Indiana is home to a number of noteworthy, world-renowned institutions of higher learning. The University of Notre Dame is probably the most famous of all Hoosier State universities and colleges, thanks in large part to its longstanding history of excellence in collegiate athletics. Named the Fighting Irish in tribute to the school's historical roots—of the six Jesuit founders, four hailed from the Emerald Isle—the university boasts some 20 varsity NCAA Division I athletic organizations. All are celebrated by the entire South Bend community as well as the students, faculty, and staff, but perhaps none more so than the world-renowned football team.
Of course, Notre Dame does much more than showcase athletes and athletic prowess; it provides a top-notch education. So, too, do such notable Indiana higher-education names as Purdue University, DePauw University, Ball State University, the University of Indiana–Bloomington, Valparaiso University, and the University of Indianapolis. Along with the dozens of other, smaller Indiana colleges and universities, these institutions provide a wealth of options for high-school seniors and non-traditional students looking for a good education in this all-American state.
Another pivotal role played by secondary schools in the U.S. is acting as a stepping stone between two stages of life. When they matriculate and move into the dorms, students are often spreading their wings, rejecting their reliance on one's parents and extended family, and moving toward an independent adult life. College provides an opportunity to test the proverbial waters; it offers only limited supervision but also a ready stream of resources should the student require assistance. It's a safe place to make mistakes, a place where the consequences might not be as dire as in “the real world.”
This brings us to the concept of dismissal. Universities have a responsibility to their entire community—all students, all staff, all faculty, and the area residents whose lives and livelihoods are affected by living in a college town—and when any one individual threatens the safety and well-being of others, that school has the right to step in. While some places are more lenient than others when it comes to disciplining student infractions, most colleges and universities do have high expectations of student conduct and aren't shy about enforcing the rules and regulations.
What happens when a student does make a mistake? How it's handled by the university—and, naturally, the student's next steps, as well—can have a major impact on that individual's future. Let's take a look at what to do if you (or your child) has been accused of misconduct and is facing suspension, dismissal, or other drastic consequences.
What Happens After a Student Is Accused of Conduct Code Violations?
When a complaint has been made against a student, the school will inform the student and begin an investigation. As in a criminal proceeding, that means gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, taking statements from those who can speak to the student's character, and reviewing the student's records. This process is more complex and time-consuming than many people realize. Nor is a disciplinary hearing simply a formality. An allegation that you or your child has violated the university's student code is a very serious matter. It can affect not only their academic prospects but their professional aims and aspirations as well.
Unfortunately, students whose behavior is under scrutiny in this situation do not have the same rights afforded to people who are facing criminal charges. Depending on the nature of the misconduct and whether the school is private or public, students might not receive the same due process protections as they would in a court of law; in some cases, only the student and members of the school disciplinary board can be present at a hearing, which means that accused students must undergo this very stressful event on their own, without the support of an advocate such as an attorney.
How to Prepare for a Disciplinary Hearing
So, what is an accused university or college student to do in preparation for their hearing? For starters, you'll need to understand the school's policy regarding your alleged transgression, which will require a deep dive into its Code of Conduct. This is a document that lays out all the regulations and expectations concerning student behavior. Most of them cover three types of misconduct: academic, sexual, and general misconduct (which can range from hazing and hate crimes to vandalism and drug use).
Every Indiana college and university has its own Code of Conduct, and while each covers the basics—definitions and examples of misconduct, an overview of the disciplinary proceedings, and the potential penalties—there are some differences. All students should read these documents, but many do not. If you're being investigated for having violated some part of the Code of Conduct, however, it's essential that you now read it carefully. Ignorance of its content is not an acceptable defense in a misconduct hearing.
Next, it's time to gather your own evidence. What shape and form this takes will depend on the charges being leveled at you, but there may be helpful information in your texts, social media posts, or other electronic data. You might seek evidence such as an instructor's attendance records, a swipe of your meal card, or a receipt from the bookstore to prove where you were and when. It's also a good idea to solicit testimony from friends, classmates, instructors, counselors, or other individuals who can speak to your behavior, your character, and, if possible, your whereabouts when the alleged misconduct took place.
The Help An Attorney Can Provide
Securing the services of an attorney is another crucial step to take in preparation for your college or university misconduct hearing. However, understand that not all attorneys are created the same. You could probably benefit to some extent from working with a generalist or a criminal defense lawyer, but it would be much like having a dentist deliver a baby. It'll get the job done, and it's better than going it alone or relying on the taxi driver, but it's definitely not ideal and may not end with the best possible outcome.
What you want, instead, is an attorney who has made a career out of helping students who have allegedly violated the conduct code of their college or university—an attorney like Joseph D. Lento. Attorney Lento has solidified his place among the most experienced and skilled practitioners of this type of law, and so securing his services is the wisest move an embattled student can make. (We'll delve deeper into the reasons why The Lento Law Firm should be your top pick for a student defense lawyer later on.)
Unfortunately, there are some schools that expressly prohibit any advocate of the student, whether a professional or a volunteer, from attending the misconduct hearing. But that certainly doesn't mean you won't derive any benefit from working with a lawyer, not at all. Legal assistance is incredibly valuable in this scenario. It could mean a significant downgrade of punishment, a clear record versus one marred by a misconduct judgment, or even the difference between expulsion or suspension.
Attorney Lento will advise you based on your specific situation, of course, but also based on his own experience in a wealth of other similar cases. He knows the procedure inside and out, understands the goals and motivations of the disciplinary board, and can work with you to develop the most effective defense possible.
Why The Lento Law Firm's Assistance Is Invaluable
Working with a legal team that specializes in student misconduct defense is something of a no-brainer, of course, but why Attorney Lento and his team, in particular? It's because of his expertise and relationships. Having advised so many students in disciplinary hearings, Mr. Lento has developed a solid professional rapport with those who work in the legal department (often referred to as the Office of General Counsel) of colleges and universities across the nation.
What does that mean for the students who choose his services over other law firms? Rather than striking out with an oppositional or even combative attitude, like so many lawyers who are quick to threaten lawsuits at nearly every turn, Attorney Lento understands the incredible value of collaboration in this environment. He has the unique ability, therefore, to broker deals with them that can benefit everyone involved. In many instances, he has been able to work with opposing counsel to arrive at a resolution that isn't merely amenable to the student and their family but one that is, in fact, very satisfying.
Should push come to shove, the team at the Lento Law Firm is prepared to escalate matters if a school disciplinary board is intractable even in the face of strong evidence and rational arguments. But that's a last resort, and Mr. Lento and his clients rarely find themselves in such a dreadful state of affairs.
The consequences of violating a university or college Code of Conduct are serious, sometimes even dire. These institutions of higher education take enrollee behavior—and misbehavior—very seriously. It's not unusual, therefore, for a student to be severely disciplined. They stand to lose a lot, including their on-campus housing, work-study jobs, financial aid, membership on athletic teams, ability to even remain on campus, and their status as a matriculated student in good standing. What's more, these outcomes can have a devastating domino effect, drastically changing the trajectory of the individual's schooling, career, and life.
There is hope, however. If you or your child is facing disciplinary measures due to their misconduct—bona fide or alleged—don't delay. The sooner that Attorney Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm learn about your case and begin working assiduously on your behalf, the better your odds for a successful resolution with your school. Call 888-J.D.LENTO, or 888-535-3686, today.