PharmD Student Discipline Issues

Pharmacy students working on their PharmD degree have already invested a great deal of time and money into their education. It's the final educational piece the student must complete before taking their licensing exams and getting experience in the field through residency work. When a PharmD student is accused of any type of misconduct—whether academic, sexual, or professional misconduct—it can be akin to fumbling the football on the 1-yard line during a championship game. Any disciplinary action taken by the school could completely derail a long academic process and prevent promising pharmacy students from achieving their goals.

If you're a PharmD student facing disciplinary actions for any reason, you're already at a disadvantage because the college or university doesn't necessarily have to abide by the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.” Having an experienced attorney-advisor in your corner could save your good name and rescue your career from almost certain disaster.

Possible Disciplinary Issues Faced by PharmD Students

Between the school's Code of Conduct, Honor Code, and other student conduct policies, many potential misconduct violations could result in disciplinary action for PharmD students. Among the more common disciplinary issues are:

  • Academic Misconduct
  • Title IX and Related Violations
  • Code of Conduct Violations
  • Professionalism Issues
  • Slow Academic Progression, Remediation, and Dismissals
  • Violations of Licensing and Exam Regulations

Academic Misconduct

Educational institutions expect all PharmD students abide by the highest standards of academic integrity. Each university will have established policies regarding academic honesty, but the School of Pharmacy may also have its own policies in addition to the university rules. Academic misconduct in pharmacy school is a serious offense, and if the school finds you in violation of its academic policies, it may suspend you, expel you, or even revoke your degree. Not only could this derail your career plans, but if you're already a licensed pharmacist and the school finds you guilty of misconduct after the fact, they can opt to revoke your degree, leading to having your professional license revoked, as well!

What are some examples of academic misconduct that could jeopardize your PharmD degree?

  • Using unauthorized notes during an examination
  • Plagiarizing (either by copying/paraphrasing someone else's work or failing to cite references in your own work)
  • Having someone take an exam in your place (or taking an exam for someone else)
  • Manipulating or fabricating data in your research
  • Manipulating or fabricating patient data
  • Submitting someone else's work as your own
  • Distributing unauthorized copies of past or current exams, quizzes, or assignments
  • Helping and abetting dishonesty
  • Falsification of documentation or forgery

Title IX and Related Offenses

All federally funded educational institutions must abide by federal Title IX rules established by the U.S. Department of Education. This includes most universities that house schools and colleges of pharmacy. Title IX provides protections for students against sex discrimination and sexual harassment at the school. Title IX offenses are generally handled through a separate office according to federal guidelines, but many schools (including pharmacy schools) also have specific rules about sexual misconduct and harassment within their own Code of Conduct.

Title IX protects against such behavior as:

  • Sexual harassment
  • Rape, sexual assault, battery, coercion
  • Dating violence
  • Stalking
  • Revenge porn
  • Bullying and gender-based bullying
  • Gender discrimination
  • Non-consensual sexual contact

Both your university and pharmacy school will investigate any allegations of sexual misconduct against you as a PharmD student. Since many schools have faced criticism for not dealing with sexual harassment claims properly, administrators are under a lot of pressure to mete out swift justice in these types of cases—often leading to unfair treatment of the accused. It is essential to reach out to an experienced Title IX attorney if accused of sexual misconduct.

Code of Conduct Violations

Every college and university has its own established Code of Conduct, and individual colleges and schools within the university may also have their own Codes of Conduct. As a PharmD student, you will be responsible for abiding by the specific Code of Conduct for your pharmacy school/department and the overall Code of Conduct for the university.

Most student Codes of Conduct pertain to all areas of university life, including academics, on-campus residences, extracurriculars, off-campus professional programs, sporting events, and any other university-affiliated environment. Most student Codes of Conduct will prescribe disciplinary action for any/all of the following:

  • Academic dishonesty
  • Use of alcohol/drugs
  • Stalking
  • Violence or threatening behavior against other students
  • Violations of social media guidelines
  • Cybercrimes or computer crimes
  • Theft
  • Software piracy
  • Sexual assault, rape, and misconduct in sexual relationships
  • Destruction of property

Violations of the student Code of Conduct can result in severe consequences, including academic probation, restrictions on extracurricular activities, suspension, and expulsion. In many cases, these disciplinary actions may appear as notations on your permanent academic record, making it more difficult to get hired as a pharmacist down the road.

Professionalism Issues

PharmD students are expected to abide by high standards of professionalism in keeping with the requirements of their chosen profession. These standards are set by the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) and their respective state and local professional associations. These professional conduct standards must be adhered to by pharmacy students while they study for their PharmD degree. If a student fails to live up to these standards or accused of violating them outright, the school may impose severe sanctions that may include probation, remediation, suspension, or dismissal from the school. Violations of professional standards may also appear as a notation in the student's permanent record, potentially impacting their ability to obtain residencies or get hired.

Common examples of professional misconduct may include:

  • Falsification of official documents or records (including patient records)
  • Providing care in an unsafe or harmful way
  • Violating the privacy rights of a patient
  • Failing to report an error or omission in medication or treatment
  • Drug/alcohol addiction
  • Criminal convictions
  • Violation of any technology or computer use policies at the university or pharmacy school
  • Any specific violation of the APhA Code of Ethics
  • Disruptive behavior
  • Sexual and other illegal harassment
  • Developing inappropriate romantic relationships with patients, faculty, or staff

Academic Progression, Remediation, and Dismissals

PharmD students are expected to make academic progress according to accepted standards, achieving minimum grades, and promptly completing coursework. These standards can be challenging even for the most dedicated students, and if life issues such as illness, finances, disabilities, or family crises begin to affect student performance, PharmD students may find themselves struggling to keep up. Continued poor academic performance may result in dismissal from the PharmD program.

To help struggling students get back on track, the School of Pharmacy will offer some form of remediation as an alternative to dismissal. Any school offering a PharmD program must be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). The ACPE guidelines specifically state that PharmD programs must have remediation policies in place—so as a PharmD student, you're virtually guaranteed a remediation option if you need one.

For most PharmD programs, a remediation program may include any or all of the following:

  • Personal guidance, monitoring, and follow-up
  • Allowing the student to retake a course
  • Allowing the student to retake an assessment
  • Allowing the student to retake a complete semester or year of work

The problem is that the ACPE doesn't offer many specifics on how remediation programs should function. As a result, sometimes the remediation itself gets in the way of the student's other responsibilities, becomes especially burdensome, or may even be a tactic by the school to justify eventual dismissal from the PharmD program. Remediation may also be noted in the student's academic record, making it more difficult to compete with other PharmD graduates for residencies or pharmacy jobs. While remediation is often a welcome alternative to dismissal, you should always seek the advice of an experienced attorney-advisor to make sure the remediation program truly serves your needs.

Pharmacy Student Dismissals

PharmD programs have minimum grade point average (GPA) requirements for students to graduate with a degree. Failing to achieve the minimum GPA could result in academic probation or remediation, but failing to raise the GPA over a set amount of time could result in dismissal from the School of Pharmacy. Dismissal can be disastrous for pharmacy students because it can be tough to get accepted or reinstated into a PharmD program once dismissed. The dismissal is also recorded on the student's transcript, so even if they manage to re-enroll, that dismissal can still affect their future career prospects. For this reason, PharmD students should do everything in their power to avert dismissal. Hiring an experienced attorney-advisor can significantly improve your chances of avoiding this outcome.

Pharmacy Student Licensing and Exams

Before they can practice, graduates of PharmD programs need to be licensed. Each state has a licensing board, which oversees the process and maintains standards for pharmacists currently licensed. Pharmacy graduates must pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) before obtaining their license. Each state board of pharmacy uses this exam to assess a person's ability to practice.

The NAPLEX is taken seriously by state licensing boards. Any allegation of misconduct, including cheating or falsification on the exam, can prevent pharmacy graduates from receiving their licenses. Students should consult with an attorney-advisor when dealing with allegations of misconduct on the NAPLEX.

Appealing Academic or other Sanctions as a PharmD Student

As a PharmD student, any disciplinary sanction that appears on your student record could impact your future career, even sanctions other than dismissal. Fortunately, ACPE Guidelines stipulate that all accredited PharmD programs should include appeal mechanisms so students can contest adverse decisions and disciplinary actions before they become finalized.

PharmD students may appeal adverse decisions on various grounds, including unfairness, unequal treatment, and/or violations of established school policies in handling the disciplinary process.

Most appeals among PharmD students center around any/all of the following:

  • Appealing poor/unfair grades
  • Appealing exam results
  • Appealing academic probation
  • Appealing academic suspension
  • Appealing academic dismissal

ACPE appeal standards were established to stop schools and professors from applying academic standards unfairly or inconsistently. Students should be able to appeal against grades that they believe are arbitrary or intentionally incorrect.

Defense for PharmD Student Discipline Nationwide

Whether you are accused of academic misconduct, Title IX violations, professional misconduct, code of conduct violations, or failure to progress academically, you don't have to leave your fate in the hands of the school administrators when facing student disciplinary actions. An experienced attorney-advisor can provide essential guidance, help you strategize for your best defense, and help keep the school accountable to abide by its policies for fair treatment. In many cases, the involvement of an attorney-advisor can save your good name and even your career.

Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a recognized authority in student discipline defense issues, and he has successfully helped countless students across the country to resolve their student discipline problems and rescue their careers. Call the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 to schedule your consultation today.

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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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