If you're a student attending a Mississippi school, you're probably a very busy person. Between classes, extracurriculars, making life-defining relationships, and figuring out what you want to do with your life, you've got a lot going on. If you're the parent of a busy student, you get it: Their lives are full. That's as it should be. College students work hard, and their entire lives are before them, just brimming with potential. It's an exciting time.
Unfortunately, college can also be a very stressful and even dangerous time for a young person's reputation. Interpersonal issues, miscommunication, misunderstandings, even the failure to keep up with your increasingly demanding courses: College can be a minefield of frustrating scenarios. It can be much easier than you think to end up after four years without the degree that you've worked hard to attain. It can also be easy to earn disciplinary notes on your record, which could make getting a job much harder than it needs to be.
At the Lento Law Firm, we believe that you or your student shouldn't have to be worried about the future. Students should be able to focus on being a student, not avoiding tense disciplinary situations or invasive investigations. However, more and more schools are recommending increasingly harsh sanctions for seemingly innocent actions. Students need to be careful about what they do. They need to be proactive and strategic about handling academic failure to progress cases. They need to know their rights and be able to negotiate diplomatically should their school slap them with unfair sanctions.
This is difficult for most students (and most adults). Navigating your school's code of conduct is hard. We're here to make this more accessible for you, and we're here to help you should you require assistance during your school's adjudicative processes.
On this handy resource page, we'll discuss what a Mississippi college student needs to know. Bookmark this page for later reference! We'll start by providing a brief list of popular schools in Mississippi and then discuss typical code of conduct and academic failure to progress scenarios so you're prepared for what could be at stake.
What Are the Most Popular Schools in Mississippi?
If you're already a Mississippi college student, you're already aware that it's a great state to study in. The Magnolia state is also home to many different types of schools, from gigantic state systems to tiny private schools. These academic institutions include:
Public schools in Mississippi
- University of Mississippi
- Mississippi State University
- University of Southern Mississippi
- Alcorn State University
- Jackson State University
- Mississippi University for Women
- Delta State University
- Mississippi Valley State University
By far, the University of Mississippi is the largest in the state. As a result, it sets the standards, in many cases, for student conduct. We'll go ahead and reference the University of Mississippi's codes and standards whenever we're discussing specific university procedures.
The public schools in Mississippi are far from the only ones in the state! Here's a brief list of some of the private schools in Mississippi:
Private schools in Mississippi
- William Carey University
- Millsaps College
- Mississippi College
- Blue Mountain College
- Rust College
- Strayer University
- Tougaloo College
This is not an exhaustive list! There are many top-tier academic institutions in Mississippi.
Next, let's take a moment to dispel a common misconception regarding private colleges and universities.
Although private colleges and universities may enjoy a little more latitude than their public peers, most private institutions still rely on at least some amount of federal funding. Even if they don't currently receive money from the government, most schools will want to remain eligible for doing so. Since this is the case, most private schools do follow the majority of federal regulations. (Even if money wasn't an issue, many of these schools would follow the rules anyway to offer their students a consistent, safe experience that's up to state standards).
When it comes to nationwide regulations such as Title IX, therefore, most Mississippi colleges will follow national interpretations and recommendations. (As these are often in flux, that can still be quite complicated; but we'll discuss that in a later section.)
Before we move on, let's take a quick look at some of the statewide legal language and committees overseeing academia in this Southern state.
Statewide Higher Education Laws and Government Bodies in Mississippi
- The Mississippi Public Universities group and the Board of Trustees oversee the finances and policies of the state's public schools. This entity also oversees bylaws that discuss everything from the definition of a tenure track to the creation of new academic programs, accreditation, and more.
- The Mississippi Office of Student Financial Aid oversees statewide tuition assistance.
- Mississippi Code Title 37 provides statutes that govern a wide array of academic experiences, from statewide testing to the protection of religious liberties, remedial education, and more.
- Finally, Mississippi is in the Fifth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. From time to time, this court will issue opinions that could affect how your school's ability to operate in a specific way. Keep an eye on the cases the court will be hearing; every so often, there could be one that will relate to your school experience.
Now that we've discussed a few of the laws overseeing Mississippi schools, let's pivot to talk about the ways you could garner attention from your specific institution.
What Does It Mean to Academically Fail to Progress at My Mississippi School?
Whether you're in your first or fourth year at your Mississippi college, you probably have a general goal of acing (or at least passing) your slate of courses. Your school has similar expectations of you. In an ideal world, you and your team of educators and mentors would work together to help you gain practical skills and knowledge, celebrating your successes and providing you with empathetic support when things get difficult from time to time.
That may not be the reality of what happens at your Mississippi school.
Instead, you may find that your school doesn't exactly have your back when you're having a hard time. Your teacher may simply email you or sit you down to inform you that you're failing to progress as expected. As a result, you may be eligible for punitive measures and steep sanctions.
To make matters worse, sometimes, schools may not define precisely what is meant by a ‘failure to progress' scenario. They will leave determining unsatisfactory progress up to your teachers, which can result in vague, biased, or difficult-to-decipher standards.
So, while the types of actions that could merit this type of attention can vary, the following could represent some examples:
- The repeated failure to prepare materials for coursework or for lab experiences
- Repeated incompletes, withdrawals, or attempted withdrawals for your courses
- Repeated or allegedly unimproved grades on a series of course exams
- The repeated failure to complete background activities (such as required reading) for your courses
- The failure to complete course requirements, as determined by your educators or stated in your course curriculum
- The failure to take on a minimum acceptable number of credits for your student status
While hearing that your school is less than impressed by your hard work is devastating enough, it can be even more stressful to find that your school could dismiss or suspend you as a result. If you get suspended, not only could your reputation be harmed in the long run, but you could also find that you're immediately no longer eligible for scholarships, financial aid, and even membership in your social clubs or sports teams. That makes it very important that you don't disregard your school's warnings.
Instead, you need to speak with a student defense attorney as quickly as possible so you can review your options and make strategic decisions from the very beginning.
In addition to failure to progress scenarios, your school will likely have a similarly harsh stance on code of conduct infractions. We'll discuss those next.
What Are the Different Types of Code of Conduct Infractions at My Mississippi School?
Your school's code of conduct (typically a lengthy document found on your school's website or included as a part of your student handbook) contains a long list of expectations your school has regarding your behavior as a student. It will also contain procedures defining what your school will do in the event that a student breaks the code of conduct.
While no two codes of conduct are the same, there are some general infractions that all schools consider punishable. Therefore, while it's a good idea to review your own school's code of conduct to brush up on any unique scenarios or policy language at your school, we can provide some general examples here. (As noted above, we'll use the University of Mississippi code of conduct as an example.)
There are two basic types of code of conduct infractions: Sexual misconduct and academic integrity issues.
What constitutes sexual misconduct at my Mississippi school?
Sexual misconduct is a hot-button issue at many schools in the United States right now. In every state, schools are providing increasingly severe sanctions for a wide variety of behaviors deemed inappropriate for college students.
Depending on the atmosphere and standards at your school, the list of frowned-upon behaviors can be unique. However, most schools will recommend steep sanctions for rape, stalking, domestic and dating violence, incest, and sexual exploitation. At your school, making an inappropriate joke could also be on the list. All it takes is for one victim (or bystander) to file an allegation of sexual misconduct, and your school's eyes will be on you.
Why? As it turns out, there's a federal regulation (Title IX, part of the Educational Amendment of 1972) that incentivizes schools to respond to all allegations of sexual misconduct in a timely manner. If your school fails to do so, it will be at risk of losing federal funding. This may result in rushed, sloppy, and not-particularly empathetic investigations from your school.
As with failure to progress cases, you need to be very careful and proactive. If your school decides that you are responsible for prohibited sexual behaviors and makes a note on your student record, that will follow you around for years (if not the rest of your life). This can even be the case if you're innocent or if the allegation was the result of a misunderstanding.
The moment you suspect that a sexual misconduct or Title IX investigation could be in your future, you need to reach out to a student defense attorney. These kinds of cases can snowball out of control more quickly than you'd imagine, and the stakes are too high for you to skimp on your defense or preparation.
What's the difference between failure to progress and academic misconduct? How will my Mississippi school respond?
We touched briefly on academic issues and concerns outside of your school's code of conduct a moment ago. Now, let's draw a quick distinction between failure to progress scenarios and real academic integrity issues. The fundamental difference comes down to rule-breaking. If you're failing to keep up to your educator's standards, that can happen without technically stepping a single toe out of line.
With academic misconduct, typically, you will be breaking a rule that exists either in your educator's curriculum or in your school's code of conduct. With that distinction in mind, let's review some of the most common types of prohibited actions in this category:
- Plagiarism. This happens when a student uses another person's work or words without proper citation.
- Cheating. This happens when a student uses unauthorized materials or methods to give them an unfair advantage over their peers.
- Unauthorized access of materials. This happens when a student tries to access resources that clearly weren't meant for them—e.g., an exam or an answer key.
- Destruction of school property. This happens when a student destroys a book or breaks lab equipment (for example).
- Unauthorized collaboration. This happens when two or more students work together on a project or test that should have been undertaken alone.
Your school may have more specific examples of academic misconduct, so it's key to review your school's codes to make sure you're not missing anything.
In particular, most schools will take a rather liberal stance when recommending punishments for involved students (even those tangentially involved). For example, if someone else borrows your homework and copies it without your knowledge, you could still be at risk for sanctions.
Often, with academic integrity issues, the sanction could actually be catered to the offense. Your educator might give you a failing grade for the assignment that you (allegedly) cheated on. If the problem persists or if your school believes that you are responsible for serious misconduct, your school may recommend a suspension or a dismissal instead.
What about other types of misconduct at my Mississippi school?
Although sexual and academic misconduct tends to be the largest categories of prohibited behaviors, there are other examples of actions that could result in sanctions from your school. While these can vary from school to school, some examples of these more general infractions are:
- Inappropriate alcohol or drug use. Schools tend to mirror local laws when it comes to the use of controlled substances or alcohol. If a student is under twenty-one, they cannot drink or possess alcohol. The use of recreational drugs is largely prohibited.
- Residential misconduct. The safety of your school's dormitories is likely a top priority for your school. As such, your school will probably come down harshly on instances of theft or violence that occur in residence halls.
- Hate crimes. If you're involved in any type of prank or violence that could be associated with the alleged victim's race, religion, culture, or identity, you could be deemed responsible for a hate crime.
- Hazing. Does your sports team, fraternity or sorority, or social club have intricate and possibly injurious or embarrassing initiation rituals? If any of these rituals go too far, your school could suspend you for hazing.
Whether you're involved in academic misconduct, sexual misconduct, a general infraction, or simply failing to progress, your school's processes will kick into action when your school receives an allegation against you.
What Happens After My Mississippi School Receives an Allegation with My Name On It?
After your school receives information about your alleged misdeeds, your school representatives will take some time to consider whether to follow up on the allegation. If those representatives decide that they want to know more, you'll experience some version of the following sequence of events:
- Your school will notify you that they will be investigating your recent actions. This could involve speaking to your educator, witnesses, going through your school records, and even your social media. If you haven't already, now is an excellent time to make sure you retain an excellent student defense attorney. Now's also a good time to make sure that you gather as much information as possible yourself, so you can start to work towards a cohesive, strong defense.
- You'll meet with a representative from your school once your school's investigation is complete. This could range from a one-on-one with your educator all the way to a full formal hearing in front of a panel of school representatives. At this meeting, you will hear the allegations against you, review the evidence your school has compiled, and have a chance to tell your side of the story. Your school may or may not allow you to have an advisor in the room with you. If this is the case, your advisor will coach you and make sure you're comfortable saying the things you need to say.
- At the end of the meeting, your school will come to a decision regarding your responsibility and issue recommendations for sanctions.
What about due process for failing to progress?
Your school's procedures for meting out punishments in failure to progress scenarios may be a little less defined. Your educator may recommend sanctions immediately or escalate the case to the administration. You may be put on academic probation. You may receive a failing grade, which you'll then need to appeal in order to avoid hefty ramifications.
We'll discuss general appeal procedures in a later section. For now, know that you need to realize that you're not facing a hopeless situation. The moment you realize that your educator is less-than-satisfied with your progress, contact an attorney. They'll be able to assess your situation and help you make sure your school doesn't treat you unfairly during this stressful time.
What Sanctions Will My Mississippi School Recommend for Me?
If you delve into your school's conflict resolution processes, you'll find that (at least on paper) there are a lot of potential sanctions on the table. For example, your school might indicate that they will take great pains to select a punishment that fits the crime. Then, your school might list out potential sanctions that feel wide-ranging. For example:
- Written warnings
- Mandated course changes
- Loss of privileges
- Loss of scholarship
- Monetary fines
- Housing changes
- Behavioral contracts
For better or for worse, you'll find that by far the most common sanctions actually recommended are expulsions and suspensions.
Now, you may have just breathed a sigh of relief. For many, a suspension may seem easier to weather than, say, an unpleasant change in your housing situation. Here's why a suspension is still a very big deal:
Whether your school makes an official note on your student record or transcript detailing your disciplinary experiences or there's just a gap on your transcript because of your suspension, people are going to be able to tell from your public school records that something fishy happened while you were at school. Later in life, when you're interviewing for a great job or a necessary internship, you'll be asked to explain what happened.
Your interviewers will be less than impressed by your disciplinary tale. Even if you were demonstrably innocent and can argue that convincingly, it's hard to undo the damage a past suspension can do to your future job prospects. You'll find that your disciplinary experiences can close a lot of doors for you that would have otherwise been wide open.
At the Lento Law Firm, we don't think that's acceptable. You need to be able to enjoy the degree that you've worked hard for. That's why we're here to empower you to protect your reputation and your future. We'll continue by discussing strategic appeal practices at Mississippi schools.
How Do I File an Appeal at My Mississippi School?
After your school issues a decision regarding your responsibility and a recommendation for disciplinary sanctions, it should send you a written summary and some information about next steps. One of these next steps is an appeal, should you decide not to just accept your suspension or expulsion.
You'll likely only have a few business days to file your appeal. At many schools, the appeal needs to be filed within five business days of the hearing. Additionally, you will only have one shot at an appeal. Whether your school indicates that it's open to negotiations or holds firm on your sanctions, one appeal is all you have to work with.
It's therefore in your best interest to make it a good one. This is why it's best to have your student defense attorney working with you before this point, so you don't have to waste precious time at this juncture searching for someone to work with. Your attorney will be familiar with your case and your school's procedures, so they can help you pull together evidence and a persuasive argument to file for your school.
After you send your documents to your school's representative (often the Dean of Students), you'll wait for their reply. If your school is ready to reconsider your sanction, your student defense attorney will help you work towards a better outcome. If not, it may be time to consider more drastic action.
What if It's Time to Sue My School in Mississippi?
Deciding to pursue litigation against your school can feel like a huge decision. It is. However, it can be remarkably effective.
On the other hand, lawsuits can be expensive and frustrating. Suing your school will also make it unlikely that you'll be able to continue being a student there.
We recommend trying another avenue, first. Your student defense advisor can speak directly with your school's general counsel to see if they can smooth the situation over, lawyer-to-lawyer. Your advisor can help your school's legal team realize that it's in everyone's best interest to find a workable compromise. At the Lento Law Firm, we've seen great results when we've employed this strategy.
Before you file a suit, it's a good idea to consider filing an official complaint with the Mississippi Commission on College Accreditation. Your advisor can also help you put this together and assist with making sure you're addressing the right person. This external authority may be able to exert some pressure on your school, and, if anything else, this will help provide the basis for a lawsuit.
If it does seem that a lawsuit is in your future, your defense advisor will review your case to see if you have the basis for a strong one. Your advisor will help you from there!
Are There Other Mississippi Laws I Should Know About as a College Student?
Yes, there are. While the majority of the things you do should be primarily governed by campus codes, anytime you set foot off-campus, you'll need to follow any local laws that could be in place. These will include the following:
- Mississippi Laws about Drinking and Driving: Mississippi has zero-tolerance for people driving under the influence. You'll receive severe punishments if you do so.
- Mississippi Tenant Responsibilities: Live off-campus? Great! You'll need to make sure you pay your rent on time and otherwise follow all of your rental agreement stipulations.
- Mississippi False Identification Laws: Mississippi frowns upon showing a fake ID to a police officer or attempting to use one to purchase alcohol.
Mississippi's statute of limitations laws defines the amount of time after an event during which involved parties can initiate lawsuits. For many reasons, it's good to keep these in mind.
Statute of Limitations Laws in Mississippi
- Injury to Person: Three years
- Libel: One year
- Slander: One year
- Injury to Personal Property: Three years
- Contracts: Three years
- Judgments: Seven years
If this seems like a lot of info to take in, that's because it is! Bookmark this page for future reference, and, in the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns, you know who to call.
Mississippi Students: Call Joseph D. Lento for Timely Assistance and Expertise
Do you feel prepared to take on a student misconduct or failure to progress investigation and adjudication all by yourself?
If not, we're here for you. And, if you feel you are prepared, think again. These codes of conduct and academic assessment procedures can be incredibly stressful, triggering, and even traumatic. The emotional onslaught alone will be too much to handle on your own, even before you get to the necessity of navigating complicated legalese, filing persuasive appeal documents, arguing your case before a dispassionate panel of school representatives, and handling the realities of an investigation strategically while managing your life as a full-time student.
There's a lot going on.
When you suspect that you could have a disciplinary case to manage, reach out to Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm as quickly as is possible. Early on in your case, Joseph D. Lento can use his years of experience and expertise to assess your situation, compile the most strategic case possible for you, coach you through a difficult hearing, and more.
For years, Joseph D. Lento has helped students in your precise situation get where they need to be. He can do the same for you. Give Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm a call today at 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation. Interested in learning more and getting a timely response from our team? Complete our online contact form.
Are you a student or the parent of a student at a Mississippi college or university facing a school-related issue? Attorney Joseph D. Lento can help. Click on the following links as applicable for more information: