Ohio has many varied, high-quality options for higher education. It houses 14 public universities with several branch campuses and over fifty private universities. Each college has its own rules, traditions, expectations, and policies—but each one will likely have confusing disciplinary systems. In any of these schools, if you're a student accused of misconduct, you can feel like you're in over your head—fast.
No matter how impenetrable the policies at your Ohio school may seem, it's important to remember that you have rights. As your school investigates your alleged misconduct, your school has to stick to its own procedures and give you a fair chance to tell your story.
Unfortunately, with the rising misconduct trends in the United States, many schools are more interested in closing disciplinary cases quickly than bringing justice to light. If your Ohio school is investigating you for misconduct, you need to take action to ensure your school's officials take you seriously—and that a sloppy hearing or rushed investigation doesn't result in discipline that can affect your entire career.
This seems like a tall order—but there's one simple thing that you can do to work towards the successful outcome you need. Finding and hiring an experienced, empathetic, and skilled national student defense lawyer will be the best thing you can do to protect your name, your education, and your future.
What are the types of misconduct Ohio colleges and universities discipline?
There are many different types of misconduct that your school could investigate you for. To know exactly what's on the table at your university, it's a good idea to take a look at your school's code of conduct. You can likely find this document on your school's website, or in your student handbook. Your school's code of conduct is a lengthy document that details the expectations that your school has of you—and what your school will do if they learn that you might be involved in less-than-licit activities.
The three main categories of misconduct are:
The first category concerns academic integrity, and can often net a student an academic punishment such as a grade reduction. Academic misconduct often includes actions such as cheating, plagiarism, unauthorized collusion, and other types of actions that violate a school's honor code or integrity policy. The second category concerns actions like stalking, lewd behavior, and Title IX offenses such as sexual assault and harassment. General misconduct serves as an umbrella category that categorizes any code of conduct violation that doesn't involve academic or sexual activities.
Your school will likely have policies to help your school in its adjudication of your behavior. When you learn that your school suspects that you might be guilty of one of these behaviors, you should immediately find your school's relevant policies to find out what may be in store for you.
How do public colleges in Ohio handle Title IX?
According to the Ohio Department of Education, the Department and all schools in Ohio comply with all Federal laws—including Title IX—and with the requirements of the United States Department of Education with respect to all regulations that prohibit discrimination.
Title IX is a federal rights law. The United States implemented this law as a part of the Education Amendments of 1972. It bans discrimination on the basis of sex in public schools. Under Title IX, any public university that receives funds from the U.S. government must quickly investigate any allegations of sexual misconduct, harassment, assault or discrimination or risk losing its funding.
On its website, the Ohio Department of Education states that it is a recipient of financial assistance from the government and is therefore subject to Title IX and its associated regulations. On a routine basis, schools in Ohio need to update their Title IX policies to match new interpretations or guidelines coming from the United States government.
Additionally, Ohio is in the Sixth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over all federal appeals happening in the Buckeye State. The Sixth Circuit has recently made several relevant decisions regarding the handling of Title IX cases, including a reversal that has already made a difference for many students in recent cases. Once such case is Doe v. Oberlin College. In the original case, the student—expelled for sexual misconduct—alleged that the school had demonstrated “serious procedural irregularities” while adjudicating his case. Among these irregularities, the student said, was severe gender bias on the part of the college. Initially, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio had dismissed his claim. In mid-2020, the Court reversed this dismissal.
These actions can provide hope for students in Ohio who feel that their schools may have gone too far in pursuit of student discipline, particularly in matters regarding bias, harassment, or discrimination.
Examples of Title IX Violations
If an Ohio school learns of allegations against one of their students that contains the following illicit activities, that school will need to investigate:
- Sexist or derogatory remarks
- Gender-based bullying
- Gender discrimination
- Obscene communications
- Inappropriate touching
- Sexual assault
Examples of Ohio Title IX Regulations and Hearing Procedures
One large Ohio school, Ohio University, revised its University Policy 03.004 regarding sexual assault to comply with federal regulations. The Title IX Coordinator at Ohio University noted, at the time, “As we continue to comply with the law, Ohio University's commitment to due process will remain unchanged.”
The school's due process and relevant code of conduct did change slightly per the new guidelines and the major provisions of Title IX. As of August 14, 2020, the university implemented updated titles for specific sexual misconduct violations, as well as an expanded scope to distinguish between sexual misconduct and other types of violations. Other Ohio universities made similar changes to their policies, such as Ohio Wesleyan and Ohio State. The latter's Title IX page goes into a little more detail about the recent changes, stating that their policies have been updated to include:
- A stated right for students to participate in a grievance process after they file their complaint
- The inclusion of a cross-examination in the hearing
- Specific definitions regarding the validity of the formal complaint
- The right for all parties to have an advisor present
- The right for any party to submit an appeal
- Updated sexual harassment definitions
Public colleges and universities in Ohio need to comply with the federal rulings regarding Title IX. If you're in need of assistance with a Title IX case in Ohio, it's important to know that you don't have to seek help from an Ohio lawyer. You need to seek one who has relevant experience helping students avoid undue consequences, no matter where they are.
What are the academic misconduct expectations at universities in Ohio?
The specific guidelines regarding prohibited conduct at each Ohio school or university may differ slightly when it comes to academic misconduct, as this type of misconduct is not regulated by a national policy like sexual misconduct under Title IX.
Common types of academic misconduct include:
- Cheating, or the use of unauthorized materials to give yourself an unfair academic advantage over your peers
- Falsification of data, academic information, academic records, or quotes for an assignment or assessment
- Plagiarism, or the act of using someone else's thoughts, words, or work as your own without proper citation
- Abuse of school materials for sabotage or obstructing access
- Helping another student cheat, plagiarize, or otherwise break your school's honor or integrity code
Differing schools across Ohio have varied resources for students and methods for meting out punitive measures for academic misconduct. For example, the University of Cincinnati provides ‘decision-making seminars' and a plagiarism module on its academic misconduct website in order to proactively reduce cases of academic misconduct. At Miami University, the university response to a first or even second count of academic misconduct (with the exception of very severe instances of misconduct) is that the student attend an online academic integrity workshop.
The other repercussions most commonly seen throughout Ohio public school codes of conduct involve grade reductions, probations, and suspension—particularly at institutions that offer remote university classes in Ohio, such as Ohio Online. These punitive measures may not seem like a big deal, but they can throw a big wrench in your plans. Having these types of disciplinary measures on your permanent record can also make it difficult to get a job or work towards admittance at another university.
Clearly, the stakes are quite high. If you're a student at a university in Ohio struggling to manage your student misconduct case, you need to reach out to the best to ensure that your future remains bright.
Ohio Schools, Due Process, and Student Rights
Each school in Ohio preserves its own written set of policies and procedures regarding the administration of discipline. However, there are certain rights that Ohio students should be able to enjoy regardless of their specific location in the Buckeye state.
- The Opportunity to be Heard: If you face discipline at your university, you should have the right to hear the extend of the allegations against you and have the chance to tell your side of the story.
- The Right to be Present During Your Hearing: You have the right to be in the room where your school is making the decisions about your future.
- The Right to Enjoy an Unbiased Hearing Panel: The people who sit on the committee that will decide the extent of your discipline shouldn't have any explicit, obvious biases against you. If you believe that this may be the case, it might be a good idea to file an objection. Your advisor will help you decide if this is the right move for you and your case.
Your advisor will help you comb through your school's policy to learn more about your inherent risk for a harsh sanction. Your advisor will also help you form a strategic defense for avoiding outsized disciplinary consequences, if at all possible. When you're looking for a top-tier advisor, look for one with a history of helping student in Ohio (or across the nation) negotiate their way out of these types of risky situations.
What happens if a student in Ohio decides to sue their university? What is the statute of limitations for misconduct issues in Ohio?
In mid-2020, two Miami University college students sued their school for suspending them for alleged violation of COVID-related school guidelines. In their claim, the students stated that the school had relied on incorrect information in order to rationalize the suspension.
In late 2020, a student who suffered from a mental health disability experienced a ‘forced leave of absence' from Ohio University. In her suit, she requested that the university change its policy to protect the rights of students with physical or mental disabilities.
If you're an Ohio student and you need to consider litigation against your school as a last resort, it's important to know that there are precedents. It's also important to know that there may only be a specific period of time in which you can bring this type of suit. Just as many Ohio universities only allow a brief window of time after the student discipline process for a student to make an appeal, there is typically a finite time period after an incident in which you need to file your lawsuit or other action. This time period is often defined by the state's statutes of limitations. Various statutes of limitations apply to differing issues. For example, Ohio has the following statutes of limitations for common issues:
- Fraud: Four years
- Injury to Person or Persons: Two years
- Slander or Libel: One year
- Written contracts: Eight years
- Collection of Debt on Account (including, in some cases, student debt): Six years
Students in Ohio also have the right to submit complaints against ‘public, independent non-profit, and proprietary institutions of higher education in Ohio’ to the Ohio Department of Higher Education, which should occur after a student has already tried to resolve the issue with their college. The Chancellor may be able to assist the student in their aims if the student can demonstrate that they have already exhausted their institutional options.
Are there Ohio state laws that could impact my experience as an Ohio college student?
While each Ohio college or university system will likely have their own internal rules about student drug or alcohol use, assault, privacy rights, or issues such as trespassing, vandalism, theft, or destruction of property, it's a good idea to be aware of Ohio codes that could influence your school's adjudication processes regarding common issues. For example:
- Ohio Revised Code Sections 2925.11 and 3719.41 apply to cases of drug possession. Under these codes, Ohio courts can administer penalties for the possession of certain controlled substances.
- Ohio has strict laws about alcohol consumption, particularly regarding open containers, use by underage consumers, or use of alcohol on state property.
- Under Ohio Landlord Tenant Law, landlords have responsibilities to their tenants such as supplying running water and complying with Ohio health and safety laws; however, the same law stipulates many tenant responsibilities. If you're living off campus while you attend an Ohio college, these types of laws could apply to your activities and behaviors.
- Ohio Revised Code Section 2903.13 states that an assault involves the knowing or reckless cause or attempt to cause physical harm to another person. If you are found guilty of assault, the associated penalties could be severe.
Your school will likely have its own regulations regarding these issues, but your off-campus activities in Ohio could merit adjudication under these or similar laws.
What are some of the biggest colleges or universities in Ohio?
The largest college or university systems in Ohio include:
- University of Cincinnati
- Ohio State University
- Miami University
However, Ohio is home to many more school systems, including an increasing number of remote or online educational resources. Almost 600,000 students attend a public university in the state of Ohio.
If I'm accused of misconduct at a university in Ohio, what should I do?
If you've recently learned that you might be the subject of an upcoming misconduct investigation at an Ohio school, the first thing that you need to do is avoid panicking. Your school should have due process regulations in place that include reference to your rights. Your job will be to ensure that your school does not do anything that infringes upon those rights.
However, this can be easier said than done. You're a student; you're not a legal expert. Your school's administrators have a lot of pressure upon them to keep misconduct numbers low. Before you know it, you could experience a quick ruling and a quick recommendation for disciplinary consequences. Depending on the nature of those consequences, your future could be a lot harder than it needs to be.
That's why you need to call in a professional. Instead of trying to navigate your school's complex disciplinary system yourself, depend on someone who's done this before—hundreds of times. That way, instead of handling high-pressure negotiations alone, you can concentrate on the following:
- Learn as much as you can about the nature of the event. If you're hearing about your alleged misconduct for the first time from your university, chances are you're confused. Even if you think you know exactly what happened, it's important to learn more. Find out what your university thinks happened. (You should be able to learn this from the allegations they sent you.) Think carefully about the sequence of events that led to the incident and track down any evidence at all that could support your understanding of what happened.
- Refrain from speaking to other people. It's natural, while you're in a state of shock or stress, to want to reach out to your friends or trusted university mentors. If at all possible, do not do this. You need to stay in control of your narrative until your disciplinary matter comes to a favorable end.
- Access your specific Ohio school's code of conduct and due process documents. While each school may have similar processes, your specific school is going to be the one meting out your specific punishment. It's important to know what may be in your future—as well as the potentially unique regulations that your school has stated that it will follow. The allegation your school sent you should be able to point you to the portion of your school's code of conduct that you have potentially violated. Find that section of your code of conduct, find the associated policies, processes, and penalties, and become familiar with them. Then, think about what your university has done thus far. Note any discrepancies, and bring them to the attention of your student defense attorney-advisor.
- Seek competent, experienced legal help. You don't want to do this alone; even if you're a pre-law student or you think you know your school's code of conduct pretty well, you're too close to the situation to provide a high-quality defense for yourself. An attorney-advisor who has targeted experience with student defense and student misconduct will be able to help you with precisely the assistance that you now need.
What can a truly great national student defense attorney-advisor do for me in Ohio?
At the end of the day, it comes down to experience (not location). When you're putting your case into the hands of a legal expert, you want that legal expert to have encountered the exact problem you're facing. You want to know that your attorney-advisor has helped a student overcome the exact hurdle that stands in your way. You want to know that your attorney-advisor has the exact experience that you need to be successful in your case.
Not every lawyer has the same types of experience. A general practice lawyer or a lawyer that your school provides probably won't—which means that their assistance may not be as successful as you'd hope! In addition, it's critical to remember that a lawyer that your school provides may try to help you, but will ultimately be loyal to your school when push comes to shove.
You don't want to have to deal with that type of uncertainty—and you definitely don't want to work with a legal advisor that doesn't know exactly how to help you negotiate your way out of unfair discipline or long-lasting ramifications.
You need an attorney-advisor who can:
- Help you draft strategic, persuasive documents that truly make a difference for your case
- Delve through your school's code of conduct and find basis for appeals or rights that your school needs to uphold
- Assist you when it comes to preparing for tense hearings and conversations
- Make sure that your school takes you seriously
- Help shoulder this burden for you so you can remain as stress-free as possible during this difficult time
At the Lento Law Firm, we know that your unique case deserves the undivided attention of a trained, detail-oriented student defense attorney. We're here to make sure that you have access to the support that you require.
Reach Out to Joseph D. Lento for the Help You Need
When you need help in Ohio, it can be tempting to just rely on whoever is closest. However, we know that proximity doesn't always equal quality—and modern technology makes it easy to reach out to the best in the business, no matter where they are.
If your future's at stake, you're going to need to work with the attorney-advisor with the targeted expertise that you need. You need someone who has handled a wide range of student misconduct or discipline cases—and someone who has successfully helped students negotiate their ways to better sanctions and successful outcomes.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento is one of the top student defense advisors in the country. For years, he has assisted with investigative and adjudicative matters for students who have needed his help. No matter where in Ohio you are, Joseph D. Lento will be able to help you. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888.535.3686 to learn more about our services, or reach out to us online.