When your child is accused of academic misconduct it can be very jarring. You may lose hope in your child's school's ability to provide a safe environment for them or begin to look at your child differently. Many schools, unfortunately, falsely accuse students of academic misconduct or investigate accusations made by other students that are unfounded. Whatever the reason, it’s important to have a student defense legal advisor present along the way from the minute you learn of the accusation. Your child is entitled to a fair and unbiased investigation and an attorney advisor will ensure their rights are upheld to the full extent of the individual school district's code.
What is Academic Misconduct?
While the definition will vary from school to school, in Florida, academic misconduct is generally defined as a behavior or act that violates academic integrity. The most common examples include:
- Cheating – using or trying to use notes or other materials during an exam or other areas of work that have not been permitted by the teacher.
- Plagiarism – deliberately or carelessly submitting someone else's work as your own.
- Unauthorized Collaboration – working with a group or partner without the teacher's permission
If your child is accused of academic misconduct, whether it be cheating, plagiarism, forgery, or overt disruptive behavior, you must remember that this could be a false accusation and your child is entitled to a fair investigation.
The Procedure for Accusations of Academic Misconduct in Florida
Florida is an exceptionally large state and depending on the county, the academic misconduct procedures may change.
Down south in Miami, the students are all held to a specific code of academic integrity. Each fall, the students are sent home with the Code of Student Conduct and asked to read through and sign it with their parents. Miami-Dade considers cheating, plagiarism, and disruption to be the main forms of academic misconduct. After a student is accused, the principal, or an unbiased designee, will investigate the accusation and, if found guilty, select an appropriate disciplinary plan from the ones laid out in the Code of Student Conduct. This form of discipline may range from notifying the student's parents, having a conference with the student, incorporating a counseling session for the student to discuss the incident, or creating a school-based program that will help curb the child's behavior.
Generally though, students found guilty of academic misconduct are not subject to expulsion unless the disruptive behavior was so overt and long-standing, and no other form of disciplinary action was able to curb it. It's important to note that Miami-Dade County has a limited explanation of the subsequent investigation into the accusation. As such, it is imperative to have an attorney-advisor present at all stages, from accusation to resolution, to ensure the school is not mishandling the issue.
The second-largest county in Florida is Broward County. They, like Miami-Dade, issue a Code Book for Student Conduct at the beginning of the student's fall term. This handbook defines academic misconduct as cheating, copying, plagiarism, disruptive behavior while on school grounds.
The school district has a specific discipline matrix that they use to decide punishments. Initially, they will begin with an investigation into the accusation, and if found guilty, the faculty or administration will create a disciplinary action plan that could include guidance counselor intervention, school and parent conferences, or bus suspension. This list is not exhaustive and the faculty or administrative individual in charge of the disciplinary action can also refer to the discipline matrix for harsher punishments if the act of academic misconduct was more egregious. An act of academic misconduct would need to be extremely egregious to warrant expulsion in Broward County.
Like the other counties in Florida mentioned above, Osceola County also has a code of conduct handbook that is issued each fall. And like Broward County, they also have a matrix of punishments for student infractions. But unlike Miami-Dade and Broward County, Osceola has clearly state expectations for the faculty and administration when a student is accused of academic misconduct.
If a child is accused of violating the Code of Conduct in Osceola County, the Principal, or an unbiased individual the principal assigns, will notify the student and their parents of the charges. The student will be allowed to explain themselves, present witnesses, and excessive punishment is not allowed. If there is an issue with this fair due process, the student or their parents can bring up the issue with the Principal or the Department of Student Services. Students who are found guilty of academic misconduct may be suspended or expelled, but not before a formal hearing is held to discuss the pros and cons of such a severe punishment.
How A Student Defense Legal Advisor Can Help with Florida Academic Misconduct Cases
If your child is accused of academic misconduct in the state of Florida it is important to have an attorney-advisor present from the very beginning. As we have seen, there are marked differences between how the many Florida counties investigate accusations of academic misconduct. And even more than that, how two of the largest counties do not even have specific standards put in place for the administration or faculty to follow when a child is suspected of academic misconduct.
Having an attorney advisor present will ensure your child's rights are being upheld to the full extent of that school district's code of conduct. Unfortunately, many schools do not have the resources to properly vet accusations and just assume the child is guilty. This stain on their reputation can have long-lasting consequences. At the very least it could inhibit their ability to take advanced placement courses, get to and from school safely, and allow them to join clubs. And at the very most it will affect their ability to get into college, as it will be a part of their permanent academic record and subject to review by any school they apply to.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento is an experienced student discipline defense and student rights attorney with a history of handling academic misconduct cases for hundreds of high school students around the country. He will work tirelessly to ensure your child's school handles these accusations appropriately and that their rights are upheld. Academic misconduct accusations and subsequent punishments can affect your child's future. Don't standby and let that happen. Contact the Lento Law firm at 888-555-3686 to schedule a consultation today.
Florida high schools where Joseph D. Lento can help as your child's student's academic misconduct advisor during investigations, hearings and appeals include, but are not limited to, the following school districts:
- Alachua County Public Schools
- Baker County School District
- Bay District Schools
- Bradford County School District
- Brevard Public Schools
- Broward County Public Schools
- Calhoun County School District
- Charlotte County Public Schools
- Citrus County Schools
- Clay County Schools
- Collier County Public Schools
- Columbia County Schools
- DeSoto School District
- Dixie County School District
- Duval County Public Schools
- Escambia County School District
- Flagler County Public Schools
- Franklin County Schools
- Gadsden County School District
- Gilchrist County School District
- Glades County School District
- Gulf County Schools
- Hamilton County School District
- Hardee County School District
- Hendry County Schools
- Hernando County School Board
- Highlands County School Board
- Hillsborough County Public Schools
- Holmes County School District
- Indian River County School District
- Jackson County School District
- Jefferson County School District
- Lafayette County School District
- Lake County Schools
- Lee County School District
- Leon County Schools
- Levy County School Board
- Liberty County School Board
- Madison County Schools
- Manatee County School District
- Marion County Public Schools
- Martin County School Board
- Miami-Dade County Public Schools
- Monroe County School District
- Nassau County School District
- Okaloosa County School District
- Okeechobee County School Board
- Orange County Public Schools
- Osceola County School District
- Palm Beach County School District
- Pasco County Schools
- Pinellas County Schools
- Polk County Public Schools, Florida
- Putnam County School District
- Santa Rosa County School District
- Sarasota County Schools
- Seminole County Public Schools
- Johns County School District
- Lucie Public Schools
- Sumter County School Board
- Suwannee County School District
- Taylor County School District
- Union County School Board
- Volusia County Schools
- Wakulla County School Board
- Walton County School District
- Washington County School District
Special School Districts
- Alexander D. Henderson University School
- Dozier/Okeechobee School District
- Eckerd Youth District
- Florida A&M Developmental Research School
- Florida School for the Deaf and Blind
- K. Yonge Developmental Research School
It is critical to make certain academic misconduct charges at your child's Florida high school are handled properly and that the accused student's interests and rights are protected from as early as possible during the investigative and disciplinary process. One reason, among many, is because even at high schools where a finding of responsibility for academic misconduct is made at a hearing, the investigation will set the stage for what the hearing panel is provided prior to a hearing (and what the hearing panel will in large part rely on at a hearing), and at high schools where the finding of responsibility is made solely through the investigative process, what takes place during the investigation itself will determine whether the accused student is found responsible or not responsible for academic misconduct.
Unfortunately, some parents make the mistake of not taking the necessary precautions as soon as possible when their child is accused of academic misconduct. Some people will mistakenly believe that if they "just explain what happened," their school will be fair and impartial and will arrive at the truth. In a perfect world this may be the case, but in a perfect world, being called to answer for alleged academic misconduct would not exist.
Fighting passionately for the future of his clients at schools throughout the nation for many years, Joseph D. Lento knows how important it is to mount the strongest defense because he understands that an accused high school student's academic future is on the line. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph Lento is a licensed attorney in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, is admitted as an attorney pro hac vice in state and federal court if needed when representing clients nationwide, and serves as an academic misconduct advisor to high school students facing investigations and disciplinary cases in Florida and throughout the nation. Make certain your or your student's interests are protected - Contact National High School Academic Misconduct Defense Attorney Joseph D. Lento today at 888-535-3686.