Are you a student or the parent of student at a Georgia 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 Georgia 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.
- Title IX Defense
- Academic Misconduct
- Code of Conduct Disciplinary Charges
- Student Rights
- Academic Issues
- Medical Student Issues
- And more...
Joseph D. Lento has helped countless students and others in academia in Georgia protect their academic and professional future, and he can do the same for you. Contact him today at 888-535-3686.
Where We Can Help - Georgia Colleges, Universities, and Schools
When you think about the average college experience, you don't necessarily think about intense disciplinary hearings or drawn-out investigations.
You think about the lifelong friends you make, the challenges of academia, and the life-changing experience of living on your own for the first time.
At the Lento Law Firm, it's our goal to ensure that you can continue thinking about the benefits that college brings—and not how a college experience can make your life more complicated than it needs to be. You see, while a college degree can open doors and unlock opportunities, any instance or allegation of misconduct while you're at college can have the opposite effect.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to negotiate yourself out of a bad situation, should you be facing misconduct allegations or other concerning quandaries. We've crafted this handy page detailing Georgia academic laws, guidelines, and procedures to ensure that you have the vital information you need to succeed.
Private Schools in Georgia
While very large school systems such as the University of Georgia may be top-of-the-mind when you think of Georgia higher education, the Peach State is also home to many nationally-ranked private schools. The following represents a subset of the many private colleges and universities in Georgia:
- Emory University
- Mercer University
- Agnes Scott College
- Spelman College
- Berry College
- Piedmont University
- Covenant College
- Young Harris College
- Oglethorpe University
- Point University
Public Schools in Georgia
In addition to the University of Georgia, the state's most extensive higher education system, you'll find many high-quality public schools in this Southeastern state. Public colleges and universities in Georgia include:
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- Georgia Southern University
- Georgia State University
- Georgia College and State University
- Augusta University
- Kennesaw State University
- University of North Georgia
- Clayton State University
Since the University of Georgia, with almost 40,000 students, is a wide-ranging academic system, we'll use it as an example for code of conduct concerns. First, however, we'll dive into the various education and governance systems that exist to keep Georgia universities and colleges in check.
Higher Education Laws in Georgia
The Law of Georgia on Higher Education contains a lot of legal language in its chapters that guide all of the academic institutions in Georgia as they serve their students. This law focuses on many different aspects of the ways educational organizations support student growth and welfare, including:
- Financing of Georgia's schools and their various programs
- The way that Georgia's colleges and universities determine their credit structures
- Accreditation and adherence to academic standards across programs
- The way that Georgia's universities and colleges mete out scholarships
- The types of degrees, qualifications, and activities (e.g., high-level research, sports, etc.) that different schools can offer
In addition, the State of Georgia runs the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission. This regulatory body oversees “the operations of in-state nonpublic and out-of-state postsecondary institutions operating or offering instruction in Georgia.” This organization proposes policies that affect Georgia's schools, manages government funding, and creates minimum standards for school operations.
Furthermore, Georgia belongs to the Eleventh Circuit, a division of the United States Court of Appeals that oversees several southeastern states. From time to time, this court will issue decisions or opinions that could impact the educational experience at Georgia's schools.
Misconduct in Georgia: What Will My School Investigate or Punish?
In your school's code of conduct, you will find details regarding the expectations of each student attending your institution. You'll also see examples of prohibited actions and some type of escalation system guiding your school's response towards infractions.
It's a good idea to find this information in your school's documents or on its website. There may be specific activities that your school deems punishable that may not be included on more general lists.
On the other hand, there are definitely actions that most schools consider out-of-bounds. Generally speaking, there are three different types of misconduct. These types include academic, sexual, and code of conduct infractions.
“I will be academically honest in all of my academic work and will not tolerate academic dishonesty of others.” So goes the student honor code at the University of Georgia—a maxim accompanied by several examples of prohibited activity. These actions include:
- Unauthorized Assistance
- Tampering with the Work of Others
- Fabrication of Data
- Helping Someone Else Cheat
Many schools across the nation and in Georgia are cracking down on academic dishonesty, whether it's an in-person infraction or the suspicious online activity of a remote student. It's a good idea to check the code of conduct associated with your specific program to see if there are any unique types of academic misconduct you should be aware of.
Sexual misconduct at the University of Georgia includes the following actions:
- An invasion of another person's sexual privacy
- Any involvement in prostitution of another individual
- Any actions regarding nonconsensual photos or other media files, including sharing or posting them on social media
- Sharing photos of consensual sexual acts without consent for the sharing event
- Spreading a sexually transmitted infection to another person knowingly
- Inappropriate exposure
- Sexual bullying
- Sexual exploitation
- Dating violence
- Domestic violence
- Any nonconsensual sexual contact
- Sexual harassment
Engaging in any of these or other related actions is considered a very severe incident on most college campuses. The associated consequence will usually be either suspension or expulsion.
Your college will likely address any allegations of sexual misconduct very quickly after they arise. It has to. Since 1972, when Title IX was first established as a federal rights law, all United States schools that receive federal funding must promptly investigate all allegations of sexual misconduct or risk losing their funding. Most private schools do so as well, even having their own Title IX policies, to provide a consistently safe experience for their students (and to remain open to government funding).
Code of conduct infractions
Outside of academic dishonesty and sexual misconduct, there will likely be other types of infractions that your school will choose to investigate and sanction. For example, your school will probably have a drug and alcohol policy, rules about bullying and hazing, or guidelines specific to the environment you have on your campus. As these more general types of infractions will likely differ from school to school, it's best to check your school's information to get the most accurate idea of the charges you may face.
What Happens After an Allegation of Misconduct?
Your school's disciplinary procedures will begin when an allegation of misconduct, issuing from a student or an instructor, makes it to your school's officials or higher-up authorities. From there, the longevity and formality of the disciplinary process will depend strongly on the severity of the alleged infraction.
For example, if the issue at hand is a one-off case of light academic dishonesty, the instructor of the student's class may simply decide to administer a relevant sanction without escalating the matter. This type of sanction would likely be a lowered or failing grade for a specific assignment. In cases where more significant sanctions (such as failing grades for entire semesters, suspension, and expulsion) are at stake, school officials will likely get involved.
According to the University of Georgia Code of Conduct, you can likely expect some iteration of the following actions during a disciplinary procedure:
- A notice from your university or college that details the specific allegations against you
- Some type of meeting with an instructor or university official that gives you the chance to respond to these allegations
- An investigation into what happened, as far as the school can perform such an investigation
- A more formal meeting or hearing to give everyone involved a chance to review all of the information and further clarify their side of the story
- A decision from the university regarding the responsibility for the alleged infraction
- A recommendation from the university regarding appropriate sanctions
Disciplinary Consequences of Misconduct in Georgia
Perhaps this is the point that you're really interested in—the sanctions that you may face (or that your student might face) after the entire process is over.
This depends on your school's processes, but an example of sanctions you may be able to expect include:
- Lowered grades
- Reduced privileges
- A note on your transcript
- Mandatory counseling
However, it's important to realize that any immediate sanctions you face pale in comparison to the potential of a ruined reputation. If your school decides to place a note regarding your alleged activities and consequent discipline in your permanent file, that note will likely make its way to every future employer and admissions company you seek to impress.
It's time to make sure that doesn't happen. You need to appeal or negotiate with your school to ensure that, at the very least, this current allegation doesn't affect your entire future.
Your first strategy will likely be to file an appeal.
The Appeals Process at Georgia Schools
After you receive a determination of responsibility and associated recommendation for sanctions from your school, you will have a short period in which you can submit an appeal.
Generally, the goal of an appeal is not to ask the school to reconsider your responsibility in the alleged incident. Instead, in an effective appeal, you'll seek to renegotiate the sanctions you face.
You will also only have the chance to submit one appeal. After this appeal, the decision your school or university will decide to uphold will very likely be final. Since this is the case, you will want to ensure that your appeal has the highest chance of success before filing.
Make sure that you are working with a savvy student defense lawyer before you file an appeal. It's also a good idea to see if you can base your appeal around a procedural anomaly, a clearly inappropriate sanction, or new information that you have that was not available at the time of the initial investigation.
If your appeal gets you the outcome you wanted, great! If not, it may be time to consider alternatives.
Is it Time to Sue My Georgia School?
This is an excellent question. If you believe that you've taken every other route to seek relief from your current situation, pursuing litigation against your school may be your final option.
You should know that filing a suit can be highly effective, but it's also a drastic action. Likely, your school will never want to have a relationship with you again after the suit, regardless of the outcome. Since this is the case, it's typically a good idea to consider a lawsuit as a last resort.
There are also several steps that you should take before you file a suit—both to give you the best chance of preserving your relationship with your school and provide a solid basis for your lawsuit. These steps include:
- Going through all of the disciplinary systems and procedures at your school—including a strategic appeal. This may not seem exciting, but it's important to establish that you tried your best to go through the existing avenues for relief.
- Filing a complaint with Georgia's relevant educational boards—for example, the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission. This commission may be able to help you work with your school towards a favorable outcome. If not, this also helps set the stage for your lawsuit.
- Making sure that you work with a student defense advisor who is ready to support you with targeted expertise—and who has done this before! Litigation against schools represents a niche type of experience that many lawyers don't have. You'll want to ensure that your advisor has a track history of helping students achieve the same outcome you're working towards.
Statutes of Limitation in Georgia
If you're planning on filing a lawsuit against your school, you need to know when might be a good time to take that action. You only have a certain number of years after an incident occurs in which you can file a lawsuit. This “actionable” period is referred to as a statute of limitations. Every state has different rules to help manage when people can sue after an event.
This goes both ways, of course: If you're worried that someone else is going to file a suit against you, you should know that they have the entire period defined in the relevant statute of limitations to do so.
Georgia's statutes of limitations include:
- Injury to Person: Two years.
- Libel or Slander: One year.
- Fraud: Two years.
- Injury to Personal Property: Four years.
- Trespassing: Four years.
- Collection of Debt: Four years.
Other Laws Georgia College Students Should Know
The bulk of your academic experiences and activities will be under the purview of your school's regulations, expectations, and conduct codes. As this is the case, you very likely won't have to come into contact with local laws and authorities, particularly for your on-campus life.
If, however, you decide to live or work off-campus or simply spend a lot of time in the cities and towns surrounding your school, being aware of the local laws and regulations will only help. For example:
- Georgia has strict underage drinking and open container laws. If you are caught drinking where or when you shouldn't, you could face stark punitive measures.
- Georgia does not tolerate any form of driving under the influence.
- In Georgia, it is considered a crime to present false identification to a police officer.
- If you rent an apartment or drive a car in Georgia, you will need to abide by the terms of your tenant contract and follow all rules of the road.
While these may seem like basic considerations, you likely won't want to be at the mercy of local law enforcement when you're far from home—or be reported to your school by local law enforcement.
Benefits of Having a Student Defense Advisor
If you find yourself in a situation where you're working through your school's disciplinary processes, there's a good chance that your school will offer you school counsel or refer you to a local Georgia attorney. Unfortunately, even though this may seem like a kind gesture, it's very likely not in your best interest.
The lawyers that your school employs—and even, very likely, the lawyer down the street—are not student defense specialists. Even worse, a lawyer or advisor hired or employed by your school may not remain loyal to you when push comes to shove. You don't want to be in the position where the person meant to be your advocate leaks sensitive information or doesn't act in a fully supportive way because they're working for your school!
Instead, seek out a national student defense attorney who's able to provide the specific support you need. You'll experience the following benefits:
- Preparation for every stage of your process—from weathering an investigation to writing arguments to setting the stage for an appeal or suit, and even reputation management
- Familiarity with school codes of conduct—including an ability to find loopholes and hold schools accountable to lesser-known details of their own regulations
- The likelihood that your school will take you more seriously—if you've done your research, invested in your defense, and are accompanied by an expert lawyer, your school will probably not try to take advantage of your ignorance
- Support during a stressful time of your life—you'll find that life doesn't stop just because you're undergoing an investigation! With a hard-working student defense advisor by your side, you can spend less time worrying about deadlines and your future and more time concentrating on your health and your studies
- The practical experience of years of legal practice—A student defense advisor who's helped hundreds of students in your situation will know exactly how to write persuasive documents, speak with school officials, and keep you pointed in the right direction. This alone is enough to turn the tides in your favor and keep you confident during these confusing processes.
Georgia College Students, It's Time to Work Together to Protect Your Future
When you're headed to college, you should be aware that the next several years will have a significant impact on the rest of your life. This can be for the better… or, unfortunately, for the worse.
If anyone—a teacher, a friend, an acquaintance—decides to file an allegation of misconduct against you for any reason, even if it's a false allegation, your reputation is at stake. Since this is the case, you must work to avoid getting a disciplinary notation on your permanent transcript if you are involved in misconduct. It's also crucial to negotiate for lesser sanctions, ones that will not pose a threat to your five-year plan.
This can be difficult. Navigating your Georgia school's complex disciplinary system will require knowing your school's code of conduct inside and out. You'll need to present persuasive arguments confidently, file strategic documents on time, and keep yourself calm and stress-free over a prolonged period of hearings, investigations, and more.
That's where we come in. At the Lento Law Firm, we believe that every student should be able to work towards their life-changing degrees. Whether it's misconduct that stands in the way or other academic issues and concerns, Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm are ready to provide experience-driven legal expertise. From managing your investigation to coaching you through tense hearings, Joseph D. Lento will help you pursue the favorable outcome you need.
Give the Lento Law Firm a call today at 888.535.3686 or reach out to us online for more information.