Are you a student or the parent of student at a South Carolina 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 in South Carolina and across the United States at the school level and in court. 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 South Carolina protect their academic and professional future, and he can do the same for you. Contact him today at 888-535-3686.
An Overview of South Carolina Student Discipline and Student Rights
When you're getting ready to go to college in South Carolina, you definitely want to be prepared. Sending yourself or your child off to school typically involves a lot of preliminary activities and research, from figuring out living situations to learning more about your specific school.
This can be a lot of fun. It should be! Going to college is an exciting time. When you (or your student) are at college, you can expect to make lifelong friends, figure out what you're interested in doing professionally, and work towards a degree that could open doors for you for the rest of your life.
Before you get there, you will likely need to make it through years of tough exams and tricky interpersonal situations. College isn't easy, after all, and you may find out quickly that you're struggling to keep up. If your teachers raise concerns about your academic performance, you could find yourself facing disciplinary action that could put your degree in jeopardy.
Academic issues and concerns aren't the only unfortunate events that could occur. You could experience miscommunications or missteps that result in allegations and misconduct charges. As a result, your school could impose sanctions against you, including a potential suspension. With the resulting gap in your transcript, you'll have a hard time securing an internship or future job. Any kind of sanction, however, can have significant, consequences both in the short and long-term.
It's key to go in prepared. You need to know how to protect yourself and your future if anything unplanned happens. At the Lento Law Firm, we believe that you should be able to enjoy your college experience and be reasonably sure that you'll achieve your degree. That's why we've put together this handy page of helpful information to help you settle into your South Carolina schooling experience as seamlessly as possible.
What Are Some of the Public and Private Higher Education Institutions in South Carolina?
No matter what you're looking for in South Carolina, there's sure to be a college or university that meets your particular needs. The state is home to many public and private colleges and universities. Some of the most well-known ones include:
Public schools in South Carolina
- Clemson University
- University of South Carolina
- Citadel Military College of South Carolina
- College of Charleston
- University of South Carolina Aiken
- Winthrop University
- Lander University
- Coastal Carolina University
- Francis Maron University
- Greenville Technical College
Private schools in South Carolina
- Furman University
- Wofford College
- Bob Jones University
- Southern Wesleyan University
- Presbyterian College
- Columbia International University
- Anderson University
- North Greenville University
- Claflin University
Statewide Higher Education Laws in South Carolina
All colleges and universities in South Carolina, whether they're public or private, will operate under some level of oversight from the state or governing authorities. While private schools may have fewer influencing guidelines that they absolutely must follow, they will typically follow similar regulations, particularly when it comes to maintaining student health and safety.
Some of the higher education laws and regulatory bodies in South Carolina include:
- Title 59 of the South Carolina Code of Laws, which includes several commissions for higher education, chapters detailing processes for South Carolina's public schools, and regulations regarding the way financial aid is distributed to students in South Carolina
- The South Carolina Department of Education, which details the way that schools must observe many different processes, from teacher certification to accreditation, textbook choice, school safety, and more
- The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit: This court of appeals hears cases in several states and can issue decisions that could impact the way your school is able to operate. From time to time, it could be a good idea to keep an eye on the types of cases the court will be reviewing.
In addition to external oversight of your school, your school should have myriad internal processes and procedures to monitor and adjudicate student behavior when necessary. We'll get into that type of information in the next section.
Academic Issues, Concerns, and Misconduct at Your South Carolina School
The types of issues and concerns that will merit attention from your school largely fall into two categories: Academic struggles and actual misconduct. First, we'll discuss what could happen if you fail to progress as quickly as your instructors may deem necessary.
College is hard. There's a steep learning curve in the first semester or two where you'll need to figure out how to keep up with your studies and your peers with a new collegiate workload. While most schools will offer support if you need it, some schools will offer harsh discipline instead of a helping hand. As a result, you could face dismissal after your academic struggles.
The typical events that could trigger concern from your school may include:
- (Alleged) substandard performance
- Repeated withdrawals from courses
- Repeated failure of examinations
- Repeated incompletes earned
- Alleged failure to prepare for class properly
- Alleged failure to complete homework or supporting work for your courses
If you feel that your college has failed to keep its promises to you or has not provided adequate support for you to progress in the expected ways, you need to speak up and protect your rights. Otherwise, you may find yourself on the receiving end of sanctions that could impact your future.
Code of Conduct Infractions and Types of Misconduct
Your South Carolina school should have a code of conduct that specifies expected behavior for each of its students. This document should be freely available for student review. It'll likely be on your school's website or included in your student handbook.
Any action a student completes that is forbidden by one of the stated codes of conduct could merit further investigation by the school. Largely speaking, the types of behavior that could merit disciplinary action fall into two categories: Sexual misconduct and academic dishonesty.
Title IX Sexual Misconduct
Briefly, any sexual activity that occurs without the express, freely-given consent of all persons involved is likely sexual misconduct. Potential violations of Title IX sexual harassment can be much more encompassing, however, in addition to the concern of being charged with "non-Title IX" violations under a school's code of conduct which is a different beast altogether.
Regardless of what potential charges may be involved or under which policies a respondent may be subject, your school should have concrete definitions for your review to ensure that the safety of its students is not left up to vague phrases. It's a good idea to check your school's documentation to see if there is anything unique among your school's prohibited behaviors. Using the code of conduct from the University of South Carolina as a guide, we can list the following actions as ones likely punishable on most college grounds:
- Sexual harassment
- Dating or domestic violence
- Unwelcome conduct
- Distribution of sensitive materials without consent
This is not an exhaustive list. If your school receives an allegation of any sexual activity occurring without consent, your school will likely at least take steps to learn what happened.
As opposed to more innocuous academic struggles, academic integrity issues tend to occur when a student seeks an easy way out and completes an action that's against their school's code of conduct. Typical integrity infractions may include:
- Fabrication of Data
- Falsifying of Information
- Accessing Unauthorized Materials
- Destruction of School Property
Most schools will recommend sanctions for both students if one student helps another complete an act of academic dishonesty, as well.
Once My South Carolina School Receives Information About My Alleged Academic Issue or Misconduct Concern, What Will Happen?
Your allegation of misconduct can come from many sources. If you're dealing with academic struggles, your instructor will likely be the one who brings up the issue. Regardless, your school's academic appeals or disciplinary process will kick in when someone files a report or reaches out to an official at your school with their concerns.
After this happens, your school will work to determine your responsibility for the alleged infraction (or to learn more about your struggles). This may result in a recommendation for sanctionsor an outright dismissal.
Though your school's disciplinary process will likely have at least some unique aspects, you will probably experience some version of the following sequence of events:
- First, you'll receive a notification from your school. This may happen via email or in writing. This notification should contain more details about the nature of your alleged offense as well as the next things that your school would like you to do.
- Then, you'll meet with someone from your school to discuss the allegations against you.
- In some cases, your school may launch an investigation to learn more about your responsibility for the alleged infraction.
- Once your school feels like it has a good amount of information to review, you may receive an invitation to a formal hearing.
- At this hearing, you will have the chance to state your side of the story. You may also be able to question any witnesses and review the evidence that your school has against you.
- At the end of the hearing, your school will come to a decision regarding your likely responsibility for the alleged infraction.
- Your school will also issue a recommendation for your disciplinary sanction.
You will have the choice to accept your sanction or to try and push back and negotiate for reduced or removed disciplinary treatment. While your school may have many different types of sanctions listed as possibilities in your school's code of conduct, it's most likely that you will face a suspension.
This may not seem like that big of a deal. You may feel like you may be able to weather a suspension.
Here's why that's not a good idea. When you receive a suspension from your school, you will end up with a gap on your transcript. Later, when you're applying to any future schools, internships, or jobs, that gap will come up in conversation. You'll need to explain that gap. This will not be impressive to future employers or schools. As a result of this information coming to light, you very likely won't get the job or position that you were aiming for.
As it turns out, your disciplinary experiences can go before you for a long time, closing doors that may otherwise have been open. Since this is the case, it's really best to make sure that you're working hard now to lessen sanctions, argue your case, and work towards the most favorable outcome possible.
After your initial adjudicative process is complete, your first option for pursuing relief will likely be through an appeal.
Filing a Strategic Appeal at Your South Carolina School
In order to file an appeal at your school, you'll have to complete the following steps:
- Within a short period of time, after your school makes its initial decision (sometimes within 10-15 business days, and often less), you'll need to file the appropriate paperwork with your school. This will involve stating the precise reasons your school should reconsider your sanctions.
- Once your school receives this paperwork, a representative will consider whether to reopen your case.
- Shortly thereafter, your school will communicate its decision. Either your school will be open to further negotiations, or it won't be. In either case, this decision is final. There is no such thing as a secondary appeal.
As the stakes are pretty high, filing an appeal is the necessary time to hire a student defense attorney if you haven't already done so. Your student defense advisor will be able to ensure that you're making the most of your one-shot opportunity. For example, strategic and successful appeals can often rely on one of the following bases:
- Procedural anomalies during the initial investigation or adjudication
- A sanction that is clearly disproportionate given the infraction
- New information that was not available during the initial investigation
If your school is open to negotiations, your student defense advisor can help you work with your school, including your school's attorney, often known as the Office of General Counsel, to reach an optimal result.
If your school is not open to negotiations, you may find that you'll need to dig a little deeper to get the result you want. In this case, it may be time to start thinking about more drastic options.
What if It's Time to Sue My School in South Carolina?
Suing your school will likely seem like a dramatic step. That's because it is. After you initiate a lawsuit against your school, there's a very good chance that you won't be able to return to your status as a student at your school.
However, this might be necessary in order to protect your reputation and your future. Since it's going to be difficult to come back from suing your school, it is a good idea to make sure that you're going into the lawsuit process as prepared as you possibly can be. To that end, consider completing the following actions before you initiate the suit:
- Filing a complaint with the South Carolina Board of Education
- Making absolutely sure that you're working with a lawyer you trust
- Having your lawyer get in touch with your school's general counsel to further negotiate a potential resolution, especially if this step had not been taken as necessary during the appeals process
Avoiding a lawsuit can save you time and money. Your defense advisor will be able to help you determine what the best steps forward are for you.
Are There Any Other South Carolina Laws That I Should Know About as a College Student?
While most of your activities will fall under the governance of your school's campus regulations, it's good to know what the local laws are. In South Carolina, these include:
- South Carolina Laws about Underage Drinking: Anyone under the age of 21 in South Carolina caught consuming, possessing, or purchasing alcohol may be subject to a fine or even jail time.
- South Carolina Laws about Drinking and Driving: South Carolina has very strict views regarding driving while under the influence. Anyone who has a BAC of 0.08 or higher may be subject to severe punitive measures.
- South Carolina Tenant Responsibilities: While you may choose to live on campus for some or all of your college experience, you could also live in an apartment near your school. If you do so, you'll need to abide by any rental agreement that you sign. This includes paying your rent in full and on time.
- South Carolina False Identification Laws: It is illegal to show a police officer a fake ID. It's also illegal to use a fake ID to purchase alcohol.
Statute of Limitations Laws in South Carolina
Another set of local laws that you should be aware of are statutes of limitations. This set of laws defines the window of time after an event during which people can initiate legal actions related to that event. The length of time will differ from state to state. In South Carolina, the statute of limitations laws are as follows:
- Injury to Person: Three years
- Libel: Two years
- Slander: Two years
- Fraud: Three years
- Injury to Personal Property: Three years
- Trespassing: Three years
- Contracts: Three to twenty years
- Judgments: Ten years
We've included a lot of information here. It may seem overwhelming! It should help to know that you don't have to go through all of this alone.
Should I Hire a National Student Defense Attorney? Or Could I Consider Hiring Someone Local or Someone My School Recommends?
If you're in need of a lawyer to assist with your disciplinary case at your South Carolina school, it could be tempting to walk into the legal firm that's closest to your school and ask for help. As you begin your experience, your school may also offer you a school-provided advisor. With everything you've got going on, this may seem like an attractive offer—one less thing that you need to worry about!
Unfortunately, it isn't a good idea to team up with an advisor from your school or someone who does not have significant experience with helping students through various challenges. Student defense is a very niche type of legal practice, and an advisor at the school whose primary responsibilites are not representing and defending you is not the best person to have in your corner considering what is involved and what is at stake. The same is true of a lawyer that performs other types of legal services who won't have the specific experience you need. Worse, your school's advisor will very likely always remain loyal to your school. If you find yourself in a tense situation where it's your word against your school's, or push comes to shove, your school-provided advisor may not always make choices that will work out in your favor.
It will be well worth your time to find and hire a student defense attorney who has helped students in your exact position before. A student defense attorney will be able to delve through your school's policies and code of conduct, understand the nuances of successful negotiations with school administrations, and be able to anticipate any issues that you may face as you work to keep your transcript free of any gaps or disciplinary notations.
As a result, you'll have more time and energy to take care of your emotional and mental health. At the Lento Law Firm, we believe it's important to take care of yourself, so you can have the bandwidth to invest in your future as necessary. By teaming up with an experienced student defense attorney, you'll experience the peace of mind and confidence you need to relax a little, even as you're going through a very tense time.
Call Joseph D. Lento for the Supportive Defense You Need at Your South Carolina School
If you're currently suffering through a sticky situation at school, your first priority should be figuring out who you can rely on for relevant, experienced, and timely support.
Why? Managing your disciplinary experience or other school-related challenge successfully is more than you're going to be able to handle on your own. Even if potential violations may seem like a big deal, these situations can snowball out of control before you know it. Even if you're an organized person with a stiff upper lip, you're going to get overwhelmed quickly with all of the deadlines and events you need to attend while still managing your own mental health and status as a full-time student.
Remember: Your future is on the line. It's important that you find the resources you need for success.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento is an empathetic, hard-working student defense advisor who's ready to defend you aggressively or support delicate negotiations with a deft hand. Whether you need help with the investigative or adjudicative process, attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm will be there to help you work towards a favorable outcome.
Just reach out today at 888.535.3686, or, alternatively, you can always connect with us online.