Dental Student Dismissals

No student goes to dental school planning for their dismissal. Given the rigorous undergraduate education, high class standing, and general skill that students must exhibit to even enter dental school, the prospects for dismissal from dental school seldom, if ever, even enter a dental student's mind. And indeed, a dental student's prospects for graduation are generally good. Yet, some dental students do suffer dismissal because of various causes and on various grounds explored below. Dental students need to appreciate upfront, from the day that they matriculate until their graduation, that graduation is no guarantee and that dismissal is possible.

Dismissal Authority

Dental schools have the authority to dismiss students. The college or university of which the dental school is a part, and the boards and associations that will license the dental school's graduates, expect that the dental school will only graduate students who have acquired the requisite knowledge, skill, and ethics to perform competently in dentistry practice. Dental schools thus maintain academic standards and conduct and professionalism codes that students must continuously meet from the beginning to the conclusion of their enrollment. Dental schools also maintain procedures through which school officials can warn, reprimand, place on probation, suspend, and dismiss students who do not meet those standards.

Dismissal Limits

A dental school's authority to dismiss a student, though, is not unfettered. Many dental schools, including several world top ten schools like the dentistry schools at the University of Michigan, University of North Carolina, and the University of Washington, are public schools. Dental students have a property interest in their educations, meaning that those public dentistry schools must provide a student facing dismissal with constitutional due process. Dental students have successfully challenged their dismissal as violating due process. Even private dental schools, like the global top-ten school at Harvard University, can owe students contractual obligations, the violation of which can lead to the student's relief from dismissal. Courts give schools latitude to make academic judgments, but constitutional law, contract law, tort law, and administrative law limit dental school authority to dismiss students arbitrarily and capriciously.

Dismissal Causes

Within the Student's Control. Dental students don't usually just wake up one morning to find themselves dismissed. Students are typically well aware of conditions, events, and circumstances that can accumulate to contribute to dismissal. Some of those conditions and events are within the student's control. Dental students do well to prioritize their dental program over competing demands so that they are able to persist to complete the program. The harder dismissals to successfully challenge can be those that arise from matters within the dental student's control. Dental schools may judge firmly if not harshly students who show a lack of effort applied to studies, such as not showing up prepared for critical labs, clinical work, and exams, or a lack of discipline, such as substance abuse and disorderly conduct, or a lack of character and fitness, such as sexual misconduct and unprofessionalism. Dental students facing dismissal due to circumstances within their control should consult national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento to discern any potential mitigating circumstances to present to the school.

Outside the Student's Control. Other conditions, events, and circumstances leading to dismissal may be largely or entirely outside the student's control but still apparent to the student. Physical or mental illness is one example. Some students who simply lack the physical or mental capacity because of injury or acute illness fail to afford themselves available relief like time off or withdrawal and instead find themselves failing to make the required grade and demonstrate the required clinical skill, suffering dismissal as a consequence. Loss of financial income, aid, loans, or other support can similarly lead the school to bar the student's enrollment for effective dismissal. Dental students facing dismissal due to circumstances outside their control should consult national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento to marshall the evidence and arguments, and identify the options, to avoid dismissal.

Not Attributable to the Student. And then circumstances can arise in which a dental school dismisses a student when the school shouldn't do so, no cause having arisen and the school having no sound grounds. Personality conflicts, political conflicts, biases and prejudices, administrative errors, financial errors, grading errors, hidden school agendas, and just poor judgment from unfit or misguided faculty members or administrators can in some cases undermine a competent student's record and standing with the school, even resulting in dismissal. In those cases of arbitrary or capricious dismissal, dental students should promptly retain the expert representation of national academic advisor Joseph D. Lento. Students have constitutional, contract, and administrative rights on which to hold schools accountable, just as schools properly hold students accountable.

Conduct Codes Supporting Dismissal

Dental schools often refer to their college or university for student conduct codes, academic conduct codes, and Title IX and non-Title IX sexual misconduct codes governing their dental students. Those conduct codes routinely authorize discipline up to dismissal. Some dental schools, like the highly ranked one at the University of Washington, publish their own codes supplementing the college or university code with specific professionalism concerns peculiar to dentistry. The American Dental Association publishes its own code of conduct and ethical principles, after which licensing boards and the dental schools themselves pattern their own professionalism requirements. These codes alert dental students to the standards, norms, and customs to which they must conform to avoid dismissal.

Dismissal Grounds

No matter the specific source of the conduct codes listing dismissal grounds, dental schools routinely include specific grounds for sanctions up to dismissal. Those grounds include academic issues, behavioral issues, and professionalism issues. Common academic grounds on which a dental student could suffer dismissal include:

  • repeated failures of required coursework;
  • repeated withdrawals and incompletes;
  • failure to enroll for the minimum required credits;
  • failure to make satisfactory academic progress toward graduation;
  • failing to fulfill clinical hours; and
  • repeated substandard clinical performance.

Common behavioral grounds on which a dental student could suffer dismissal include:

  • Title IX sexual misconduct including sexual violence, harassment, or quid pro quo favors;
  • non-Title IX sexual misconduct as some form of sexual exploitation including voyeurism, exposure, and prostitution;
  • alcohol abuse, drug abuse, non-sexual threats and violence, vandalism, trespass, and misuse of school computers.

Common professionalism grounds on which a dental student could suffer dismissal include:

  • exceeding consent with a service the patient had not authorized;
  • recommending or providing unnecessary dental services;
  • using a method or material other than that represented to the patient;
  • performing or attempting to perform while impaired;
  • abandoning a patient without completing stabilizing care;
  • exposing a patient to blood-borne pathogens;
  • refusing a patient critical emergency care when positioned to provide it;
  • failing to report abuse or neglect of a dental patient;
  • harassing co-workers, disrupting dental practice;
  • using the position or practice of dentistry to coerce patient favor; or
  • abusing the tools and methods of dentistry for exploitative gain.

Dismissal Consequences

Some things that individuals attempt in life permit do-overs after a first failure. Some things that individuals attempt in life have a high expected failure rate but nonetheless permit frequent further attempts until the individual succeeds. Dental school, like other professional schools, is not one of those things. Dental students tend to get one good chance at succeeding in their first and only enrollment. Dental students who suffer dismissal are unlikely to get second and third chances, depending on the dismissal grounds and other factors. That dental students tend to get only one good try to graduate before dismissal is in part the case because dental schools may grant second and third tries at courses, labs, clinics, and other requirements before the student's record warrants dismissal. Dismissal, in other words, is ordinarily and properly reserved for students who have clearly demonstrated that they will most likely not succeed no matter given how many chances. Dismissal's consequences, then, may include any or all of the following:

  • no further opportunity at the dismissal school to reenroll or restart;
  • little or no opportunity to transfer to another school for another chance;
  • the inability to qualify for licensing as a practicing dentist;
  • loss of job and career in dentistry;
  • loss of financial aid and scholarships;
  • acceleration of educational debt for payment;
  • loss of university housing, medical plans, and other privileges;
  • if studying on a visa, then loss of legal residency;
  • loss of internships, fellowships, and appointments;
  • loss of mentors and supporters.

Avoiding Dismissal

The consequences of dismissal from dental school are obviously serious. They also obviously warrant the dental student's full attention to avoiding dismissal. The dental student facing dismissal may believe that the student can navigate the dismissal risk without devoting every resource to overcoming the risk. The serious consequences of dismissal make that strategy risky at best and foolish at worst. To avoid dismissal, the dental student should give the dismissal challenge the highest possible priority. The best thing that a dental student can do when facing the risk of dismissal, especially one in which the student perceives some unfairness, is to promptly retain and consult national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento to strategize and implement strategies to defeat the risk. Depending on the cause and grounds for the dismissal threat, attorney Lento has helped hundreds of students nationwide avoid dismissal to complete their degree program successfully. Throw everything at it, especially the skill, dedication, and experience of the best available academic attorney Joseph D. Lento.

Options After Dismissal

Appeal. As hard as dismissal is, with so many adverse impacts, dismissal is not the end of a dental student's world. Appeal of the dismissal decision may well be possible. National academic attorney Joseph D. Lento and the expert team at the Lento Law Firm help students nationwide invoke, advocate, and win academic, behavioral, and professionalism misconduct appeals. Any dental student who suffers dismissal should promptly consider, with the advice and representation of attorney Lento, whether grounds exist to seek the dismissal's reversal through an appeal. Exhaust all avenues for relief, especially appeal.

Other University Relief. Colleges and universities sometimes grant authority to ombudsmen, general counsel offices, or other highest school officials to grant relief from dismissal in special cases. A dental student who has suffered dismissal and exhausted all appeals may, if the circumstances exist, find such relief with the help of national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento. Those cases generally require demonstrating compelling, even extraordinary, grounds, but colleges and universities have in such cases provided extraordinary relief. A rewarding career in dentistry may be worth investigating these special avenues for extraordinary relief.

Litigation. Courts have on occasion held dental schools accountable to provide dismissed students with relief that the schools had refused to provide. In extraordinary cases, court challenges have been successful. National academic attorney Joseph Lento can help the dismissed dental student determine whether the school violated the student's constitutional, contract, administrative, or other rights in a way that a court would likely order relief.

Alternatives. Dismissed dental students who do not find any avenue for reentering dental school may not have a career in dental practice, but they have many other attractive options. Some former dental students who don't complete the degree program to enter dental practice instead take related jobs in the dental field, whether management, administrative, marketing, or dental product and service sales. The education that the dental student completes before leaving the program can still have value. Business, information technology, accounting, insurance, sales, and similar professional administrative fields can be rewarding careers, whether related to the dental or medical field, or outside those fields. National academic attorney Joseph Lento has helped dismissed students negotiate terms and agreements with the dismissal school that give the student a respectable record on which to proceed in other fields.

Retain Premier Representation

The point is not to give up on yourself. Avoid dismissal if you can, by retaining the premier representation of national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento. If your dental school has already dismissed you, then promptly retain and consult attorney Lento to investigate and pursue an appeal. If appeal has failed, then consult attorney Lento for alternative avenues for relief either within the college or university or through litigation. And no matter the outcome, let attorney Lento help you negotiate and achieve the best possible terms with your dental school.

A dental school misconduct or other proceeding in which the student's dismissal is at stake can frighten and unnerve the student. Don't be the proverbial deer in the headlights. Instead, retain national academic attorney Joseph Lento to represent you throughout your proceeding. Attorney Lento's premier representation can help you avoid, reverse, or overcome dental school dismissal. Retain attorney Lento and his expert team at the Lento Law Firm today by calling 888.535.3686 or going online.

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