Where We Can Help - North Dakota

College students in North Dakota, take notice: it's time to get serious about protecting your college career — and your reputation.

Whether it's you attending an institution of higher education in North Dakota or your child is a current college student, you should be aware that it's a potentially risky time to be a college student. It's all too easy for innocent, hard-working students to become the victim of false allegations of misconduct — or failing to progress as quickly as their teachers believe standard.

It's also very easy for a mistake, a miscommunication, or any type of understanding to escalate extremely quickly. As a result, allegations of misconduct could be swirling around your student before you're aware of what's happening.

Unfortunately, these allegations are far from simple. They're serious, and they can have long-term consequences.

Think about what might happen if, while you or your student is working towards a degree, they find themselves accused of:

  • Cheating
  • Plagiarizing
  • Sexual misconduct
  • Residential misconduct

Being associated with any of these types of misconduct can result in disciplinary notations on your permanent record or even gaps in your transcript that won't look good to future employers. The same thing can even happen if your educator accuses you of failing to progress.

All in all, college can be a very stressful time.

To make sure that you or your child has the best chance possible of graduating with a degree and a clean reputation, it's important that you know what you're up against.

Here, in this helpful guide, we're laying out the top things that a North Dakota college student needs to know before they get involved in a misconduct situation. Bookmark this page for later reference and know that the Lento Law Firm is here to assist should you require a strong student defense.

What Private and Public Colleges and Universities Are in North Dakota?

North Dakota — also known as the “Peace Garden State” — is home to many high-quality academic institutions. To give a solid foundation for this article, we'll begin by listing some of the most well-known private and public institutions of higher education in North Dakota.

Public schools in North Dakota

  • University of North Dakota
  • North Dakota State University
  • Minot State University
  • Mayville State University
  • Valley City State University
  • Dickinson State University
  • Bismarck State College
  • Sitting Bull College
  • Fort Berthold Community College

With just under 15,000 students, the University of North Dakota is the largest university system in the state. As such, the University of North Dakota's policies and procedures — including the school's code of conduct — are good examples of the types of standards and processes that many schools in the state will have.

However, your specific school may have different types of policies or designated punishable behaviors. We'll use the University of North Dakota's policies throughout this guide whenever we need an illustrative example, but it's always a good idea to check your school's own documentation for any unique information.

Private schools in North Dakota

  • University of Mary
  • University of Jamestown
  • Trinity Bible College
  • Sanford College of Nursing

While many private colleges and universities may enjoy a little more latitude than many public schools — schools that may, after all, actually have their processes embedded in state legislation — it's a fallacy to believe that private schools don't have to follow federal or state laws.

The majority of private universities will follow similar (if not the same) laws that public schools do. At the very least, schools will do so in order to remain eligible for state or federal funding. There are other government regulations, such as Title IX, that many private schools will largely follow in order to offer their students a competitive, consistent, and safe college experience.

We'll finish out this section by discussing a few of the state-specific governmental bodies or groups that oversee how both private and public schools in North Dakota are run.

Statewide Higher Education Laws and Government Bodies in North Dakota

  • The North Dakota Courts System has laid out a series of sections that oversees the way that the state's Board of Higher Education works.
  • The Higher Education Committee of the North Dakota Legislative Branch oversees the institutions governed by the state's Board of Higher Education.
  • Further, North Dakota is in the Eighth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. From time to time, this court will issue an opinion on an academic case — which may influence the way your school is able to run. It's worth keeping an eye on, just in case!

Now that we've discussed some of the various ways North Dakota schools are organized and governed, let's start to talk about the various allegations North Dakota college students could receive.

What “Failing to Progress” Means at Your North Dakota School

Vague, embarrassing, and oddly threatening: An accusation of ‘failing to progress' may only confuse students and their parents the first time they hear it. What does failing to progress even mean — and what might happen as a result of an allegation?

Failing to progress represents a wide range of academic issues. If your teacher can demonstrate that you are not moving as quickly through their curriculum as expected, for example, they may be able to trigger unfortunate consequences for you. These consequences can range from a failing grade all the way to a suspension (or even a dismissal).

This may feel surprising. After all, your school's primary mission is to educate you and support your academic growth. If you're struggling, shouldn't your school help you instead of slapping you with sanctions?

Your school may profess that as a value, but when push comes to shove, you may find that your school doesn't treat you that well. Instead of demonstrating flexibility and support (e.g., introducing options for extended deadlines, tutoring, or even mental health services), your teacher and school could just fail you and move on.

Whether you're looking at low grades or a suspension, you need to know that you have options. You don't just have to accept unfair or unsupportive treatment and a sanction that could affect your entire future.

If your teacher is accusing you of failure to progress, they could be referring to the following actions:

  • Failing to prepare specific (required) materials for courses or labs
  • Repeatedly earning incompletes in courses
  • Failing to take an adequate or minimum number of credits for either your program or your specific student status
  • Repeatedly withdrawing from courses
  • Repeatedly or consistently low grades in your coursework
  • Failing to do the background reading for your courses
  • Failing to do everything that is required for your course (e.g., as denoted in your course curriculum)

This is a non-exhaustive list. Unfortunately, deciding what qualifies as a failure to progress is almost exclusively up to your educator. If you and your educator don't have the best of relationships, you could easily find yourself in a very frustrating situation.

Academic failure to progress scenarios can also spiral out of control very quickly. If you believe that your instructor could be accusing you of these or related actions, you need to contact a student defense attorney as soon as possible to avoid outsized consequences.

What Are Code of Conduct Infractions?

On one level, code of conduct infractions are easy to define: They're actions that violate a school's code of conduct.

Navigating code of conduct regulations and disciplinary processes for infractions can be extremely tough. Here's a quick overview of the basic information you'll need to know.

What is a code of conduct?

A code of conduct is a lengthy, likely-confusing document that your school has put together to create a type of standard for approved behavior. Your school's code of conduct should include, among other things, a list of behaviors that your school considers punishable, as well as policies regarding the processes your school will employ after a code of conduct infraction.

This document will be full of confusing legalese and stressful potential punishments. Understanding what can actually happen after a code of conduct violation requires specific experience dealing with misconduct matters, which is why you'll need a student defense attorney to assist you if you're in this situation.

You should have received your school's code of conduct during orientation. It may also be a part of your school's handbook. If you need to find another copy, check out your school's website; it should be very easy to find there. (Search your school's name and the phrase “code of conduct” online if you're having any difficulties.)

There are two main types of misconduct that most schools recognize: Sexual misconduct and academic integrity issues.

Sexual Misconduct at Your North Dakota School

Sexual misconduct is another vague term, but it's one that most American schools will take extremely seriously. An allegation of sexual misconduct might concern any of the following actions: sexual exploitation, domestic or dating violence, stalking, incest, or rape.

Clearly, these are concerning and dangerous behaviors. If any of these has actually occurred, your school does need to investigate and take action to protect its students.

However, that is not a complete list of actions that could result in an allegation of sexual misconduct. Depending on the culture and environment at your school, any number of things could influence someone to file an allegation. This could range from simply telling a lewd joke to a wildly misunderstood comment. Miscommunications and mistakes also lead to allegations of sexual infractions on a regular basis.

Regardless of the truth or severity of the allegation, your school is required to at least investigate the matter. Under Title IX, a federal regulation first established as one of the Educational Amendments of 1972, schools in the United States must investigate all allegations of sexual misconduct in a timely manner or risk losing their funding. This may be a big enough incentive to jeopardize the integrity of the investigation — or result in poor treatment of the alleged perpetrator of the misconduct.

Whether your school decides that you're responsible for the alleged action or not, even being associated with an investigation into sexual misconduct can result in a lot of damage done to a student's reputation. If you believe that a sexual misconduct investigation is in your future, reach out to an expert student defense advisor to give yourself the best chance of a favorable outcome.

Academic Misconduct at Your North Dakota School

Academic misconduct differs from failure to progress scenarios in one key way: An academic integrity issue will involve a code of conduct infraction. Whereas failure to progress tends to be hard to define or depends on an educator expressing dissatisfaction with a student's progress or performance, an academic integrity violation involves rule-breaking.

For example, your school's code of conduct likely includes the following actions in its academic misconduct section: Cheating, collaborating with other students, accessing unauthorized materials, plagiarizing, and fabricating data. These types of actions are all violations of your school's honor code or specific behavioral stipulations in your school's code of conduct.

An educator can provide a sanction immediately when they suspect a student of this type of misconduct — a failing grade on a plagiarized paper, for example. This type of punishment can be problematic. Low grades can lead to lots of problems for students, and the teacher may or may not have to prove anything before taking that action.

The teacher can also escalate the allegation of misconduct to the school's administration, which puts the involved student at risk of suspension or dismissal.

Are those the only types of misconduct my North Dakota school will investigate?

Not quite. While sexual and academic misconduct are the largest and perhaps most easily definable areas of focus for misconduct investigations, there are other types of conduct your school will likely consider punishable. Your school's code of conduct may group these actions together as ‘general misconduct' or define them in another way. This is an excellent reason to check out your school's specific documentation, as there may be unique behaviors that your school wishes to call out in this category.

This category of misconduct may include:

  • Drug or alcohol use: Your school will likely adhere to local laws, at the very least, and restrict drinking and drug use to those over the age of 21. Illicit drug use will very likely be prohibited.
  • Residential misconduct: To ensure that its students are safe, your school will probably prohibit violence, theft, or other dangerous activities within the dormitories.
  • Hate crimes: If your act of violence, theft, destruction, or other action can be linked to the orientation, race, religion, or gender of the victim, your action may be labeled a hate crime.
  • Hazing: If your sports team, social club, or fraternity/sorority has extensive initiation rites or traditions that can get out of hand from time to time, you and everyone involved could be at risk for sanctions.

No matter what type of allegation you face from your school, your school's due process will begin once that allegation makes its way to your school's administration. You're probably curious about what might happen next. In the following section, we'll dive into what happens once your school initiates an investigation.

What Is Due Process Like at My North Dakota School?

Once your school receives an allegation detailing your supposed misconduct (or learns from your teacher that you might be failing to progress as hoped), it may take some time to decide whether the allegation merits a school response and investigation. As detailed above, your school won't have much of a choice if the allegation concerns sexual misconduct.

If your school does decide to move forward, your school will likely start the process by sending you a notification either by email or traditional mail. This notification will include more details regarding the allegations against you as well as the next few steps in your school's process.

Receipt of that notification means that it's time for you to jump into action. Here are three things that you should consider doing as early as possible in your school's investigative process:

  1. Decide not to talk about your allegations. This can be extremely difficult, as this is a hard time for you. Not being able to confide in your friends and trusted mentors will be tough. Additionally, defending yourself (which may be instinctive) is probably not a good idea. If you find that you need to speak to someone, rely on your family or your student defense advisor for the support you require.
  2. Start gathering information. As soon as you realize that you may have to build a case to clear your name, it's time to pull together as much information as possible to help serve as the foundation for your case. Write down as much as you remember about the event in question, put together a list of people who may be able to corroborate your story, save any social media posts that may seem relevant, and create a timeline of the events that led up to your alleged misconduct. When your student defense advisor starts to help you build a defense, this kind of information will be invaluable.
  3. Hire a student defense attorney. This may feel premature. It isn't. Consider the fact that most student misconduct cases are won or lost as early as the investigative stage. You need to make sure that you're starting this process as well as possible, so getting a defense advisor on board as soon as you can is an excellent choice.

While you're completing these steps, your school will likely also be starting an investigation of its own. Representatives from your school may speak with your peers, check out your student record, work with your teacher to see samples of your previous work, and look at your social media.

Once your school feels like it has enough information to proceed, some version of the following series of events may occur:

  • You may meet with one or two school representatives to discuss your situation and the allegations against you
  • You may meet with a panel of school representatives to review the evidence against you and tell your side of the story
  • Your school will review all of the information and decide whether or not you are (allegedly) responsible for your misconduct allegations
  • Your school will issue a recommendation for sanctions

At this point, you can choose to simply carry out your sanctions or attempt to negotiate with your school to reduce the consequences of your (alleged) actions.

Before you make this decision, it's important to know precisely what's at stake.

What Types of Sanctions Are on the Table at My North Dakota School?

There's good news and bad news to consider regarding the potential punishments or sanctions you face.

We'll start with the bad news. If you flip open your school's code of conduct or scroll through the document to the section discussing potential sanctions, you may see a daunting list of options. These may include:

  • Housing changes
  • Written warnings
  • Mandated course changes
  • Loss of privileges
  • Loss of scholarships
  • Behavioral contracts
  • Suspensions
  • Expulsions
  • Monetary fines
  • Detention

Your school may have even put together a complicated matrix of escalating punishments. There may also be disclaimers littered throughout the section, each noting that your school will take steps to ensure that the sanctions they recommend will be tailored to fit the crime.

Now, that may sound like a lot.

Here's where we share some potentially good news: It's very likely that most of those punishments, even if they're listed in your school's documentation, aren't actually on the table. In the vast majority of disciplinary cases, your school will recommend a suspension. (If the central misconduct is particularly severe, your school may escalate this to a dismissal.)

A suspension may not sound so bad. It may be true that in the short term, taking off a few days from school might seem like a tenable sanction.

Let's think about what a suspension might mean in the long term, though: A suspension, by definition, means that you're going to be out of school for at least a short period of time. This can lead to failing grades, classes you have to retake, an extension of your time in school, and gaps on your transcript.

Those gaps on your transcript can cause you a lot of problems later in life. When you go to apply for a job, internship, or further education, your interviewer will notice that gap on your transcript. They'll ask you to explain what happened. No matter how well you put a spin on things, that conversation will not go well. It's very likely that you'll end up missing out on an opportunity you would otherwise have earned.

In fact, this type of disciplinary notation can go ahead of you your entire life, closing doors for you that would have otherwise remained open.

At the Lento Law Firm, we believe that you shouldn't have to have that kind of pressure hanging over you after a simple case of misconduct. That's why we're here to help you work towards a more successful outcome. We'll continue discussing the best ways to handle a misconduct case by talking about the appeal filing process.

How Do I File an Appeal at My North Dakota College or University?

Let's say that you've hired a defense advisor and followed good strategy up through your hearing, and now you're facing outsized sanctions. Your next step will probably be an appeal. An appeal is an internal process, one that your school should clearly define, in which you formally ask the school to reconsider any recommended sanctions.

You'll probably only have a very short window of time (say, five business days) to file your appeal. That makes working quickly a must. You'll also only get one chance at your appeal, though — which makes having a solid basis for your appeal an equal priority.

That's why having a student defense advisor already on board is essential. With an expert defense attorney already on your side, you can get the process started on the right foot as quickly as possible.

To file an appeal, you'll come up with a good basis for your appeal, write up a persuasive argument, and make sure that all the correct paperwork is filed. Good bases for your appeal will depend on your situation, and your attorney will be able to help you figure out what would be most helpful for your case.

Examples might include:

  • Demonstrating that your school did not follow its own rules as it was going about your investigation or adjudication
  • Demonstrating that the recommended sanction is clearly inappropriate for the given allegations
  • Showing your school that you have new information that wasn't available during the investigation

You'll send your appeal to the designated representative at your school (typically, the Dean of Students) and then wait. If your school is ready to negotiate your sanction, your attorney can take the lead. If not, it may be time to consider alternative action.

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

When it's time to drop a lawsuit on your school, it's easy to get excited about what may seem like a satisfying solution.

Lawsuits can be satisfying. Litigation against your school can also be really expensive and taking that route will probably cut all of your ties with that particular academic community.

At the Lento Law Firm, we'll file a suit if that seems like it's the best option for you. First, though, we advise having your student defense advisor speak directly with your school's office of general counsel.

This type of lawyer-to-lawyer conversation is often extremely effective. Often, we find that negotiations at this level result in better outcomes for everyone involved.

If for some reason, this doesn't work, your student defense advisor will also be able to help you figure out the next best steps to take.

As a College Student, Are There Other North Dakota Laws I Should Know About?

Yes! Though most of your behaviors will fall under the governance of campus regulations, it's always good to know what local laws are (particularly if you do plan to venture off campus).

Laws to pay attention to include both statute of limitations laws and the following laws relevant to typical college activities:

  • In North Dakota, it's illegal to drink if you're under the age of 21
  • It's also illegal to drive while you're under the influence of alcohol
  • Live off-campus? If so, you'll need to follow your rental agreement (which includes paying your rent on time)
  • It's illegal to use a fake ID to purchase alcohol or show a fake ID to a police officer

Statute of Limitations Laws in North Dakota

  • Injury to Person: Six years
  • Libel: Two years
  • Slander: Two years
  • Fraud: Six years
  • Injury to Personal Property: Six years
  • Trespassing: Six years
  • Collection of Rent: Six years
  • Contracts: Six years

If you're feeling overwhelmed after seeing all this information, that makes sense. Fortunately, you don't have to tackle all of this alone.

Need a Strong Defense? Call Joseph D. Lento for Timely Assistance in North Dakota

Whether you're facing allegations of sexual misconduct, or your teacher is starting to say concerning things about your supposed lack of progress, one thing is clear: You need support.

Why?

For one thing, you may feel particularly alone at this point in time. Your academic mentors may suddenly be cold and distant. You may not know how to speak to your friends.

For another, there's a lot on the line. Academic misconduct, failure to progress, code of conduct infractions — if any of those terms make it to your permanent student record, you may find future interviews much harder than they need to be. Even if the allegations against you are completely false, being associated with an investigation can tarnish your reputation for years to come.

To avoid any of the long-term consequences that can come with a student discipline investigation, you and your family need to work now to make sure that you handle your school's adjudicative processes as helpfully as possible.

That's why you call in Joseph D. Lento.

Joseph D. Lento is a national student defense attorney who has years of targeted experience helping students in your precise situation. He can help with managing investigations, coming up with strategic arguments, preparing you for hearings, and even handling negotiations with your school to reduce recommended sanctions.

He's ready to bring years of expertise to help you work towards a favorable outcome. All you need to do is reach out today!

Call 888-535-3686 for more information, or simply fill out a form online to receive a timely response.

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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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