When your child is small, you imagine all the people they could be when they grow up – a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a TV star. You never suspect that their teachers will accuse them of academic misconduct while they are in high school. And if they are, it can feel like those dreams are all slipping away. But what if it didn't have to be like that? What if there was someone who could swoop in and help mitigate these accusations, getting them dismissed entirely or the punishment lessened so much that it never affected your child's future? Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm have worked with countless students accused of academic conduct and done just that. You don't have to try and navigate these waters alone. They can and want to help.
What is Academic Misconduct?
Almost every high school across the country issues a Student Handbook at the beginning of the year. They require that the students bring the handbook home and go over it with their parents. Most ask the parents and students to sign a particular page attesting that they have read it and agree to its terms. This signature acknowledges an agreement between the parent, the school, and the child that they will all abide by the terms listed in the handbook. Academic misconduct is any behavior that violates the educational terms laid out in the guide. Generally, it includes:
- Cheating – copying someone else's work or exam; allowing someone else to copy your work or exam.
- Plagiarism – turning in another person's idea or work as though it was your own; copying and submitting work without citing it.
- Submitting the same work for multiple assignments in different classes.
The Specifics of Academic Misconduct Vary by District
Each district distributes its own policies and procedures, which each student must adhere to daily. The three largest districts in Utah have similar procedures but different wording. Therefore, it would behoove you and your child to review their student handbook to familiarize yourself with the specific directives to which they are subject.
Alpine School District
In Alpine School Districts Westlake High School, their guide states that each student has to understand that learning is a lifelong endeavor and must learn to have integrity in all aspects of their lives. Any student who is found cheating will be referred to the administration for disciplinary action and receive a zero grade on the assignment.
Davis School District
In the Davis School District, the Farmington High School Student Handbook demands that their students act with honesty at all times. If a student is accused of cheating, plagiarizing, or using an electronic device without permission to aid with their assignment or exam, the teacher will refer them to the administrators. Together, they will determine sufficient consequences for the student, including notifying the parents, getting a zero on the exam or assignment, or getting suspended.
All school districts in Utah have the right and ability to suspend a student for up to ten school days if the incident warrants such a punishment. Generally, students accused of academic misconduct for the first time are unlikely to be suspended. Still, if the act was quite egregious, the administration may extend the suspension past ten days or move for the student to be expelled on a case by case basis. If the school seeks expulsion, the schools are supposed to refer the matter to the District's Case Management Team, who will hold a hearing and make the final decision.
Long-term Consequences of Academic Misconduct
Allegations of academic misconduct can have unexpected consequences that will affect the outcome of your child's future. For the student who is wrongfully accused, the accusation of academic misconduct can be confusing and jarring. They may begin to cheat or plagiarize in earnest, become depressed, or act out in other ways. If the school already thinks you are capable of this behavior, why not show them they are right? These allegations can also prevent your child from getting into advanced placement courses later on in high school. Advanced placement courses make them more competitive for college admissions because they show that they can take a college-level course and excel. Academic misconduct accusations can also make it hard for your child to apply for state or federal loans of qualifying for college scholarships.
Students are authorized to have legal representation throughout the entire timeline, from accusation to hearing, but, unfortunately, many schools fail to make the parents aware of this fact. Having an attorney with you from the beginning ensures the school upholds your child's due process rights.
How an Attorney-Advisor can Help
When your child is accused of academic misconduct, it can feel like you are just going with the motions. The administration knows precisely what to do, right? Not necessarily. At the Lento Law Firm, Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team have seen schools drop the ball countless times when it comes to disciplinary actions for academic misconduct. Some students are accused and the school fails to provide basic due process, while others are accused and overly punished with suspensions or expulsions. The list of potential negative scenarios is endless when there is not the necessary oversight to make certain that the accused student is provided a fair process.
Students deserve better practices, but depending on what's going on with the administration and who is involved in the academic misconduct case, this can sometimes fall through the cracks. Consulting with an attorney when the teacher first accuses your child will help alleviate any confusion. An attorney will work tirelessly to gather evidence and witnesses on your child's behalf. They will work as a liaison between you, your child, and the administration to present the entire story, getting accusations dropped, or at the very least, the severity of punishments lessened. You don't have to suffer through this alone. Call 888-535-3686 today to schedule a consultation with an attorney who can help.
Utah 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:
- Alpine School District
- Beaver School District
- Box Elder School District
- Cache School District
- Canyons School District
- Carbon School District