If you or your student is attending a college or university in Texas, you're going to want to know how to stay in your school's good graces. After all, you want your academic experience to be a good one. You definitely want to ensure that you're able to achieve your degree without experiencing anything that could impact your future adversely.
Fortunately, you have access to a resource that will help you avoid sanctions and disciplinary action. Your school should have a document elucidating the expected behaviors of its students. This document, your school's code of conduct, should be freely available to all students through the student handbook or on your school's website.
The code of conduct for your school includes all of the responsibilities of each student, as well as the regulations they must follow and a listing of student rights. This document will also clearly outline all of your school's prohibited behaviors, as well as information about what will happen when a student does allegedly step a toe out of line.
As a student attending (or planning to attend) a Texas school, you need to make sure that you locate and comprehend your school's code of conduct. Unfortunately, you will not be able to cite unfamiliarity with the code of conduct as a reasonable defense if you are later found responsible for a code of conduct infraction.
Texas Code of Conduct Issues: Academic Misconduct, Sexual Misconduct, and General Disciplinary Charges
There are several common types of infractions that your school could choose to investigate and adjudicate, including academic dishonesty, sexual misconduct issues, and more generalized disciplinary charges (e.g., hazing and drug offenses). As violations of your school's code of conduct, your school will take these behaviors very seriously.
Academic misconduct or academic integrity infractions include such behaviors as cheating, plagiarism, destruction of school property, disrupting your classroom, fabricating data, and unauthorized collaboration. While your instructor can decide to give you a failing grade as a sanction for these actions, repeated or severe academic misconduct can earn involved students a suspension or a dismissal.
Sexual misconduct infractions generally result in steep consequences as well if the student is found responsible. As a general rule, any sexual activity that occurs without the direct, freely-given consent of all involved is considered sexual misconduct. This term can include actions such as stalking, sexual exploitation, domestic or dating violence, incest, and rape.
Your school may have a college sexual misconduct provision contained within your code of conduct as well as a distinct Title IX policy that could cover these actions. If your school adjudicates your case under its code of conduct policies, you may not be able to rely on the increased protections that Title IX can offer the accused. As a result, you may find that there's even more at stake. Your Texas school could be predisposed towards dealing with your alleged infraction sloppily and harshly—potentially at the risk of meting out unnecessarily severe sanctions.
Are There Other Types of Code of Conduct Issues?
Outside of academic dishonesty and sexual misconduct, there are other ways that students can exhibit prohibited behavior. While, to some extent, these other issues may vary from school to school, there are some universal behaviors that are likely frowned upon at any Texas academic institution.
These behaviors include:
- Possession of alcohol. While this may feel surprising, it is key to remember that people who are underage are prohibited from consuming alcohol on most college campuses. Since Texas does have stringent laws concerning underage drinking, its colleges and universities will likely have very specific rules surrounding the use of alcohol for all students—including, perhaps, even those who are over the age of twenty-one. If students are caught breaking these rules, they will face a serious penalty.
- Possession of drugs. Most codes of conduct will prohibit the use, distribution, and possession of a variety of controlled substances, including prescription drugs, narcotics, steroids, and more.
- Hazing. Performing introductory rituals for new teams, fraternities or sororities, or any other type of initiation ceremony that could cause embarrassment or pain has resulted in a lot of harm for many students. As such, hazing has become a prohibited activity at many North American schools, particularly when hazing goes too far.
- Residential misconduct. If you think about it, a college campus constitutes a shared space that is, for many young people, their first home away from home. Living away from parents and family does require learning a lot of new habits. Being a good roommate and a good member of a community can require practice. Your Texas school's code of conduct should help you out by specifying behaviors that are disruptive, prohibiting the destruction of personal property, and making it clear how to be safe in your dormitories. This should include a ban on assault or fighting in the dorm setting, since these actions could affect the safety of the entire community. Schools will take any student safety risk seriously, which means that breaking one of these codes of conduct can net students steep punishments (including suspension and expulsion).
- Hate crimes. If a student commits an offense that's connected with some type of belief about a victim's gender, color, religion, race, age, or sexual orientation, many schools will pursue disciplinary action. Being associated with a hate offense will also, typically, result in a lot of permanent reputation damage for involved students.
These general categories of code of conduct infractions are not exhaustive. It's necessary to be familiar with the specifically-prohibited behaviors at your school, as well as the steps your school will take to investigate and adjudicate allegations of misconduct.
In the next section, we'll discuss the events that you can expect to occur once your school learns that you may have committed a code of conduct infraction.
How Texas Colleges Manage Code of Conduct Issues
Your school will likely have its own specific procedures surrounding adjudication of prohibited behaviors. You can expect some version of an investigation, a disciplinary hearing, and a recommendation for sanctions.
Initially, your school will inform all involved students about the allegations. Then, your school will open an investigation to glean all possible evidence about what actually happened.
Handling Your School's Investigation Effectively
Cases can be won or lost in the investigative stage. The first thing you need to know is simple: Do not talk to anyone about your case without getting professional input. It can be tempting to do so, particularly if a trusted instructor seems sympathetic, but this can be dangerous for your overall strategy. This means that it's a good idea to hire a student defense advisor now, at this early stage, so you can set yourself up for success from the get-go instead of doing anything accidentally that could hurt you later.
During your school's investigation, you and your advisor can work to ensure that all meetings with investigators go smoothly, that you're able to gather as much evidence as possible, and that you're able to produce witnesses as needed. Working strategically now will set you up to make your case much more effectively later, during your disciplinary hearing.
After your school has collected needed information, you may receive an invitation to a formal disciplinary hearing, or your case may be dismissed depending on the specifics of your school's policies.
What Happens in a Disciplinary Hearing
Your hearing before your school's disciplinary board will will likely have a lot of influence over your resulting disciplinary experience. Perhaps most importantly, this hearing will end with a recommendation for the type of sanctions you'll have to undergo. This will give you information about the type of potential harm your reputation could face.
Your school's disciplinary board will consist of several members of your school's academic community. This may include faculty, administrators, and even fellow students. This board will review the evidence unearthed in your school's investigation, ask questions of the involved parties, come to a decision regarding your responsibility for the alleged infraction, and recommend punishment.
Some schools may not permit students to bring legal advisors with them into the hearings. Even if this is the case, hiring and working with a lawyer to prepare for a disciplinary hearing is a good idea. Why?
It's crucial to remember that you have rights, defined both by the law and by your school's regulations. You need to protect those rights throughout your disciplinary experience. Ranging from the right to timely notification to the right to legal advice, your rights can make or break your experience with due process and sanctions.
If you're alone, it will be much easier for your school to steamroll over those rights.
If you work with a lawyer, your school will take you more seriously if your school needs to be called to task on any procedural concerns or due process issues which unfortunately can arise often in disciplinary proceedings.
As importantly, your lawyer will be able to guide you through the process, all the while working towards the best possible outcome for you.
The Sanctions Texas Students Can Face
If your school's disciplinary board finds that you are responsible for the alleged violation, they will likely recommend one of the following sanctions:
- Ban on extracurricular activities, including, for example playing on a sports team as a student-athlete
- Loss of scholarship
- Loss of housing
- Academic or disciplinary probation
While some of these sanctions may be manageable, they will all have consequences both in the short- and long-term. It may be the case that you feel you could weather, say, a suspension, so long as you don't receive a dismissal from your university. Unfortunately, a suspension will result in a gap in your academic career or permanent disciplinary notes in your transcript.
This may not seem like a big deal. It is. Later, when you go to apply for the job of your dreams or a particularly sought-after internship, the people making key decisions regarding those opportunities are going to see the gaps in your transcript which will need to be explained.
That's why it's important to work strategically to build a strong defense, to negotiate for reduced sanctions when necessary, and ultimately to keep your reputation as clean as possible.
Best Practices for Texas Students Throughout the School Response to Code of Conduct Charges
During your disciplinary experience, there are some actions you can take to take advantage of your due process rights and to work towards a more favorable outcome. For example:
When You are First Accused
Firstly, don't talk about the allegations against you. It may feel natural to confide in your friends or even trusted instructors or administrators at your school. This can backfire against you. Any statements you make can be used against you. Since this is the case, it's a far better strategy to speak to your parents and a good attorney before you say a word to anyone else—be it your professors, anyone in the code of conduct office, and especially campus security or public safety. Resist the urge to defend yourself. That will come back to haunt you later!
Get in touch with a qualified student defense attorney. Don't decide that you can handle this on your own or that your situation isn't high stakes enough to merit finding a professional attorney. These types of disciplinary situations can easily balloon out of control in a matter of days. Later in the process, you'll wish that you had help drafting a deft defense or coaching to help you through an investigation or disciplinary hearing. Contact a legal professional as early on as you can; you'll be very glad later that you were so proactive.
Prior to and During Your Hearing Processes
Before your hearing occurs, work with your attorney to prepare arguments and gather evidence. Your attorney will be able to coach you in your defense strategy and help you feel comfortable with the information you're presenting.
After your school has come to a decision regarding your responsibility in the case, your school will issue recommendations for sanctions. To avoid, for example, a suspension or any resulting gap in your transcript, you may need to consider filing an appeal.
The Process of Filing an Appeal
The specific steps that go into filing an appeal can vary from school to school. It's a good idea to check your school's documentation for the procedures you'll need to follow.
Typically, after your school issues its decision in your case and any recommendations for sanctions, you'll have a brief window of time (sometimes 5-10 business days or even less) to file an appeal. To do this, you'll complete some paperwork and draft an argument that states your reasons for reopening negotiations. Then, you'll send that paperwork to the relevant authority at your school (often, the Dean of Students) and wait for a reply.
After your school has reviewed these materials, a representative from your school will contact you to let you know what your school has decided. Whether your school is ready to reconsider sanctions or simply reissues the original recommendation, this decision is often final.
Since this is the case, it's best to make sure that your initial (and only) appeal is as strategic as possible. Work with a student defense attorney to craft a persuasive argument based on as much evidence as is possible. For example, if you can demonstrate that your school did not follow due procedure or if new evidence has come to light since your school's investigation, you may be able to work towards a favorable outcome.
If your appeal is unsuccessful, you may be able to consider one of the following options:
- Filing a complaint with the board of education in your state. Your state's government will have a specific board that oversees all institutions of higher education. If you file a complaint with that entity, it may be able to exert external pressure to convince your school to reconsider sanctions.
- Having your lawyer speak with your school's general counsel. After you've filed a complaint, see if your lawyer can reach out to the lawyers at your school for further negotiations. You may be able to smooth things over this way. This is often the most effective step in resolving remaining concerns at the school level.
- Finally, considering litigation against your school. This is a dramatic step, but it's one that gets results. If this is the best strategy for you, your student defense attorney will be able to advise you on the next best steps.
In any of these cases, you will need the personal assistance of a professional attorney.
Rely on the Expertise and Student Defense Experience at the Lento Law Firm for a Successful Outcome
Need help managing a code of conduct violation process at your school?
Your Texas college or university will have very high expectations regarding student behavior. Understanding the complexities and nuances surrounding these expectations can be tricky. Navigating your school's code of conduct can be completely overwhelming. And, once your school's disciplinary procedures begin, you may feel like you're all alone.
You're not. Moreover, you shouldn't feel like you need to handle code of conduct violations all by yourself. Instead, rely on a student defense attorney who's helped thousands of students in your precise situation. This will help you have more confidence that you'll achieve a successful end—and it'll force your school to realize that you're taking your disciplinary sanctions seriously.
If you're accused of a code of conduct violation, that doesn't mean that your entire future should be in jeopardy. At the Lento Law Firm, we believe that a mistake, misunderstanding, or miscommunication from your college years shouldn't cost you your reputation. Joseph D. Lento has worked on code of conduct cases for years in Texas and across the United States, giving him the experience necessary to help you succeed. From your school's investigative processes to hearings, appeals, and more, attorney Joseph D. Lento will work tirelessly to support you as you resolve your case.
Call attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today to schedule a consultation, or contact us online for help.
Texas colleges and universities where Joseph D. Lento can help as your or your student's code of conduct advisor during investigations, hearings, and appeals include, but are not limited to, the following schools:
- Abilene Christian University
- Alvin Community College
- Amarillo College
- American InterContinental University Houston
- Angelina College
- Angelo State University
- Argosy University Dallas
- Arlington Baptist College
- Austin College
- Austin Community College District
- Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary
- Baptist University of the Americas
- Baylor University
- Blinn College
- Brazosport College
- Brookhaven College
- Brown Mackie College San Antonio
- Career Point College
- Cedar Valley College
- Central Texas College
- Chamberlain College of Nursing Texas
- Cisco College
- Clarendon College
- Coastal Bend College
- College of Biblical Studies Houston
- College of the Mainland
- Collin County Community College District
- Commonwealth Institute of Funeral Service
- Concordia University Texas
- Court Reporting Institute Wheeler Institute of Texas
- Culinary Institute Inc.
- Dallas Baptist University
- Dallas Christian College
- Dallas Institute of Funeral Service
- Del Mar College
- DeVry University Texas
- East Texas Baptist University
- Eastfield College
- El Centro College
- El Paso Community College
- Everest College Arlington
- Everest College Dallas
- Everest College Fort Worth
- Everest College Fort Worth South
- Frank Phillips College
- Galveston College
- Grayson County College
- Hardin Simmons University
- Hill College
- Houston Baptist University
- Houston Community College
- Howard College
- Howard Payne University
- Huston Tillotson University
- International Academy of Design and Technology San Antonio
- ITT Technical Institute Arlington
- ITT Technical Institute Austin
- ITT Technical Institute DeSoto
- ITT Technical Institute Houston North
- ITT Technical Institute Houston West
- ITT Technical Institute Richardson
- ITT Technical Institute San Antonio
- ITT Technical Institute Waco
- ITT Technical Institute Webster
- Jacksonville College Main Campus
- Jarvis Christian College
- KD Conservatory College of Film and Dramatic Arts
- Kilgore College
- Lamar Institute of Technology
- Lamar State College Orange
- Lamar State College Port Arthur
- Lamar University
- Laredo Community College
- Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Austin
- Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Dallas
- Lee College
- LeTourneau University
- Lon Morris College
- Lone Star College System
- Lubbock Christian University
- McLennan Community College
- McMurry University
- Midland College
- Midwestern State University
- Mountain View College
- National American University Austin
- Navarro College
- North American College
- North Central Texas College
- North Lake College
- Northeast Texas Community College
- Northwest Vista College
- Northwood University Texas
- Odessa College
- Our Lady of the Lake University San Antonio
- Palo Alto College
- Panola College
- Paris Junior College
- Paul Quinn College
- Prairie View A & M University
- Ranger College
- Remington College Dallas Campus
- Remington College Fort Worth Campus
- Remington College Houston Campus
- Remington College Houston Southeast Campus
- Remington College North Houston Campus
- Rice University
- Richland College
- Saint Edward's University
- Sam Houston State University
- San Antonio College
- San Jacinto Community College
- Sanford Brown College Dallas
- Sanford Brown College Houston
- Sanford Brown College Houston North Loop
- Sanford Brown College San Antonio
- Schreiner University
- South Plains College
- South Texas College
- South University The Art Institute of Dallas
- South University The Art Institute of Fort Worth
- Southern Methodist University
- Southwest Career College
- Southwest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf
- Southwest Texas Junior College
- Southwestern Adventist University
- Southwestern Assemblies of God University
- Southwestern Christian College
- Southwestern University
- St Philip's College
- St. Mary's University
- Stephen F Austin State University
- Sul Ross State University
- Tarleton State University
- Tarrant County College District
- Temple College
- Texarkana College
- Texas A & M International University
- Texas A & M University College Station
- Texas A & M University Commerce
- Texas A & M University Corpus Christi
- Texas A & M University Galveston
- Texas A & M University Kingsville
- Texas A & M University Texarkana
- Texas Christian University
- Texas College
- Texas Lutheran University
- Texas Southern University
- Texas State Technical College Harlingen
- Texas State Technical College Waco
- Texas State Technical College Marshall
- Texas State Technical College West Texas
- Texas State University
- Texas Tech University
- Texas Wesleyan University
- Texas Woman's University
- The Art Institute of Austin
- The Art Institute of Houston
- The Art Institute of San Antonio
- The College of Saint Thomas More
- The University of Texas at Arlington
- The University of Texas at Austin
- The University of Texas at Brownsville
- The University of Texas at Dallas
- The University of Texas at El Paso
- The University of Texas at San Antonio
- The University of Texas at Tyler
- The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
- The University of Texas of the Permian Basin
- The University of Texas Pan American
- Trinity University
- Trinity Valley Community College
- Tyler Junior College
- University of Dallas
- University of Houston
- University of Houston Downtown
- University of Houston Victoria
- University of Mary Hardin Baylor
- University of North Texas
- University of Phoenix Austin Campus
- University of Phoenix Dallas Campus
- University of Phoenix Houston Campus
- University of Phoenix San Antonio Campus
- University of St Thomas
- University of the Incarnate Word
- Vernon College
- Vet Tech Institute of Houston
- Victoria College
- Virginia College Austin
- Wade College
- Wayland Baptist University
- Weatherford College
- West Texas A & M University
- Western Texas College
- Wharton County Junior College
- Wiley College