Where We Can Help – Maine Colleges and Universities

Are you a student or the parent of student at a Maine 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 Maine 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

Joseph D. Lento has helped countless students and others in academia in Maine protect their academic and professional future, and he can do the same for you.  Contact him today at 888-535-3686.

An Overview of Maine Student Discipline and Student Rights

Going to college is an extremely exciting time. You've worked your entire life to get to this point, and you never imagine the hiccup an academic issue or misconduct concern might cause to your future. Instead of enjoying time with friends, joining clubs, or figuring out what to major in, you may be worrying about who you can trust and where to turn next.

Whether you are finding it hard to turn in current assignments or you're facing disciplinary action after an accusation of misconduct, you don't have to weather the storm alone. A professional can help you navigate any obstacles along your path to graduation. It is important to notify an attorney-advisor from the moment you learn of the accusations as they will work diligently to mitigate any potential negative consequences that may arise. Attorney advisors will create strategic defenses that advocate on your behalf to help guarantee the best possible outcome for your situation.

Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm believe that every Maine college student should have the opportunity to achieve their educational goals. But there are times when college won't go smoothly, which is why we've assembled this guide. Below you are finding all the information you need to succeed in college if an academic issue or misconduct concern were to pop up.

Academic Issues and Misconduct Issues at Your Maine School

There are several types of issues that could provoke adverse consequences or a disciplinary action at your school, but the two main types are academic issues (non-conduct-related) and code of conduct violations (misconduct).

Academic Issues and Concerns

Every Maine school, no matter the major or department, will have expectations on how quickly their students should be progressing through a program and what their grades mean. Sometimes, these expectations feel overwhelmingly high and almost impossible to achieve. But unfortunately, not meeting these standards in a timely manner could incur serious consequences that could impact your entire life. The specific expectations of your school will be laid out in the code of conduct or student handbook. Different situations might include:

  • Underperforming on exams or assignments
  • Repeatedly withdrawing or earning incompletes in a course
  • Consistently arriving unprepared for lab work or classes
  • Failing to pass required examinations or coursework
  • Consistently failing to complete required work
  • Not keeping above a certain threshold set by your academic department for continuation in the major

If your school notices that you are suffering from these problems repeatedly, they may take action. It's important to remember that these issues may be outside of your control. For instance, if you are dealing with any emotional, mental, or physical illnesses, having a hard time navigating social subtleties, or working through the emotions of living away from home for the first time, you may find it harder to manage your time efficiently.

Many Maine institutions have support systems in place and encourage students to take part in them. For example, your school probably has a dedicated counseling and tutoring network that is free for all students. Unfortunately, many schools fail to advertise these support systems, and students end up suffering alone. If you feel like your school isn't helping you the way it should, you need to advocate for yourself. Whether you need more time on exams, further counseling sessions, or feel that the school is letting your issues slip through the cracks, an attorney advisor like Attorney Lento can help you speak up for yourself and get back on track.

Code of Conduct Violations and Types of Misconduct

In Maine, there are two types of misconduct accusations you might face while attending school: academic misconduct and sexual misconduct. Any other type of misconduct will probably be specific to your school.

Academic Misconduct

There's a difference between academic dishonesty issues and academic issues. If you are trying to work through academic difficulties, you are experiencing “academic issues.” But if you are stepping outside the bounds of academic honesty by acting in a way that violates the code of conduct at your school, you will be subject to sanctions and a disciplinary procedure.

Every school in Maine will have its specific definition of what constitutes academic misconduct, but at the University of Maine, for example, the central public college system for the state, the Office of Academic Affairs stipulates the following:

Academic integrity means not lying, cheating, or stealing. To cheat on an examination, to steal words or ideas of another, or to falsify the results of one's research corrupts the essential process by which knowledge is advanced. Cheating, plagiarism, fabrication of data, giving or receiving unauthorized help on examinations, and other acts of academic dishonesty are contrary to the academic purposes for which the University exists.

Every school has a specific code of conduct or student handbook they deliver to the student, usually during orientation. It's a good idea to become familiar with the regulations at your school so that you know exactly how they expect you to behave while registered as a student and how they expect faculty and staff to interact with you.

Sexual Misconduct

Any type of sexual conduct that happens without the consent of the parties is going to violate your school's sexual misconduct policy or the federal Title IX regulation. For example, the University of Maine Policy Manual Section 402 defines sexual misconduct as:

  • Prostituting another person
  • Photographing or videotaping sexual activity without consent
  • Presenting or allowing the unauthorized viewing of a non-consensual videotaping of sexual activity
  • Letting others watch you have sex without the consent of your sexual partner
  • Possessing child pornography
  • Voyeurism
  • Knowingly transmitting an STD or HIV to another person
  • Sexual harassment
  • All forms of sexual misconduct prohibited by Maine law

Your school will have either a dedicated sexual misconduct policy, like the University of Maine, and a dedicated Title IX policy, or one policy that incorporates them both. Title IX is a federal regulation that was established in 1972 to govern how institutions in the US respond to allegations of sexual misconduct based on gender discrimination. The Title IX policy at your school will be ever-evolving to meet federal requirements. If schools fail to fulfill the Title IX regulation specifics, they face losing federal funding.

What are Some of the Public and Private Academic Institutions in Maine?

Maine is home to several incredible colleges and universities. Some of the most well-known institutions are:

Public schools in Maine

  • University of Maine
  • University of Southern Maine
  • Maine Maritime Academy

Private schools in Maine

  • Saint Joseph's College of Maine
  • University of New England
  • Bowdoin College
  • Colby College
  • Husson University
  • The Landing School

Whether or not you attend a private or public institution, they all follow the same state regulations for accreditation and funding. But there are some situations where private schools may be subject to tighter restrictions than public schools.

Statewide Higher Education Laws in Maine

There are various statewide organizations and laws that could influence the regulations and procedures your school must abide by, and therefore influence the codes of conduct your school expects you to follow. These regulations and organizations include:

  • Title 20-A: oversees the way the public university system works and what standards the state universities must abide by.
  • The Maine Government: decides what health and public safety standards universities must uphold in the state of Maine, as well as any specific requirements for certification in a certain field of expertise.
  • The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit will hear issues about how the university or college operates if they are brought before a judge in the state of Maine.

What Happens at My Maine School After an Academic Issue or Misconduct Concern is Identified?

Once your university is made aware of an alleged violation, the disciplinary or administrative process will begin. While every school has a different set of processes to go by, the general structure will be as follows:

  1. Your university will send you notification of the accusations. The notice will include the allegations and the portion of the code of conduct that was allegedly violated, as well as the next steps the university will pursue.
  2. An official from your school will meet with you to discuss the accusations. For academic dishonesty concerns, this official is usually your instructor. For more severe accusations, like sexual misconduct or Title IX violations, this official may be the dean of students or a disciplinary committee.
  3. You will be given the opportunity to review the accusations and make a statement. If you admit to the responsibility at this step, you might have the opportunity to structure the sanctions to be administered with your instructor or Title IX Coordinator.
  4. If you do not admit to responsibility, the university will launch an investigation into the matter. This investigation will involve further interviews with both you and the complainant, as well as interviews with possible witnesses and a gathering of documentary evidence.
  5. The investigation is intended to determine if there is evidence of an alleged violation. If they determine there is, they will proceed to a more formal hearing process.
  6. The more formal hearing process will give you an opportunity to present your own witnesses and evidence and have your attorney advisor advocate on your behalf.
  7. At the end of the formal hearing, the official will determine responsibility and any relevant sanctions to be applied. They will deliver this determination in the form of a letter or email.
  8. This notification will also provide a process for appeals that you may take if you believe the determination or specified sanctions were incorrect.

Generally, the notice of determination will mark the end of your disciplinary process, but in some circumstances, you may decide to appeal the decision. There are several reasons you should consider filing an appeal, including negotiating lesser sanctions. If you are hoping to go to graduate school, looking for an internship, or applying for employment in certain sectors after graduation, including the government, healthcare, or finance, for example, it is important to know you did everything you could to protect your reputation.

Negative consequences, like suspension or expulsion, are noted on your final transcripts and will be the subject of discussion for years to come, especially if you pursue any of the situations described above. Graduate schools, like medical and law school, will make you explain the situation that led to the expulsion ad nauseum. By appealing the determination, you will know firsthand that you did everything you could to mitigate any negative consequences that could arise.

The Process of Filing a Strategic Appeal at Your Maine School

In the notice you receive of the disciplinary hearing committee's determination, the school will lay out specific appeal instructions. Usually, you have a set amount of time to bring an appeal. This window is generally pretty short. In fact, most schools require an appeal within five to ten days of receiving the notice.

Appealing the determination will involve writing an argument, filing out specific paperwork, and sending or uploading all of it to a particular department or individual on campus. That person or department will review your appeal and make a final decision. This final decision cannot be appealed further.

Because you only have one chance to appeal, you want to make sure your reasoning for appeal is sound. Most schools state that appeals can only be made on specific grounds, which include:

  • A procedural irregularity that affected the outcome
  • New evidence is present now that was not reasonably present before that could affect the outcome
  • The official or committee overseeing the investigation or disciplinary hearing had a conflict of interest or bias that affected the outcome of the matter
  • The grievance process described in the code of conduct was not followed
  • The conduct alleged doesn't fall within the university's jurisdiction
  • The sanctions imposed were not appropriate

What if It's Time to Sue My School in Maine?

Deciding to pursue litigation against your school is a decision you should not take likely. You need to consider how that suit might affect your relationship with your school. In some cases, you may not be able to return to the school again. Your attorney advisor will be able to advise you on whether this is a good course of action to pursue the relief you need. Below are some things you should consider before filing a suit:

  1. Have you exhausted all other avenues at your school for relief? It's important to explore every reasonable option, even if you think they don't work because it will show the court that you are not making a frivolous accusation.
  2. Have you had your attorney advisor speak to the Office of General Counsel at your school?
  3. Have you hired an attorney-advisor who's an expert in student defense? Not every lawyer will have the ability to fight on your behalf without this specific expertise.

Additionally, if you live off-campus or spend any amount of time away from school, even when blowing off steam during a night out, you should familiarize yourself with the local laws that might affect you.

Are There Any Other Maine Laws That I Should Know About as a College Student?

In Maine, college student activities might be impacted by several laws, including:

  • Laws surrounding underage drinking – it is illegal in Maine, like every other state in the US, to purchase or possess alcohol under the age of 21.
  • Laws about drinking and driving – there is a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving in Maine. That is, if you are under the age of 21 and are caught drinking and driving, you could lose your license for 18 months. And if you are over the age of 21 and are caught with a blood alcohol content level over 0.08% while operating a vehicle or attempting to operate a vehicle, you can be found guilty of drinking and driving without any further evidence.
  • Maine Tenant Responsibilities – if you live off-campus, there are specific responsibilities you'll have to fulfill.

Statute of Limitations Laws in Maine

In the United States, the plaintiff or prosecution only has a specific period of time to bring charges for allegations about a certain incident. This limitation is governed by statute of limitations laws, and they differ from state to state. If you plan on pursuing a suit against your university, it is a good idea to know the applicable statute of limitation for the issue in question.

In Maine, the statute of limitations applies to cases covering:

  • Personal injury: 6 years, unless it's based on assault, battery, or false imprisonment – then it's two years.
  • Libel or slander: 2 years
  • Fraud: the suit must start within six years of discovering the fraud – not of the date of the fraud
  • Personal property injury: 6 years
  • Trespassing: 6 years
  • Contracts: 20 years

Do You Require Support and Defense During Your Maine College Career? If So, Call Attorney Joseph D. Lento

College can be an incredible experience, but that doesn't mean it will be an easy experience, especially if you are facing any sort of academic concern or act of misconduct. Sadly, many universities let students slip through the cracks and don't uphold the students' rights as well as they should be. The negative consequences can be so far-reaching that you might start to think there is no way to recover from these allegations. But it's important to remember that you do not have to traverse this situation alone.

If you are struggling with academic concerns or allegations of misconduct like cheating or sexual misconduct, you need help. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have worked with countless students in Maine and across the country who facing such obstacles and who are worried about their future, that their institution will not uphold their rights, and everything that with such concerns. Attorney Lento and his team will help you work through the process and any necessary negotiations, and will determine the best course of action for you to achieve a favorable outcome.

You deserve to leave college with positive experiences, friends that last a lifetime, and your degree under your belt. You shouldn't have to worry about getting lost in the crowd. Academic concerns and misconduct issues create large burdens that need solving. Let us take that weight off your shoulders. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or schedule a consultation online.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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