Are you a student or the parent of student at a New York 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 at the school level and in court in New York and across the United States. 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 New York protect their academic and professional future, and he can do the same for you. Contact him today at 888-535-3686.
An Overview of New York Student Discipline and Student Rights
From NYU to Syracuse University, Fordham University, and Cornell, New York is home to many high-quality public and private colleges. No matter which New York college you attend, you'll have the opportunity to make friends, explore your interests, and work towards a life-changing degree.
Unfortunately, when you're in college, you're often at risk for other life-changing situations. Instances of unfair allegations of all kinds of misconduct—from academic dishonesty to sexual assault—are rising in the country. So, too, are instances of colleges cracking down on even alleged student misconduct.
If you attend a New York school, you're going to need to know how to manage your case in the state of New York. Whether you're a Native New Yorker or are moving to New York from out of state to attend school, you might not have any idea how to do that. You'll have to know details about New York laws, understand the complicated language of your school's code of conduct, prepare a strategic argument for your innocence, and more—all while continuing your courses as a college student.
Doing this successfully when you're out on your own for the first time can seem daunting. It is. You may not know where to turn. You may not know if there's anyone you can trust.
At the Lento Law Firm, it's our job to make sure that you have access to the resources you need. For years, we've been working hard to help college students like you fight for their rights and protect their futures. If you need any assistance with misconduct cases, we're the ones to call.
In the meantime, here's what you need to know as a college student in New York.
What are some of the biggest private and public universities in New York?
Whether you're attending a private or a public New York university, you have great options for academic success. Some of the top private universities in New York State include:
- Columbia University
- Cornell University
- Barnard College
- Colgate University
- New York University
- Hamilton College
- Vassar College
- University of Rochester
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
The Empire State is also home to several public academic institutions, including SUNY and CUNY. We'll use SUNY as an example to help illustrate the ways that a public or private university in New York would likely investigate and adjudicate a matter of student misconduct. While public and private schools may have slightly different ways for managing their cases, they're largely the same. For example, the following laws apply to both public and private colleges and universities in the state of New York:
Education Law §218 and 8 NYCRR §3.46: New York schools can only confer degrees if its charter or the state's Board of Regents authorizes it to do so. The Board of Regents determines whether the school has the resources to do this properly.
8 NYCRR §13.2: The state's Commissioner can rescind the registration of any New York school that doesn't maintain appropriate instruction and equipment standards or report to the Department of Education on a regular basis.
Education Law §607 and 8 NYCRR Part 53: All New York higher education institutions need to include information in their school catalogs about financial and institutional aid for their students.
Education Law §6430: All New York institutions of higher education must adopt rules to maintain public order on campus, and all schools must file these rules with the state's Commissioner.
Since these rules (and others) are in place, it's important to realize that while your path towards justice might be a little different if you attend a private school, you do have options. Your attorney will be able to direct you towards the best avenues for recourse, depending on the particulars of your case.
What are the main types of student misconduct punishable at New York colleges?
While the specific named infractions may differ slightly from university to university, most schools will specifically call out and adjudicate academic misconduct and sexual misconduct.
According to the University at Albany-SUNY's academic integrity page, the following actions are examples of punishable academic misconduct:
- Accidental plagiarism
- Multiple Submission
- Unauthorized Collaboration
- Classroom Disruption
- Theft or Damage of School Materials
While the specific punishable actions at your university may differ slightly, these actions—particularly plagiarism and cheating—are the common ones.
New York schools handle the other main type of misconduct, sexual misconduct, under Title IX.
What is Title IX?
Title IX is a federal rights law, one that the United States first implemented as part of the Education Amendments of 1972. This law bans all discrimination on the basis of sex in both public and private schools—any school that receives any federal funding. Even if a school doesn't receive any government funding, it tends to have a Title IX provision anyway to keep its students safe and to keep itself eligible for federal funding.
Under Title IX, schools need to quickly investigate any allegations of sexual misconduct.
SUNY-Plattsburgh's code of conduct defines ‘sexual misconduct' with the following list of examples:
- Seeking sexual favors in return for academic benefits
- Undesired, intentional physical contact
- Unwanted sexual advances or propositions
- Sexually oriented noises, gestures, jokes, remarks, or comments that create a hostile environment
- Hostile actions taken against another because of their orientation, sex, gender expression, or identity
- Sexual assault
- Sexual exploitation
- Tampering with birth control and STI prevention
- Nonconsensual video or audio taping of any sexual activities
- Inducing incapacitation in another with the intent of sexual assault
- Statutory rape
- Dating violence
- Domestic violence
What happens after a New York college receives an allegation of misconduct?
A school's system for navigating the investigation of misconduct and recommending disciplinary action is called due process—or, sometimes, a grievance procedure. While the specifics of your New York school's due process may be unique to your school, the general process will include:
- A notification sent to all involved parties.
- An investigation into the alleged incident.
- A meeting or hearing in which the accused party has a chance to review all of the collected information.
- A chance for the accused party to make a statement arguing for their interest.
- A chance to cross-examine any witnesses, if the hearing is part of a Title IX adjudication process.
- A period of time for the school to review all information and arguments.
- A decision from the university regarding the responsibility for the alleged incident.
- A recommendation from the university regarding any disciplinary or supportive measures.
After this process, the student deemed responsible for the alleged incident will have to carry out or experience the supportive or disciplinary measures. These measures may differ from university to university, but there are some standards that all students facing punitive measures can expect. For example, to some extent, the punishment should fit the crime. A smaller charge of plagiarism may result in mandatory participation in a plagiarism course, or a failing grade for a specific assignment. On the other hand, most colleges and universities will recommend expulsion for any serious charge of sexual misconduct.
No matter the specific disciplinary action your school recommends, your school will likely make a note in your transcript regarding the alleged violation. Even though this may seem inconsequential next to the other punishment you may face, this is the consequence that may have the most long-lasting repercussions. Whenever you apply to a job or a new academic program in the future, the people awarding that opportunity will request your transcript and see that note. This will likely make them think (at least) twice about the opportunity they have to offer.
In other words, even a small allegation of misconduct can make your future a lot more difficult than it needs to be. You need to make sure that this doesn't happen.
Fortunately, you do have options. For example, if you feel that your recommended punishment is disproportionate, if you can demonstrate that your school exhibited any procedural anomalies, or if you find any new information or evidence that was not available at the time of the initial investigation, you may have the basis for an appeal.
Can I appeal my disciplinary decision at my New York college or university?
Yes, you will be able to initiate the appeal process at your university—but it's only recommended that you do so if you have the basis for a strong, strategic appeal. SUNY Broome's appeals resources note that you will need to send a formal appeal letter within two days of the school's official decision, however. While some schools may allow a slightly longer period of time (perhaps five days), your appeal is something that you will need to consider quickly.
At most schools, you only get one chance to appeal. After you go through the appeals process—which involves a strategic letter from you that clearly outlines the process violation or new information that underlies your appeal—the school will respond. That response is final. Your school will either recommend the same punishment or an updated one; after that, you will have exhausted your school's stated methods for pursuing justice.
Do I have any options after the appeals process to pursue justice against my New York school?
Yes. In more severe circumstances, you do have the option to pursue litigation against your school. This is an extreme measure that will likely terminate your relationship with your school, but an effective one that can help you achieve the end you want. It's definitely not a step to take without a student defense attorney at your side.
There are several reasons you might wish to sue your school. For example, if you have experienced any of the following, you may have the basis for a lawsuit:
- Sexual harassment
- Child abuse
- Personal injuries
- Unfair suspension
- Unfair expulsion
- Unfair maintaining of records
- Unlawful disclosure of records
- Inadequate accommodations for special education
- Failure to return property
Since pursuing litigation against your school is such a final step, it's a good idea to make sure that you've explored other avenues first. For example, prior to filing a lawsuit against your school, consider these steps:
- Make sure that you've completely gone through the normal process of adjudication at your school, including the appeals process.
- File a complaint with the New York State Education Department. This department oversees all schools in the state. Working with the state can be an effective way to apply pressure to your school without going to court. The state will not work with you until you've exhausted all avenues for relief through your school's system, so make sure that you attempt these actions in order.
- Seek advice and expertise from a qualified, experienced, and empathetic student defense lawyer. If you haven't been working with someone up until now, you absolutely need to at this juncture. Don't work with a local lawyer who does not have demonstrated experience helping students with these types of suits. They require a very specialized, niche set of skills; it's far better to work with someone who has done this before (successfully) than to work with someone nearby who hasn't.
Be prepared for the ramifications of suing your school. It will be very difficult to restore any relationship with your school that you had prior to the suit. If this is the best way to protect your reputation, just make sure you know what you're getting into and that you're working with someone you trust.
What are the relevant statutes of limitations for issues that college students might face in New York?
If you're considering bringing a lawsuit against your school, it's important to know that you may only have a specific window of time in which you can do so. This is a finite amount of time after an incident happens, referred to as the state's statute of limitations. Different issues will have different statutes of limitations. For example, in New York, the following common issues have the following time limits on resultant court action:
- Injury to Person: 3 years.
- Libel or Slander: 1 year.
- Fraud: 6 years.
- Injury to Personal Property: 3 years.
- Trespassing: 3 years.
- Collection of Rents: 6 years.
- Collection of Debt: 6 years.
In addition, there are several laws in New York State that college students should likely be aware of. These laws include:
- New York Penal Law Section 220, which governs the consumption and possession of controlled substances
- Section 65-C of the Consolidated Laws of the New York State Senate, which governs the consumption of alcohol by minors
- Section 120.00 of the Consolidated Laws of the New York State Senate, which governs assault against another person
While your school will have its own codes of conduct regarding the way that you act on campus, it's always a good idea to know what the laws in your state are. They may influence the way your school investigates or adjudicates code of conduct violations, and these laws may apply to you if you are involved in misconduct off-campus.
What do I do if I'm accused of academic, sexual, or general misconduct at my New York college or university?
If you've received a notice of misconduct from your school, you're likely worried about what's going to happen next. You may wonder if there's anyone you can trust, or if there's really a way that you can get through this without any serious negative repercussions.
Alternatively, you could just be wondering if this is really something to take seriously.
It is. Remember, your future and your reputation are on the line. It's worth working hard now to make sure that you don't regret this disciplinary action later. It's also important to remember that you're not alone during this confusing time. You shouldn't trust anyone at your school, however, because you are now in an adversarial position against your school—particularly if you plan on pursuing litigation against your school if you need to.
In order to maximize your chances of success during your school's disciplinary process, consider the following courses of action:
- Start by learning as much as possible about what actually happened. Whether the allegations against you are true or false, your school is going to start with an investigation—so you should, as well. Collect all of the information you can about the alleged incident. This may include social media posts, texts, emails, or anything else that you and others can review to determine what happened. Write down everything that you can remember regarding the incident, and think carefully about the events that led up to the incident.
- Do not confide in other people, even your trusted circle of friends. During your school's investigation, your school may reach out to your acquaintances for more details about what occurred. Do not give anyone these details, even if you believe that they show you in a favorable light.
- Become an expert on your New York school's code of conduct. This is a lengthy document that should be available on your school's website. Alternatively, your school should have sent you a copy when you first became an official student (it might be in your student handbook, for example). Read all sections of your code of conduct that pertain to the alleged offense. The notice of misconduct that your school sent you should include some reference to a specific section of the code of conduct, but do your due diligence and read as much as you can. Make sure, too, to read the section of your school's code of conduct that discusses due process, grievance procedures, student rights, potential punitive measures, and appeals. As you go through your school's adjudicative process, make sure you're keeping track of what's actually happening and comparing it to your school's policies. If you notice any discrepancies, make sure your attorney knows about them.
- Find and work with a highly experienced student defense attorney. Even if you feel like this is overkill or unnecessary, at least consult with a professional. Why? There's too much at stake to leave these procedures up to chance, and student misconduct hearings can balloon out of control very quickly and easily. In addition, you're stressed—justifiably so. You're overwhelmed. You're scared. You're much too close to the matter to work out an objectively solid strategy. You only get one chance, in many cases, to represent yourself at a hearing or to file an appeal. It's in your best interest to ensure that your arguments are as good as they possibly can be. Working with a student defense attorney is the best way to ensure that every word you write and say is as well-placed as possible to do you the maximum amount of good.
New York College Students, Call the Lento Law Firm for the Help You Need
If you're a New York college student, there's a lot of information you need to learn—quickly. When something confusing happens, you need to know how to protect yourself and your reputation. If you're moving to NY from out-of-state, this could include a lot of legal language you've never heard before. Even if you're familiar with NY, there are likely lots of things—like the possibility of having to pursue litigation against your school—that you've never even considered.
When you need help with legal issues in New York, it's important to remember that you don't need to work with the legal offices that are physically in your town. They might not have the best expertise or experience; they're just nearby. Instead, you need to find a lawyer who's been successfully practicing legal defense for a long time. At the Lento Law Firm, we're proud to specialize in the issues that students face—nationwide and in New York. Whether you need help with a student misconduct case, negotiating a lesser sanction, or pursuing your options against your school, Joseph D. Lento will be there to help.
Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888.535.3686 to learn more about our services, or reach out to us online.