Are you a student or the parent of student at a Kentucky 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 Kentucky 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 Kentucky protect their academic and professional future, and he can do the same for you. Contact him today at 888-535-3686.
An Overview of Kentucky Student Rights on College Campuses
When you go to college for the first time in Kentucky, you want to be prepared. Getting ready to attend college can and should be exciting. College is a launchpad for your future, one of the first steps you take toward becoming an adult.
Although it's exciting, college can be challenging as well. The courses may be tougher than you imagined, or you may have to deal with unexpected personal issues. You may have miscommunications or missteps that lead to allegations of misconduct, which can cause your school to impose sanctions against you. These sanctions could be as mild as extra coursework or as severe as expulsion.
You don't want any of these issues to threaten your future, so it's vital to go to college knowing what to expect. At Lento Law Firm, we believe you should enjoy your college experience and be able to achieve your degree. For this reason, we have this page of information to help you better understand institutions of higher education in Kentucky.
Largest Public and Private Institutions of Higher Education in Kentucky
- University of Kentucky
- University of Louisville
- Western Kentucky University
- Eastern Kentucky University
- Northern Kentucky University
- Morehead State University
- Murray State University
- University of the Cumberlands
- Campbellsville University
- Bellarmine University
- Lindsey Wilson College
- Mid Continent University
- University of Pikeville
- Thomas More College
Statewide Higher Education Laws in Kentucky
In Kentucky, the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) is the state's coordinating board for higher education. The CPE's responsibility is to ensure public postsecondary institutions function efficiently. Some of its duties relate to:
- University diversity policies
- Tuition rates
- Admission criteria
- Academic programs
- Credit transferability
- Training university administrators
The CPE oversees public institutions but also licenses for-profit and non-profit colleges that offer four-year bachelor's degrees that operate in Kentucky.
Although the CPE has a large role in the formation of laws pertaining to higher education in Kentucky, college students should be aware of other state agencies, bodies, and commissions that also impact the higher education system in the state:
- The Kentucky Department of Education has policies covering teacher accreditation and certification, school safety, and other processes that directly affect students.
- The Kentucky General Assembly Senate and House Education Committees are responsible for sponsoring and discussing laws relating to education throughout the state.
- The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Kentucky, also rules on issues related to higher education sometimes, such as the 2020 case Foster v. Board of Regents of the University of Michigan, which concerned sexual misconduct and due process rights on campus.
It's important to stay updated on policies, laws, and procedures that change in Kentucky and may impact you as a college student.
Academic Issues and Misconduct at Your Kentucky College or University
At colleges and universities, there are two types of concerns that could result in disciplinary actions: Academic struggles and misconduct. Academic struggles relate to your progress with your coursework and how falling behind could affect your academic standing with the university. Misconduct refers to actions that your school prohibits.
First, let's discuss academic struggles. It's common for students to face challenges with their courses in their first semester or two, especially if they've come straight from high school. Trying to keep up with the new course load, on top of living independently for the first time, can be enough to prevent you from performing at the level your instructors expect. Most schools provide support for students who struggle, particularly in their first year. However, if your school does not or fails to deliver on the support that is promised, you could face academic probation, suspension, or even dismissal from the university.
Some examples of academic struggles that will draw your instructors' attention include:
- Supposedly performing below standards
- Repeatedly withdrawing from courses
- Repeatedly failing examinations
- Repeatedly earning “incomplete” grades
- Allegedly failing to prepare readings and other materials for class
- Allegedly failing to complete coursework
If you have encountered these academic struggles and your college is offering discipline rather than support, you need to stand up for your rights. Otherwise, you may receive harsh sanctions that negatively impact your future.
Code of Conduct Infractions and Types of Misconduct
Your Kentucky college or university likely has a code of conduct that all students must follow. This code includes behavior that is not permitted and lists procedures for investigating and adjudicating supposed violations. Your school should make this document freely available for you to read, usually on the school website.
The types of misconduct that may lead to disciplinary action are usually either sexual misconduct or academic dishonesty.
Title IX Sexual Misconduct
Sexual misconduct occurs when not everyone involved in an act of sexual activity has freely given their express consent. Institutions of higher education that want access to government funding must abide by federal Title IX rules, which prevent sexual harassment and misconduct on college campuses. Title IX policy changes take effect regularly, and schools must adapt their own policies to reflect proper implementation. As a result, many schools also have a separate “non-Title IX” sexual misconduct policy that is more consistent and may also cover behavior that Title IX does not.
Your college or university should list and define what constitutes an act of sexual misconduct, either in the code of conduct or in a separate, sexual misconduct-specific policy.
Most Kentucky schools list the following actions as sexual misconduct that is punishable with disciplinary action:
- Sexual harassment
- Dating violence
- Domestic violence
- Sexual exploitation
This list is not comprehensive, and you should check your school's policy specifically. If your college or university learns that you were possibly involved in an act of sexual misconduct, it will not hesitate to take steps to determine what happened and if you are responsible for the actions you are accused of.
The other major type of misconduct that Kentucky schools bring disciplinary action against is academic dishonesty. Issues of this nature occur when a student seeks to or is accused of seeking to gain an unfair advantage in their courses.
Common academic dishonesty infractions include:
- Fabrication of data
- Falsifying information
- Using unauthorized materials for coursework, examinations, or laboratory assignments
- Destruction of school property
If you help another student with one of the above infractions, you are also violating the academic integrity policy and will face sanctions as well.
Although sexual misconduct and academic misconduct are the two major types of conduct violations that occur at Kentucky schools, keep in mind that some behavior that falls outside these categories may also be prohibited. These infractions are simply considered “code of conduct violations” and may include conduct related to student housing, hazing, improperly using university resources, drugs, or alcohol.
What Happens After My School Receives Information About an Academic Issue or Misconduct?
Your university takes action after it learns about a potential problem. For academic struggles, your instructor is usually the one raising the concern to the administration. For misconduct, all it takes is another person—who doesn't necessarily have to be associated with the university—to file a report against you, alleging you of a conduct violation.
When your school receives this information, it will initiate investigation and adjudication procedures. This process allows your university to determine if you are indeed underperforming academically or responsible for the behavior someone else has accused you of. The process may end in sanctions against you or dismissal from the college.
Each university has its own procedures for dealing with academic standing or misconduct issues, but the process will likely resemble the following:
- You receive notice from your school. Either via email or in writing, your university will formally send a notification that you are struggling to meet academic performance standards or that someone has filed a conduct complaint against you. This letter should also contain the relevant portions of the school's policies and let you know what will happen next.
- You meet informally with an administrator. You may have an informal meeting with an administrator from your school. If the issue concerns academic standing, your informal meeting will most likely be with the instructor who raised the issue. At this meeting, you have the chance to tell your side of the story. Sometimes, these informal meetings are the end of the process if you come to an agreement with the administrator. This agreement usually involves you taking responsibility for your actions and accepting sanctions.
- The school launches an investigation. If there is no resolution after the informal meeting, your school will start an investigation of the matter. An administrator will gather information about the alleged issue or complaint by speaking with you, your friends, or anyone who may have witnessed the behavior. The investigator usually can also go through your social media and schoolwork.
- The school holds a hearing or formal meeting with a panel of administrators. Following the investigation, there is typically a formal meeting or hearing. You go in front of a panel of administrators or a single decision-maker to state your case. Most schools allow you to present evidence or question witnesses at your hearing. There is usually also another party who represents the school and tries to prove that you were responsible for the alleged violation.
- You receive notice of a decision. The hearing panel or decision-maker typically has a few days to reach a decision. Then, you receive formal notice of this decision from your school.
- Your school recommends an appropriate sanction. After receiving the decision, your school or an administrator will recommend sanctions if you are found responsible for the behavior you are accused of. Your university should provide information about all possible sanctions, which typically range from doing extra coursework to expulsion.
Although most schools have a list of sanctions that vary in seriousness, you should be aware that suspension is the most common sanction for conduct-related issues. Some schools start with suspension as the baseline sanction, in fact, and only lighten it if you prove that it's inappropriate given the violation.
A suspension is only temporary, so you may wonder what the big deal is. You can just pick your classes back up after one or two semesters, right? While a suspension does allow you to return to your studies, it leaves a gap on your transcript. You'll have to explain this gap when you apply for jobs, internships, and graduate schools and mention that it was related to an academic standing or conduct issue. You may also have to provide information about your disciplinary history.
Some employers and many graduate programs will, unfortunately, think twice about giving you the job or admitting you if they know about your record from college. Even if a suspension lasts only one semester, it can close you off from opportunities for years to come. Getting a college education should broaden your opportunities, not narrow them.
If you want to get a lesser sanction or even a clean record, you'll have to take steps to defend yourself. One of those steps is filing an appeal.
The Process for Filing a Strategic Appeal at Your Kentucky School
After your hearing panel has made a decision and recommended sanctions, you should have the chance to appeal. Typically, your school provides you information about the appeals process, but if it doesn't, you can usually find it in your student code of conduct.
To better understand the appeals process, let's look at the University of Kentucky’s (UK) Code of Student Conduct and how it handles appeals.
- University Appeal Board. Like many universities, UK has a special board for hearing appeals. UK students who wish to appeal a hearing board's decision and sanction must appeal to the University Appeals Board (UAB). Students can only appeal sanctions if they are a suspension or an expulsion.
- Sending the appeal. Students have seven business days to send an appeal to the UAB and may review the hearing file at any time while preparing the appeal.
- UAB review. The UAB reviews appeals for non-academic student conduct issues and may only review the case based on the following issues
- If deviations in hearing procedures were fair given the charges, information presented, and conformity with prescribed UK procedures
- If sanctions were appropriate
- If new information would have altered the outcome
- UAB decision. After reviewing the appeal, the UAB may choose to:
- Uphold the findings and sanctions of the hearing board
- Modify the sanction
- Remand the case to the hearing board
At UK, the UAB decision is final. Note that the appeal process is not a chance for another hearing. Most schools do not allow appellants to go before the appeal board in person, although they may accept written statements.
An appeal is a crucial part of the disciplinary process; the decision is often final. As you only have a few days to prepare an appeal, you want to be sure you get it right. If you haven't consulted with a student defense legal advisor up to this point in the process, you should seriously consider contacting a specialist to assist you with your appeal.
Can I Sue My Kentucky College or University?
Although most schools say that the appeal board's decision is final, you still have further action you can take. If your university denies your appeal or does not engage in negotiations with you any longer, it may be time to start litigation.
Suing your college or university is a serious step that cannot be undone. It also means the end of your relationship with your college, as you will likely not be able to attend classes there any longer after you sue. If you are facing expulsion anyway, however, the process of pursuing litigation may be the right move for you.
Before you initiate a lawsuit against your college or university, consider these alternatives:
- Take your case to a higher authority. The Kentucky CPE has a student complaint process that you can utilize when you've exhausted all your options with your university.
- Get in touch with the university's legal team. Before starting litigation, have your attorney meet with the university's legal team. They may be able to find a resolution other than a lawsuit. Also, if it does proceed to a lawsuit, having made first contact this way will be beneficial.
- Have an experienced lawyer. To sue your college or university, you need an attorney with specialist experience dealing with institutions of higher education. Relying on a local attorney or even someone from your school's legal department may not get you the results you're after.
Other Kentucky Laws to Be Aware of As a College Student
In most scenarios, your behavior will fall under the policies and procedures of your university. Your school takes responsibility for investigating and adjudicating alleged instances of misconduct. However, in some cases, such as with Title IX, your university may reserve the right to contact local law enforcement if your alleged actions violate civil law.
In addition to the policies of your Kentucky university, keep these state laws in mind as well:
- Kentucky Drinking Laws: You must be 21 or older to consume, possess, or purchase alcohol in Kentucky. It is also illegal to drink alcohol or carry an open container of alcohol in public or in a vehicle. Kentucky has dry counties where the sale of alcohol is not permitted. Some counties are “moist” as well, meaning only restaurants may sell alcohol.
- Kentucky DUI Laws: The legal BAC level for driving is 0.08 for adults 21 and older. For those under 21, it's 0.02.
- Kentucky Tenant Laws: If you decide to live off-campus, you will be subject to tenant laws and responsibilities in Kentucky.
- Kentucky False Identification Laws: Possessing, using, or presenting a false ID is illegal. Someone with a fake ID could be charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument, a felony punishable by up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
Statute of Limitations Laws in Kentucky
Other laws you should be aware of in Kentucky are statute of limitations laws. These laws set out a period of time following an event during which people can initiate legal actions related to that event. In Kentucky, the statute of limitations laws that may concern college students include:
- Injury to person: One year
- Libel/slander/defamation: One year
- Fraud: Five years
- Injury to personal property: Two years
- Trespassing: Five years
- When no specific time is set: Five years
Should I Hire a National Student Defense Attorney?
When you consider getting legal representation for your academic standing or misconduct concern at your school, you might be tempted to have college or university personnel take the lead on trying to help you resolve the issue. For the disciplinary process, your university may also assign you an advisor.
While these actions may seem in your best interest, they usually are not. Staff and advisors are associated with your school and may ultimately consider the school's interests above yours. They also lack the specialized experience needed to go through your school's policies and understand how to negotiate successfully on your behalf.
A national student defense attorney, on the other hand, has handled cases similar to yours in the past and knows exactly how to approach your situation with your school. As you're going through a tense time, having a professional by your side can give you peace of mind.
Call Joseph D. Lento and Protect Your Student Rights at Your Kentucky College or University
If you're dealing with a tough situation at your Kentucky school, you need an empathetic, hard-working student defense advisor who knows to defend you or pursue delicate negotiations.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped hundreds of students all over the country in academic and misconduct situations. When you need assistance dealing with your school, contact the Lento Law Firm by calling 888-535-3686.
Are you a student or the parent of a student at an Kentucky college or university facing a school-related issue? Attorney Joseph D. Lento can help. Click on the following links as applicable for more information: