT Technical Institute Miami
- ITT Technical Institute Orlando
- ITT Technical Institute St. Petersburg
- ITT Technical Institute Tallahassee
- ITT Technical Institute Tampa
- ITT Technical Institute University Park
- Jacksonville University
- Johnson & Wales University North Miami
- Jones College Jacksonville
- Jose Maria Vargas University
- Keiser University
- Key College
- Lake Sumter Community College
- Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Miami
- Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Orlando
- Lincoln College of Technology West Palm Beach
- Lynn University
- Medvance Institute Fort Lauderdale
- Medvance Institute Miami
- Medvance Institute West Palm
- Miami Ad School Miami Beach
- Miami Dade College
- Millennia Atlantic University
- New College of Florida
- North Florida Community College
- Northwest Florida State College
- Northwood University Florida
- Nova Southeastern University
- Palm Beach Atlantic University West Palm Beach
- Palm Beach State College
- Pasco Hernando Community College
- Pensacola State College
- Polk State College
- Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico Miami Campus
- Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico Orlando
- Remington College
- Remington College Tampa Campus
- Ringling College of Art and Design
- Rollins College
- Saint John Vianney College Seminary
- Saint Johns River State College
- Saint Leo University
- Saint Thomas University
- Sanford Brown Institute Ft Lauderdale
- Sanford Brown Institute Jacksonville
- Sanford Brown Institute Orlando
- Sanford Brown Institute Tampa
- Santa Fe College
- Schiller International University
- Seminole State College of Florida
- South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary
- South Florida Community College
- South University Tampa
- South University West Palm Beach
- Southeastern College
- Southeastern College
- Southeastern University
- Southwest Florida College
- St Petersburg College
- State College of Florida Manatee Sarasota
- Stenotype Institute of Jacksonville Inc. Jacksonville
- Stenotype Institute of Jacksonville Inc. Orlando
- Stetson University
- Tallahassee Community College
- Talmudic College of Florida
- Taylor College
- The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale
- The Baptist College of Florida
- The University of Tampa
- The University of West Florida
- Trinity Baptist College
- Trinity College of Florida
- Trinity International University Florida
- University of Central Florida
- University of Florida
- University of Fort Lauderdale
- University of Miami
- University of North Florida
- University of Phoenix Central Florida Campus
- University of Phoenix North Florida Campus
- University of Phoenix South Florida Campus
- University of Phoenix West Florida Campus
- University of South Florida Main Campus
- University of South Florida St. Petersburg Campus
- Valencia College
- Virginia College Jacksonville
- Virginia College Pensacola
- Warner University
- Webber International University
- Yeshivah Gedolah Rabbinical College