Some people say that the four years of high school are the best years of one's life. Of course, that doesn't ring true for any student who has been accused of misconduct, especially if they are suspended or dismissed as a result.
While it can be time-consuming and emotionally draining to remedy such a seemingly disastrous situation, it's not impossible. With an experienced, compassionate ally on the student's side, advising them at every step of the way and advocating for their rights, a dismissal or expulsion can be cleared up. In other words, there's no reason for one's high school experience to become the worst years of their life.
A Moment of Misconduct Can Have Devastating Consequences
Teenagers are notorious for making poor decisions. That's due in part to the fact that their brains aren't yet fully developed. The prefrontal cortex—which is responsible for abilities like prioritizing, making plans, decision making, and controlling impulsive behavior—does not mature until the mid- or even late-20s.
Add to that teenagers' uncertainty and insecurity. While jockeying for popularity or trying to impress a prospective romantic partner, high-school kids might blurt out inappropriate statements or make a questionable TikTok. They could engage in risky behavior like shoplifting, cutting classes, drinking alcohol, experimenting with drugs, or having unsafe sex.
Many times, the consequences for such behavior are relatively mild: getting grounded, losing the use of their cellphone, or waking up with a hangover. In other situations, however, a moment's indiscretion can set off a truly ruinous chain reaction.
False Accusations of Misconduct Are Also Alarmingly Common
Everyone, teens and adults alike, has made a questionable choice at some point in their past. But what happens when the alleged misconduct didn't take place at all or when the accusations are way out of proportion?
False allegations are more common than you might think. A completely innocent text or an idle tweet can be misconstrued or taken out of context, potentially leading to a Title IX violation.
The administrators tasked with handling misconduct incidents could make assumptions that aren't remotely based on fact. They might attribute wrongdoing to students they consider troublemakers, the “frequent flyers” who have committed numerous past transgressions.
Another frightening scenario occurs when a fellow student fabricates a falsehood out of whole cloth regarding the alleged transgressor's actions. This time it's the so-called “victim” who lets their impulsive brain be influenced by strong emotion. Sometimes teenagers lash out at their peers because of rejection, jealousy, competition, prejudice, or even a completely unrelated stressor—a stressful home life or some personal trauma. In some cases, a troubled student may attempt to deflect blame for a fight, an act of vandalism, or other misbehavior, and attribute the offense to an innocent party.
In a culture that often assigns immediate and irrevocable credence to harassment and abuse claims made by an alleged victim, even students who have an otherwise impeccable track record can find themselves on the receiving end of unfair allegations. It can be difficult to fight back against false charges, whether the accusations relate to Title IX violations, drug or alcohol use, or other disciplinary violations. That's especially true when the judgment has been swift and excessively punitive—as in cases of suspension or dismissal.
Consequences of Expulsion or Dismissal From High School
Academic suspension, probation, or other warnings often have the intended result: they serve as a wake-up call to the student (and inform their parents or guardians, who may be unaware that an issue exists until they learn that the school has taken such steps). Being expelled or dismissed, on the other hand, can carry with them consequences that could impact the student and their family now and for years to come.
Especially in smaller schools or communities, it can be embarrassing, even shameful, to get kicked out of high school. The former student might be forced to go into the workforce far earlier than they had anticipated.
A teenager who becomes depressed and possibly bored after getting dismissed could turn to drugs or alcohol or crime to cope. They might leave home to save their parents the embarrassment of this “failure” and end up living on the streets or in similarly dire straits.
However, the most common consequence of misconduct in high school is a black mark on the student's record—which can completely alter the course of their life. The student's aspirations for college and a professional career, while not entirely out of the picture, may be much more difficult to achieve, depending on the discipline incurred.
The potential damage here is two-fold. First, there are the practical hurdles. It's impossible to get into a college or university without a high school diploma or GED. Even if the student does graduate, the disciplinary action, as well as the behavior that necessitated it, will be on their record, and it can make admissions officers reluctant to take a risk on that individual. This is especially germane, of course, in schools that are highly competitive.
And then there are the emotional repercussions—low self-esteem, shattered confidence, plummeting motivation, or a sense of worthlessness or purposelessness—that are potentially debilitating.
What Recourse Do Students Have In Such Circumstances?
It's an unfortunate fact that students accused of academic misconduct aren't afforded the same protections that criminal defendants are. There's no guarantee that due process will be served or that the accused will have their day in any court—except that of public opinion. Many times, they and their family will find themselves reeling from the rapid action taken by the school district before they can even wrap their head around the charges.
When handled effectively by an experienced professional, issues such as suspension or expulsion can be resolved favorably at the school level. This will save the student and their family time, money, a tremendous amount of potential stress, and the embarrassment of a battle that plays out publicly in the local or regional spotlight.
While a lot of folks, put in a similar situation, would threaten to sue the academic institution, this approach is not ideal, at least as an opening salvo. Although parents can and do bring lawsuits against their school district to effect results and get their student back on a productive academic track, many such conflicts can be resolved with less-aggressive and lower-stress tactics.
The Lento Law Firm Difference
This is precisely where the invaluable services of an advocate-attorney come in. Engaging legal assistance isn't necessarily as aggressively litigious as it may sound, however. Here at The Lento Law Firm, we have a proven record of resolving suspension and dismissal incidents with civilized and effective arbitration.
Rather than going on the offensive and attacking the district with both barrels blazing, Joseph D. Lento will take a different tack. His approach involves civilized discussion and the time-honored technique of negotiation. As an attorney-advocate, Mr. Lento stands apart from adversarial legal firms that promise to prevail at any cost. Instead, he and his team will reach out to the school district's Office of General Counsel (or equivalent) to broker a mutually beneficial outcome.
What's more, The Lento Law Firm team members not only have extensive experience dealing with misconduct charges they also have established relationships with administrators and other officials at many high schools around the country. In many cases, they have an existing professional history with employees in the Office of General Counsel and/or attorneys who have previously represented the schools. Joseph D. Lento and his colleagues, therefore, are uniquely positioned not only to negotiate on their clients' behalf—but also to achieve the very best possible results for those students and their families. Call 888.535.3686 for help.