Suppose you or a loved one is a Tennessee college student and has landed themselves in trouble with the school they attend. After a quick-paced grievance process, the final decision from a disciplinary board is either a suspension or expulsion. The student may be concerned that their academic career has effectively ended once that threshold has been crossed. While the disciplinary process at Tennessee institutions of higher education is complex and can be emotionally overwhelming for anyone, that does not mean the chance to defend yourself has passed.
Although many students and parents do not retain professional assistance until it is late in the process and the punishment has been handed down, options for redress are available. An inexperienced local lawyer may give you the run-around about how they know the players in the game. Yet, lawyers touting their competency in a court of law often do not possess the finesse to negotiate with school administration officials.
Your goal should not be to engage your school in local litigation that could last for months or even years. Your intention should be to gain prompt, private, negotiated relief that gets you back toward completing your degree. It is imperative that you contact a national academic attorney like Joseph D. Lento immediately to preserve your educational and professional future.
Appealing Disciplinary Sanctions
When disciplinary boards levy punishments like suspension or expulsion over unsatisfactory academic progress or various forms of misconduct, the student has the right to appeal the decision. As part of the grievance process in Tennessee colleges and universities, a student will receive notice of the time they have to file an appeal and the guidelines allowing for such.
Most institutions of higher education in Tennessee and elsewhere detail in their codes of conduct the few circumstances under which appeals are allowed. The University of Tennessee (UT) details that students can file requests for appeals for the following reasons:
- Appropriateness of the penalty: The UT appeals board may consider a punishment to have "no sound basis or justification in reason" and will strike down that penalty if it can be shown to be "clearly unreasonable."
- New evidence: In matters appealed on the grounds of new evidence, such evidence must have been unavailable or undiscoverable during the hearing process.
- Due Process: The respondent or complainant must demonstrate that the adjudicatory process of the initial hearing lacked conformity with the procedures outlined in the school's code of conduct.
Students and their advisors have just a short time after the administration has determined responsibility regarding the allegation to appeal the decision to suspend or expel. Typically, the timeframe is between two and ten days, but it varies from school to school. Nevertheless, a student living out this scenario may become overwhelmed by their academic career and future opportunities suddenly at risk. Moreover, how will the student know the disciplinary board adhered to due process or that the punishment can be proven unreasonable given the allegations? Most students are not prepared for these situations, especially when they are focused on their studies and need a professional to guide them through the process.
Separation From Studies
School administration officials may seek to separate a student from the institution for a failure to achieve "satisfactory academic progress" (SAP). Each college and university establishes its own policy on what constitutes SAP, including specific criteria for minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) and credit load requirements. Still, schools have similar definitions and guidelines outlined in their code of conduct.
However, schools in Tennessee sometimes make errors in applying these policies. They can unfairly dismiss students because they did not consider the student's extenuating circumstances that led to their grades dropping.
These circumstances can include many unfortunate but relatively common life events such as:
- Death of a family member
- Tough transition into student life
Schools make mistakes. Hardworking and honest students of good character are at risk of being disciplined. School administration officials may also act on false or exaggerated accusations that serve other interests. It is important to remember that the disciplinary process is not the same as a court of law. Therefore, a school is not required to grant a student due process. Between the streams of federal funds a school may enjoy and attempts to paint a certain public image in today's political and cultural climate, schools do not hesitate to separate students from their studies.
Just because your Tennessee college or university has given up on you, that does not mean you should. Do not sit idly by and let them ruin your academic career and future opportunities with unfair discipline. Instead, retain professional assistance and preserve your chances of gaining the education you want.
Even if your school has already levied punishment against you, there is a path leading to relief. You must contact national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento and the expert team at the Lento Law Firm. Their experience defending students against harsh disciplinary sanctions in Tennessee and across the country is paramount.
What Are The Consequences of Suspension or Expulsion?
The stakes are high when a Tennessee college or university student faces suspension or expulsion for lack of academic progress or misconduct allegations. Unless effectively challenged by a national academic attorney, a separation from school ends the student's opportunity to complete their degree. It can also prohibit a student's transfer to or enrollment in other schools.
For instance, a student expelled from the University of Memphis will be permanently barred from readmission and trespassed from the campus and all related university events, including those off-campus. At Vanderbilt University, students suspended for non-academic misconduct will have special requirements that they must fulfill before they are allowed to apply for readmission. At the UT Health Science Center, suspensions are always recorded on the student's transcript.
Terms of separation can impact a student's financial aid. Suppose a student receiving financial aid through a federal grant is required to separate from the college or withdrawal from a program. In that case, the student may have to reimburse the federal government, which can ruin a student's credit score and cause long-lasting financial consequences. Readmission after a suspension can mean a student will be less competitive among the private scholarship applicant pool.
Furthermore, disciplinary investigations may have to be disclosed on some applications for professional licenses and federal clearances required for many government jobs. Indeed, any measure of discipline can interfere with academic honors, awards, scholarships, recommendation letters, references, internships, and career opportunities.
What Can Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Do?
When you are faced with a suspension or expulsion from school, you may believe that a local Tennessee lawyer advertising their services on a town billboard is the best person to call to fix the situation. After all, they are a part of the community and will defend you properly, right? This incorrect reasoning can lead you to suffer the consequences listed above and derail your academic and professional career just because you did not know where to turn.
Joseph D. Lento is a proven expert in handling student disciplinary cases. He and his team at the Lento Law Firm have represented hundreds of students in Tennessee and throughout the U.S. They have always fought against school administration officials to protect their clients and preserve their futures.
Attorneys typically begin with issuing threats of lawsuits at Tennessee colleges and universities when students retain their help in the attempt to remain in school. However, that is not a strategy that will provide a more favorable outcome. While a formal suit is a possible strategy, in many instances, Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have brokered a beneficial resolution on behalf of the student with the school's Office of General Counsel (OGC).
Countless experiences like that have helped Lento and his team form valuable relationships with many representatives in schools' internal OGC and those representing the school retained from outside law firms. He and his team know how to help college and university officials see positive options that serve both the student and the institution far better than suspension, expulsion, or other harsh punitive measures. That is the value proposition the Lento Law Firm promotes: an acceptable negotiation that the school can live with, and the student's highly valued education is preserved.
For expert advice from a proven national academic attorney defending students in Tennessee and throughout the U.S., call 888-535-3686 to discuss how Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can defend you. Your academic future depends on it.