Where We Can Help: Delaware Colleges and Universities

Are you a student or the parent of student at a Delaware school, college, or university facing a school-related issue or concern?  Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can help. The world of academia is unique, and the Lento Law Firm has unparalleled national experience bringing its problem-solving approach and fighting spirit to address school-related injustice.  Attorney Lento and his Firm have helped countless students and families in Delaware and across the United States at the school level and in court.  Please click on the following links for more information.  Please also see our expanded list of school practice areas

Joseph D. Lento has helped countless students and others in academia in Delaware protect their academic and professional future, and he can do the same for you.  Contact him today at 888-535-3686.

An Overview of Delaware Student Rights and Discipline Matters

Are you or a loved one currently a university student in Delaware? College can be such an exciting time! Starting a new academic career, meeting new people, and starting your professional life is one of the most momentous occasions in a young person's life. Of course, the ultimate goal is a college or graduate degree, the first step to a professional career and a new life.

But it can be easier than you'd think to end up on academic probation, accused of academic dishonesty, or accused of misconduct that violates the school code of conduct, unjustly accused of a crime, or accused of sexual harassment. College can be harder than you may expect; you could find yourself falling behind academically or facing personal challenges. You could end up with disciplinary actions on your record or holes in your transcript, even if you don't think you've done anything wrong.

Accusations in college can negatively affect your future career or your chances of attending graduate school. At the Lento Law Firm, we can help you navigate college as successfully as possible. If you're facing disciplinary challenges, we can help you retain the benefits of your college degree and protect your rights and reputation.

On this website, we'll give you the information you need about possible misconduct charges your school may investigate, typical Delaware college disciplinary processes, your options for protecting your rights, local laws, and more.

Academic Issues and Misconduct at Your Delaware School

If you have lower than expected grades, you aren't progressing through your degree as expected, or if you're facing other academic issues, your school could place you on academic probation, take administrative action, or even take disciplinary action. You could find yourself suspended or even dismissed from your school.

Every school or university has different academic standards. But in some cases, your college may consider some actions serious enough to take disciplinary action, including:

  • Allegedly failing to perform up to academic standards
  • Withdrawing multiple times from required courses
  • Failing to pass required examinations
  • Repeatedly failing to pass required exams
  • Repeatedly earning incompletes in classes
  • Failing to prepare for required lab or coursework
  • Failing to complete required coursework like papers and reading

If you don't believe your school is offering the academic support you need, you need to speak up to your professors and administrators. Otherwise, you could find yourself facing adverse consequences, including the possibility of disciplinary action.

Violating the School Code of Conduct

Aside from academic and grade standards, each college also has expectations for student behavior in and outside the classroom. Your school will have a code of conduct on the school website, and you will be responsible for knowing and following the acceptable standards of conduct while you attend the school. If you break these guidelines, you could face disciplinary action as a result. Typically, code of conduct infractions fall into one of several categories, including code of conduct violations, Title IX violations, and academic misconduct.

Code of Conduct Violations

While your school's code of conduct may dictate standards of behavior, dress, and decorum while on campus or at school events, the code of conduct may also prohibit things such as:

  • Drinking or using drugs on campus
  • Theft or burglary
  • Assault
  • Disrupting classes or campus events
  • Other illegal activities

If you violate any of these standards while on campus or are accused of a crime off-campus, you could find yourself subject to a school investigation and disciplinary action.

Title IX Violations

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”) is a federal civil rights law prohibiting discrimination based on sex in all federally funded education programs. Title IX and its regulations apply to public K-12 through schools and public and state colleges and universities. Under the law, a federally funded school must protect against discrimination in school admissions, athletics, obtaining benefits, and employment. Sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault are all violations of Title IX.

If a school knows about an incidence of sexual harassment, assault, or violence, it is obligated to:

  • Investigate
  • End sexual violence and prevent it from recurring
  • Address the effects of sexual violence
  • Protect the complainant
  • Provide grievance procedures

If a school fails to follow these guidelines, it can lose its federal funding and face lawsuits from affected students or staff. As a result, colleges and universities typically aggressively pursue Title IX allegations against students.

Academic Misconduct

While failing to meet your school's academic standards can subject you to disciplinary action, allegations of academic misconduct can be even more serious. Most colleges and universities expect students to meet high academic integrity and honesty standards. Schools may pursue academic misconduct charges for many of these actions:

  • Plagiarism
  • Cheating
  • Fabricating data in lab work or classroom studies
  • Falsifying information
  • Disrupting the classroom
  • Accessing unauthorized materials or using materials that aren't allowed to complete your work, papers, or exams, and
  • Destroying school property

Helping anyone cheat, plagiarize, or violate the academic code of conduct and standards in your school will also land you in trouble. Assisting someone else in academic misconduct may involve you in a school investigation and disciplinary action.

Public and Private Higher Education Institutions in Delaware

Delaware is home to many excellent public and private colleges and universities. These include:

Public schools in Delaware

  • University of Delaware
  • Delaware State University
  • Delaware Technical and Community College Owens
  • Delaware Technical and Community College Stanton Wilmington
  • Delaware Technical and Community College Terry

Private schools in Delaware

  • Wesley College
  • Goldbey-Beacom College
  • Wilmington University
  • Delaware State University
  • Delaware College of Art and Design
  • Strayer University

Delaware Higher Education Laws

Delaware's public colleges and universities typically have more government oversight than private schools. They are also subject to more state and federal regulations because of public funding. However, this doesn't mean private schools can act against students with impunity. Private and public schools are subject to the guidance of many statutory, regulatory, and judicial authorities, including:

  • The Delaware Higher Education Office, a division of the Delaware Department of Education, oversees 23 state-based financial aid and six private scholarship programs. The Office “works to ensure that postsecondary education is accessible and affordable for Delaware residents by providing information and financial assistance to students and their families.”
  • Title 14 of the Delaware Code and its accompanying regulations govern public schools in the state, including professional educational standards, administration, employment relations, and school climate and discipline.
  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit is the federal court of appeals covering Delaware. This court's judicial standards set legal precedent in the state.

While Delaware's laws and regulations governing public colleges are important to understand, your school's code of conduct and its written guidelines for disciplinary investigations and proceedings will probably affect your college's internal processes more closely. We'll use the University of Delaware, the state's largest school, as an example of how your Delaware college may handle disciplinary proceedings.

After an Allegation of Academic Issues or Misconduct, What Can Happen at My Delaware School?

Every school in Delaware will have its own specific policies and procedures, but many follow up a similar process. At the University of Delaware, for example, the Student Conduct Process delineated in the university's policy documents will govern misconduct proceedings and your rights during the process. Once someone files a written complaint against you, the disciplinary process begins.

  1. The school will notify you of your alleged infraction, including the time, date, and place of the infraction. This notification will contain your rights, the details of the disciplinary process, and a date for a case intake with a university representative.
  2. During the case intake meeting, you can review and discuss your disciplinary file, ask questions about the report, and ask questions about the process. During the meeting, the university representative will discuss proposed sanctions if you're found responsible.
  3. If you fail to attend the intake meeting, the school will find you responsible and impose sanctions without your input.
  4. If you deny the charges or the proposed sanctions, you may have an administrative hearing. An administrative hearing officer, the student conduct advisor, a representative of the Office of Student Conduct, the reporting party, and all charged parties will appear at the hearing.
  5. At the hearing, you may present witnesses and evidence and questions witnesses with the assistance of your student conduct advisor, who may be an attorney.
  6. At the end of the process, the administrative hearing officer will send a written decision to the Office of Student Conduct with the findings and rationale, recommended sanctions, and your right to appeal.

Sanctions imposed by the University of Delaware can include:

  • Suspension
  • Expulsion
  • Failing a semester or a specific class
  • Revoking credit for a class or classes
  • Removing you from a university dorm or housing
  • Revocation of a degree

With so much on the line, you may want to appeal any negative decision or sanction from an administrative hearing.

Filing an Appeal at Your Delaware School

After an administrative hearing at the University of Delaware, for example, you can either appeal the sanction against you or appeal the disciplinary decision.

Appealing a Sanction

You must file an appeal of a penalty at the University of Delaware within five business days after receiving the list of sanctions against you. Your appeal should:

  • Explain why the sanction is inappropriate or unreasonable
  • Be prepared by you with the help of your student conduct advisor
  • Be computer printed, limited to three double-spaced pages with one-inch margins and 12-point font
  • Not include discussion of the merits of the case, impugn another student's character, cite authorities outside the university, or discuss sanctions that aren't eligible for appeal

You can only appeal certain sanctions, including:

  • Academic penalties
  • Deferred suspension from school housing
  • Deferred suspension from the school
  • Suspension from university housing
  • Suspension from the school
  • Expulsion from the university

An Appellate Board Panel will review the appeal and the responses from all the parties and decide based on a majority vote. The Appellate Board's decision is final.

Appealing a Decision

You can only appeal an administrative hearing decision within five business days after the decision. Your appeal must allege:

  • The decision is contrary to information presented at the administrative hearing
  • The decision is contrary to new information not known at the time of the administrative hearing
  • The university failed to follow proper procedures during the process
  • One or more of the sanctions imposed is inappropriate

The administrative hearing officer, victims, reporting party, and other interested parties the university deems appropriate may file a response. An Appellate Board Panel will review your appeal and all the responses and vote to:

  • Deny the appeal
  • Grant the appeal and reduce or limit the sanction. The Board can include an educational intervention or fee with a reduction in penalty or sanction duration
  • Delay a final review of the appeal to receive additional information concerning specific issues in the appeal. The Board may solicit responses from the charged student, the reporting party, the administrative hearing officer, and any relevant witnesses
  • Direct the Office of Student Conduct to provide a new hearing conducted by the Appellate Board if the decision is contrary to information presented in the hearing or contrary to new information not available at the time of the hearing
  • Allow the student to have the case handled at any specific stage of the student conduct process if the school fails to follow proper procedures

The decision of the Appellate Review Board is final. It's important to note that a victim may also appeal a decision if they allege a violation of their rights during the disciplinary process or administrative hearing.

Whether at the University of Delaware or any other college or university in the First State, because of what is at stake and what is involved, it's essential that you have an attorney-advisor experienced in student disciplinary law and student rights by your side.

What if It's Time to Sue My Delaware College or University?

Even if your college denies your appeal or refuses to engage in future negotiations, this doesn't mean it's the end of the road. You have options. If necessary, you can file a lawsuit against your school. However, you should consider a lawsuit only after your student defense lawyer exhausts all options, including:

  1. Exhaust the school's appeals process: Even if it's clear that your school won't adjust its sanctions or reconsider its decision, you must follow each step in the appeals process. The school's administrative appeals process is necessary to form the basis for any future litigation or appeals. If you fail to appeal, it could prevent you from pursuing further action.
  2. File a complaint with the University of Delaware Board of Trustees. While they may decline to intervene, the Board of Trustees has “the entire control and management of the affairs of the University,” which may allow them to exert some influence.
  3. Reach out to your school's office of general counsel. Your student defense advisor can handle this negotiation in a less antagonistic manner than a formal lawsuit.

Before considering legal action in court, your interests will be best served by hiring an experienced student discipline attorney.

Are There Any Other Delaware Laws That a College Student Should Know?

You should be aware of the local laws where you attend college and your responsibilities as a tenant and member of the community. You'll undoubtedly spend a great deal of your time on campus. But once you leave the school, you'll be subject to the scrutiny of local law enforcement.

Delaware laws college students should be aware of include:

  • Delaware Underage Drinking Laws: The drinking age in Delaware is 21. You face a criminal record and a fine of at least $100 and up to $500 for subsequent violations.
  • Delaware Drinking and Driving Laws: It's illegal to operate a vehicle in Delaware with a blood alcohol content of .08% or higher. If convicted, you'll face a mandatory fine of $500 to $1,500 and up to 12 months in jail.
  • Delaware Tenant and Landlord Laws: If you live off-campus, you'll be obligated to sign a lease. A lease is a binding contract, and you'll need to follow the terms and pay your rent on time.
  • Delaware False ID Laws: It's against the law to use a fake ID in Delaware, and it's illegal to show one to a police officer. A first offense can result in fines of $100 to $500 for a first offense and $500 to $1,000 for subsequent violations. You could also face up to 30 days in jail if you make false statements to the police.
  • Statutes of Limitations: In Delaware, statutes of limitations proscribe how long you have to file a lawsuit against another party or how long they have to file against you. Civil statutes of limitations in the state range from two to five years, but most actions have a two-year statute of limitations. This includes personal injury, fraud, defamation, and breach of contract lawsuits.

Should I Hire a National Student Defense Attorney? Or Could I Consider Hiring Someone Local or Someone My School Recommends?

Your Delaware college may offer you the chance to work with a school advisor during the disciplinary process, just as the University of Delaware's policies allow. Student discipline defense is a unique, specialized area of practice. Many attorneys won't have the experience to handle a student disciplinary proceeding, protecting your due process rights and preserving your right to appeal. Moreover, you may find that a local advisor or one recommended by the school or employed by the school won't have the necessary neutrality to look out for your best interests.

Hiring your own attorney is the best way to ensure that you have a representative who is ethically bound to look out for your best interests. While having an attorney close by can be helpful, it's far more important to ensure that your attorney has a wide range of experience handling student discipline proceedings and negotiating with colleges and universities. For a niche specialty like student disciplinary defense, you'll need to engage in a nationwide search for the best person to help you. Thankfully, we can save you some trouble in that regard, as attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have unparalleled experience representing students attending Delaware colleges and universities and across the United States.

Do You Need a Supportive Defense During Your Delaware College Career? Call Attorney Joseph D. Lento

If you're facing academic suspension or allegations of student or academic misconduct, you need someone protecting your rights. While college is a great time to learn independence, a student disciplinary proceeding isn't something you should try to handle on your own. The consequences of a finding of misconduct in school can be far-reaching. You could face suspension, expulsion, and black marks on your academic record, your academic integrity, and your reputation. It could affect your ability to finish school, your chance to attend graduate or professional school, internship opportunities, and your future career.

Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team have handled student disciplinary cases at hundreds of colleges across the country and in Delaware. From investigating allegations against you, negotiating with school administrators, representing you during administrative hearings, handling appeals of school sanctions, and litigating matters in court, Attorney Lento and his team have the experience necessary to help obtain the best possible result for you. We can help. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888.535.3686 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

Contact Us Today!


If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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