College should be an exciting time in your life. You may be leaving home for the first time, taking new classes and discovering subjects you've never learned before, meeting new people, and participating in new activities. You may have a lot going on during your college years—and it's okay to stay busy. What's not ideal is getting into trouble with your school's disciplinary board because you fell behind or made a simple mistake.
Most colleges and universities in Wyoming have rules that students must follow, and if they don't, they can face consequences. It can be hard to know what's against the rules and what isn't, but your school should have resources to help you out. The code of conduct is a document that most colleges and universities have, and it outlines your rights and responsibilities as a student. It lists the behavior that will land you in trouble and the procedures for what happens if you're suspected of a behavior violation.
As a current or prospective student, you should find your school's code of conduct and familiarize yourself with it as soon as possible. Unfortunately, not knowing the rules is not a defense if you get accused of breaking them. It's your obligation as a student to know what is prohibited.
At Lento Law Firm, we want you to succeed as a college student and accomplish all your goals. That's why we made this guide to the disciplinary process at Wyoming colleges and universities, so you can prepare yourself.
Academic Misconduct, Sexual Misconduct, and General Disciplinary Charges at Wyoming Schools
Most codes of conduct split prohibited behavior into three categories: academic dishonesty, sexual misconduct, and general disciplinary violations. They may all be a single document, or your school could have separate policies for each one.
Academic dishonesty is seeking to gain an unfair advantage in academic work. It can include plagiarism, cheating, fabricating data, unauthorized collaboration, disrupting the classroom, or destruction of someone else's academic property. Often, schools let professors handle academic integrity issues, and they have the authority to impose sanctions such as a lowered grade on an assignment or exam or even failing a student in a course. For more serious infractions, students may have to go to a hearing and face harsher sanctions such as suspension or expulsion.
Sexual Misconduct and Title IX
Sexual misconduct refers to any sexual conduct that happens between two or more people without the freely given consent of each party. Examples of sexual misconduct are rape, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, and stalking. It's more than likely that your Wyoming school prohibits sexual misconduct. There may even be a separate policy for sexual misconduct or a policy for Title IX violations.
Title IX is a federal law that aims to prevent gender discrimination in educational institutions. At colleges and universities, Title IX applies to many areas, including admissions, sports, employment, and financial aid. Rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment are considered Title IX violations. When schools find out about a suspected Title IX violation, they have certain obligations to meet, including:
- Doing a thorough investigation of the matter
- Working to end any sexual violence that is taking place and preventing it from happening again
- Addressing any consequences of sexual violence
- Offering protection to the alleged victim and the person who filed the complaint
- Providing grievance procedures
Because of the responsibilities schools have under Title IX, sanctions for a violation can be harsh. For this reason, it's imperative to have a specialized student defense attorney by your side if you get accused of a sexual misconduct or Title IX violation.
General Code of Conduct Violations
If a behavior infraction doesn't fall under the academic dishonesty or sexual misconduct category, it is probably considered a general code of conduct violation. You should be able to find a list of what these violations are in your code of conduct. Some examples your school most likely prohibits are:
- Underage drinking: It's illegal for people under the age of 21 to consume or possess alcohol in Wyoming, just like in the rest of the country. Colleges and universities adhere to this law by banning alcohol use on campus. They may even take it a step further and prohibit alcohol use for all students, not just those under 21.
- Illegal drugs: It's likely your school does not allow the use, sale, distribution, or possession of illegal drugs on campus. There may even be rules on the use of prescription drugs that tend to be abused as well.
- Hazing: When student organizations such as fraternities, sororities, or sports teams force prospective members to engage in embarrassing rituals as a condition for membership, it's considered hazing. Hazing can lead to dangerous behavior such as binge drinking and sometimes results in injury or even death. Most schools across the country have started taking a hard stance on hazing, so it wouldn't be surprising if your school also prohibits it.
- Residential violations: Many new college students choose to live in housing facilities provided by the university. It's often the first time students live away from home, and the adjustment can be more difficult for some than for others. To make living in a shared community safe for everyone, most universities have residential housing rules in place. Breaking these rules could lead to consequences, including getting kicked out of university housing.
- Hate crimes: An offense committed against someone else because of their religion, race, gender, disability, or age is a hate crime. Most schools do not tolerate hate crimes and will impose harsh sanctions on those found responsible for one.
Keep in mind that your school's list of prohibited behaviors in the code of conduct may not be exhaustive. You might also face disciplinary action from your school if you are charged with a crime by civil authorities, for example.
How Do Wyoming Colleges and Universities Manage Code of Conduct Issues?
Your Wyoming university probably has a set of procedures for dealing with students who are suspected of violating the code of conduct. The process may differ for academic integrity and sexual misconduct cases but in general, the disciplinary procedures include:
- A formal investigation
- A disciplinary hearing
- A hearing decision and sanctions recommendation
- A chance to appeal
The process starts when your school informs you about the allegations against you. Then, an administrator conducts an investigation. If the process goes further, the next step is a hearing and then a decision and sanctions based on the hearing. Finally, your school may allow you to appeal the decision.
The Preliminary Investigation
The first step in the process is the investigation, when someone from your university will want to interview you, other parties involved in the incident, and potential witnesses. It's important to keep these tips in mind while the investigation is ongoing:
- Don't talk to anyone about the allegations against you. Speak only to your parents or trusted family members and your attorney.
- Don't post on social media about the accusation. It's best to keep the issue from getting too public, plus you don't want to say something that could incriminate you later.
- Don't automatically trust your school. An administrator from your school, perhaps someone from the office of student affairs, might try to tell you that they want what's best for you. In reality, they have to do what's best for the university. Be on your guard with representatives from your school.
- Get advice from a specialized attorney. A student discipline lawyer can help you know exactly what to do and how to conduct yourself during the investigation and in the stages that follow.
After the investigation ends, your school may close the matter because there's not enough evidence to pursue the matter further. If that doesn't happen, then there will be a hearing.
The Disciplinary Hearing
At the hearing, you and the other party—either the person who accused you of wrongdoing or a representative from the school—will go before a hearing panel. The panel may be comprised of faculty or staff members, as well as your fellow students. During the hearing, you will have the chance to present evidence in your favor, call witnesses, and answer questions from the panel.
Some schools allow students to have an attorney or external advisor present with them during the hearing. Others do not allow it and assign students an advisor from the university. Even if you can't have an attorney speak on your behalf at the hearing, you may be able to at least have them present with you, so you can speak with them privately before asking or answering questions.
If you aren't even allowed to have an attorney in the hearing room with you, you should still hire an attorney to work on your disciplinary matter. They can help you do all the prep work before the hearing and coach you on how to conduct yourself when answering questions. They can also help with due process issues by making sure your school follows its own policies.
Potential Sanctions for Code of Conduct Violations
Depending on the outcome of your hearing, you may face sanctions. These penalties range in severity, but they all can have lasting impacts. Your school likely has some of the following sanctions for students who violate the code of conduct:
- Written reprimand or notation on your transcript
- Suspension from extracurricular activities
- Permanent ban from extracurricular activities
- Scholarship loss
- Temporary or permanent ban from student housing
- Academic probation
- Disciplinary probation
- Loss of degree
Some penalties, like a written reprimand, can seem minor and therefore inconsequential. They can affect you long after the incident occurred, however. If you have a conduct violation notation on your transcript and a graduate program or internship manager sees it, it could hurt your chances of getting accepted. More serious sanctions could end up preventing you from pursuing certain careers. When you are accused of wrongdoing by your school, it's vital that you work with an experienced student defense attorney so you can avoid these problematic sanctions.
How to Respond to Wyoming College Code of Conduct Charges
As you go through the code of conduct process at your Wyoming school, you should conduct yourself properly. Knowing the right steps to take can help you more easily deal with your school's procedures.
Handling the Allegation
Once you learn about the accusation against you, you may feel rushed to clear your name and defend yourself to anyone who will listen. Speaking to someone other than your parents or attorney about the matter isn't the way to defend yourself, however. Don't rant on social media, and don't discuss it with your friends.
As soon as you find out about the allegation, you should seek assistance from an attorney. The sooner you contact an expert, the better the chances are you can avoid harsh sanctions.
What Happens Before and During Your Hearing
Before the hearing, you should receive a list of evidence and witnesses that will be used against you. You should also have to submit a list of evidence and witnesses you plan to use in your own favor. Once you have this information, you and your attorney can start developing your defense strategy. You can devise questions to ask the other party's witnesses and prepare answers to potential questions the hearing panel might post to you.
During the hearing, try not to lose your cool at any point. Stay calm and respectful. If your attorney is allowed to speak on your behalf, let them do the talking.
How to File a Wyoming Student Disciplinary Appeal
After the hearing ends, the panel should make a decision. If it decides you are responsible for a violation, then it will recommend sanctions as well. When you receive the decision, you should also receive instructions on how to appeal the decision or sanctions in your case. You must follow these instructions carefully if you want your appeal to have a chance of being accepted.
Typically, schools give between five and ten days for students to appeal after a hearing decision. You will have to submit a written request that incorporates adequate grounds for appeal—you cannot appeal simply because you disagree with the decision. Legitimate reasons for considering an appeal are usually:
- New evidence has come to light after the hearing has taken place
- The school did not follow its own disciplinary procedures correctly
- The recommended sanction is disproportionate to the violation
An administrator from your school will review your appeal and decide to either reject it and uphold the panel's decision or accept it and demand a new hearing. Most schools do not provide further appeal options beyond this step.
Do You Need an Attorney for Your Appeal?
If your appeal is not accepted, there are still a few more actions you can take:
- Complain to the Wyoming Department of Education
- Have your lawyer meet with your school's legal team to negotiate
- File a lawsuit against your school, which could permanently sever your relationship with the institution
To pursue any of the above options, you will need to hire an attorney. A student discipline specialist will be able to guide you through the appeals process and help you choose the best option for your situation.
Work With an Experienced Student Defense Attorney
When you're going through a disciplinary process at your Wyoming college or university, you probably feel scared or overwhelmed. Most schools have a formal, nuanced process with many procedures to follow and small details to consider. If you've never gone through a process like this before, you could easily feel lost. With different policies covering your rights, due process, the hearing, and appeals, it's difficult to know what to do without assistance. You need skilled legal guidance to help you understand what's going on and the best way to handle it. At Lento Law Firm, we don't believe you should go through this alone, and our team can help.
The student discipline experts at Lento Law Firm have dealt with code of conduct violations at colleges and universities across the country, including in Wyoming. We've negotiated with administrators and even handled court litigation related to student discipline matters. We believe that a small mistake or misunderstanding shouldn't prevent you from pursuing the career you want or destroy your reputation. Our attorneys can help with investigating the matter, developing a defense strategy, representing you in your hearing, preparing an appeal, and even taking the issue to court if necessary. Joseph D. Lento and his team work tirelessly to protect your rights. Call Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or contact us online to see how we can help you.