Have you or your South Dakota college student recently received accusations of misconduct?
Alternatively: Are you facing allegations that you're failing to progress academically quite as quickly as you should be?
When you matriculated at your South Dakota school, these types of stressful situations very likely weren't in your plans. Far from it: It was your goal to attend classes, make friends, and be able to embark upon the career of your choice with a degree and great academic reputation in tow.
That's still possible, but you need to act quickly. You see, even being associated with allegations of misconduct or failure to progress investigations can leave a lasting mark on a young student's reputation. This may still be the case, even if the misconduct allegations or failure to progress notations were based on a mistake or miscommunication.
For example, put yourself in the shoes of your student's future interviewer. Imagine that they're flipping through your student's file, and they see evidence of:
- Sexual misconduct
- Academic integrity issues (cheating, plagiarizing)
- Behavioral concerns
- Repeated course withdrawals
- Consistently-dwindling grades
- Suspensions (as evidenced by gaps on their transcript)
This hypothetical interviewer would have a few questions for your student. Those questions would result in tough conversations and, very likely, zero offers of employment (or admission to future schools or similar programs).
It's vital that you and your student do everything in your power to keep these types of notes off your student's permanent record. Fortunately, there are specific steps you can take to make this happen. Working with an experienced student defense attorney from the very beginning, for example, can go a long way towards ensuring a favorable outcome for your student.
The other best thing to do is arm yourself with information. Here, in this helpful guide, we'll review the main things your South Dakota college student should know if a misconduct allegation may be in their future. Bookmark this page for later reference, and let's dive in!
What Private and Public Colleges and Universities Are in South Dakota?
As a student attending a school in South Dakota, you may already be aware of the wide range of fine academic institutions in your state. The public and private colleges and universities in the Mount Rushmore state include:
Public schools in South Dakota
- South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
- University of South Dakota
- South Dakota State University
- Northern State University
- Dakota State University
- Black Hills State University
The University of South Dakota has just over 10,000 matriculated students — which makes it one of the largest academic institutions in the state. Its code of conduct (or Student Rights and Responsibilities document), therefore, applies to one of the largest student populations in the state. As such, we'll use it as a relevant example throughout this guide. Remember, though, that it is just an example. While it will likely overlap heavily with the rules and regulations at your South Dakota school, it will probably not be an exact match. If you're facing an adjudicative experience at your school, one of the first things that you and your defense advisor should do is comb through your specific school's code to see what regulations apply in your case.
Next, we'll provide a short list of the private academic institutions in your state:
Private schools in South Dakota
- Augustana University
- University of Sioux Falls
- Dakota Wesleyan University
- Mount Marty University
- Presentation College
- …and others!
A quick note before we move forward: There's a common misconception that private schools simply don't have to follow the same federal and state regulations that publicly run institutions must heed. While private schools may enjoy a little more latitude due, for example, to the fact that their code of conduct may not actually be written into the state legislature, for the most part, these schools will follow the same regulations.
There are many good reasons for this. Many schools will follow federal regulations concerning student safety in order to ensure that their students have a competitive and peaceful school experience. In other cases, schools (even private schools) must follow federal regulations in order to remain eligible for federal funding.
Here are a few of the state-specific authorities and laws that may apply to schools in South Dakota:
Statewide Higher Education Laws and Government Bodies in South Dakota
- The South Dakota Board of Regents has curated an extensive list of policies regarding the way that institutions of higher education in the state can operate. These range from the way that schools can write out their own student policies to recommended procedures for student conduct hearings.
- South Dakota Legislature has a series of laws regarding what accreditation means to a South Dakota institution and the types of things that accredited and non-accredited higher education institutions can and cannot do.
- South Dakota is in the Eighth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. This Court will hear cases, from time to time, that may affect the student experience at a South Dakota school. For this reason, it's a good idea to keep tabs on the types of opinions the Eighth Circuit Court is issuing.
Next, let's start to go over the various infractions and punishable behaviors that your South Dakota school may decide to investigate and adjudicate.
What Does “Failing to Progress” Mean at Your South Dakota School?
When you first hear it, the term “failing to progress” may not intuitively mean much. It's not a term that you might be familiar with — and it's not as well defined as other types of behavioral and academic concerns (such as academic misconduct, which is distinct — and something we'll talk about later.)
Failing to progress is an umbrella term that your educator may use to describe many different types of actions. The basic idea is that your educator is dissatisfied with how quickly you are making progress in your academic aims — though the specific events that your educator will point to in order to back this up may vary from case to case.
Unfortunately, even though the allegation itself may be vague, the consequences of failing to progress can be very real (and quite severe). If your educator escalates their allegations to your school's administration, you could face a suspension or a dismissal. This would net you similar long-term reputation damage as cheating, plagiarism, or sexual misconduct.
Depending on your unique situation, failure to progress could look like the following:
- Failing to take an adequate or minimum number of credits for either your program or your specific student status
- Repeatedly withdrawing from courses
- Failing to prepare specific (required) materials for courses or labs
- Repeatedly earning incompletes in courses
- Failing to do everything that is required for your course (e.g., as denoted in your course curriculum)
- Repeatedly or consistently low grades in your coursework
- Failing to do the background reading for your courses
While none of these activities may feel particularly punishable, these and other similar behaviors could result in a lot of frustration for you and your family.
Worse, as many of these items are relatively subjective, determining what is or is not punishable could just be up to your teacher's discretion. If you don't have a great relationship with your teacher, you may find that you're at a higher risk of these types of allegations.
Failure to progress cases can get serious very quickly. One moment, your teacher's asked you to chat for a few moments after class; the next, you're receiving scary emails from your school that could impact your entire future.
It may feel like an overreaction to get an attorney involved early on in a failure to progress case, but it isn't. Once you feel that a failure to progress allegation is on its way, you need to make sure that you have a student defense advisor on your side as soon as possible. It's always far better to be prepared than surprised.
What Is My South Dakota School's Code of Conduct? What's a Code of Conduct Infraction?
Your school should have an easily-available document that outlines your school's expectations regarding your behavior. This document, your school's code of conduct, should be on your school's website. It may be on your Student Life Page or on the Dean of Student's page. (Having difficulties locating it? Just enter your school's name and the phrase “code of conduct” into your favorite search engine.)
A school's code of conduct should contain lists of actions that your school has determined are worthy of punishment. Your school may break these actions down into specific groups, such as sexual misconduct, academic integrity infractions, residential infractions, and more. (We'll talk about those in a moment.)
Your school's code of conduct will not be an easy document to read; far from it. Instead, it will be a document that is rife with legalese, footnotes, and difficult-to-read sections. This is one of the times that a student defense attorney will come in handy. They'll be able to help you go through your school's code of conduct, jump to the sections that are relevant for you to understand, and leverage any gaps in your code of conduct to your advantage.
Next, let's take some time to review the main types of misconduct your school will likely consider punishable.
Sexual Misconduct at Your South Dakota School
On one level, sexual misconduct is relatively simple to understand. The types of behaviors largely considered punishable are similar from school to school. Most South Dakota schools will investigate and punish all allegations of sexual exploitation, domestic or dating violence, stalking, incest, or rape. This makes sense; your school is going to want to make sure that you're safe.
However, it does get a little bit more complicated than that.
Under Title IX, a federal regulation first established as one of the Educational Amendments of 1972, all schools must investigate all allegations of sexual misconduct or risk losing their funding.
This means that, depending on the environment and culture at your school, the list of punishable behaviors could expand from the relatively short list mentioned above to anything that prompts an allegation. This could include a wide range of actions, from jokes gone wrong to badly-ended relationships, miscommunications, mistakes, and misunderstandings.
Yet, since your school doesn't want to put its funding in jeopardy, those types of allegations may be met with the same scrutiny that more serious allegations do. Your school may even have an incentive to treat you harshly whether you're innocent or not, which can result in an unfair or otherwise poor adjudicative experience or even heightened sanctions.
Here's the other important thing to remember: Even if you're innocent or the allegations against you are wildly blown out of proportion, being associated with a sexual misconduct investigation will not help your reputation and could make your life a lot more difficult than it needs to be. Working with a student defense advisor may be able to help you work through this time in a much more productive and successful manner.
Academic Misconduct, Your South Dakota School, and You
We've already talked about failure to progress scenarios. What is the difference between those items (e.g., missing classes, low grades, skipped homework) and true academic integrity issues?
Your South Dakota school may have an honor code or some type of statement that underlines your school's commitment to honesty and some type of moral behavior above all else. To support this statement of your school's goals, your school's code of conduct should contain some type of list outlining the specific types of behaviors that go against your school's conduct rules and the honor code.
Examples of these types of behaviors include:
- Collaborating with other students
- Accessing unauthorized materials
- Fabricating data
- Destroying school property
- Sabotaging the work of others
The main differentiator between these punishable infractions and failure to progress scenarios is simple: With true academic misconduct, the responsible student has broken a clear rule. Your code of conduct should make it obvious that plagiarism is against the code of conduct, for example; therefore, if it can be proven that you have plagiarized, you are responsible for a code of conduct infraction.
In a failure to progress scenario, the rules are less clearly defined.
When a student is responsible for an academic integrity issue, their educator may decide to recommend a sanction highly relevant to the alleged infraction. For example, if a student is suspected of cheating on a test, the educator may decide to award them a failing grade for that particular assignment.
This type of sanction can be problematic. (Much like failure to progress scenarios, the appropriateness of this sanction depends on the teacher's judgment.) However, the stakes become much higher if the educator decides to refer the case to the school administration. If this happens, the student may become involved in a drawn-out adjudicative process that could end with suspension or dismissal — or, at the very least, result in a disciplinary notation.
Are sexual misconduct and academic misconduct the only issues my South Dakota school will investigate?
While sexual and academic code of conduct infractions may be the easiest to define, they're likely not the only ones that your school will consider investigating. Your school may also consider the following actions punishable:
- Drug or alcohol use
- Residential misconduct (e.g., theft or violence in the dorms)
- Hate crimes
Depending on the environment and culture at your school, some of these actions may be considered more severe than others. If you believe that you may be facing unwanted attention from your school for these or other infractions, it's a good idea to get a student defense attorney involved as early in the process as you can.
To illustrate why we'll go over what your school's response to punishable behavior may look like in the next section.
Due Process: What Happens After Code of Conduct Infractions at My South Dakota School?
The procedures that your school will follow to learn more about a punishable event, determine responsibility, and recommend a suitable punishment are generally termed “due process.” Your school's version of due process will kick in once your school receives information about your alleged behavior and decides to investigate. As mentioned above, if the allegation concerns an incident of sexual misconduct, your school may have no choice but to initiate due process.
Once your school does decide to move forward, it will begin by sending you and other involved parties a notification. This notification may arrive in the traditional mail, or it may just be a simple email. Included in this missive should be specific information about the allegations against you as well as the next action items your school has in mind.
If you've received this type of allegation, you'll immediately have a few to-do items on your plate:
- Start compiling data. Your school, after sending that notification, will likely launch some sort of investigation into your past behavior and reputation. It's time for you to do something similar. Once you know the allegations against you, collect as much evidence as possible. Take screenshots of social media posts; write down a detailed timeline of events leading up to your alleged actions; note possible witnesses or people who may be able to vouch for your actions.
- Keep quiet. We understand that this is a stressful time, but anything you say could be held against you. This is particularly true if you confide in a school employee (even a trusted mentor) or say something inappropriate on social media. If you need support at this time, rely on your family and your student defense attorney or the services of a professional (and confidential) mental health expert.
- Hire a student defense attorney to help you build your case. Consider this: Most of these types of cases are lost or won in the first, investigative, stage of your school's due process. This means that while it may feel premature to hire a defense attorney very early in the process, it isn't. Having a professional on your side will help you work towards success from the very beginning — and will likely make later, more time-sensitive parts of your case much easier.
After you've received your school's initial notification and begun to prepare by yourself or with a student defense attorney, you'll likely experience some version of these events:
- An informal meeting with one or two representatives from your school to discuss your allegations
- A more formal panel hearing to hear the evidence against you and tell your side of the story
- A decision from your school regarding your responsibility for the alleged events
- Recommended sanctions from your school, theoretically chosen to match the severity of your alleged actions
After your school recommends sanctions, you can either choose to accept them and carry them out (e.g., undergo the suspension) or fight them (e.g., negotiate with your school for reduced sanctions — and reduced consequences).
Before deciding whether fighting your sanctions may be a good idea, you may wish to know what sanctions are on the table.
What Types of Sanctions Are on the Table at My South Dakota School?
If you go through your school's code of conduct to find the list of potential sanctions, you may see a scarily-long list of options your school could decide to deal out. The options you face may include:
- Housing changes
- Loss of scholarships
- Behavioral contracts
- Written warnings
- Mandated course changes
- Loss of privileges
- Monetary fines
Fortunately, as regards this list, there is good news and bad news.
The good news? You very likely won't have to face the majority of these sanctions. To keep things simple, most schools will recommend suspensions for most student discipline cases. In severe or repeated cases of misconduct, a school may recommend dismissal.
Now, for the bad news: A sanction is likely a more harsh punishment than you may think.
Remember, we're less concerned with immediate ramifications than we are with long-term consequences.
A sanction will result in a gap on your transcript — a gap that you will have to explain and justify many times later on in life. For example, an interviewer may well ask you what happened to cause that gap and that suspension. The resulting conversation will not be a good look for you. As a result, you likely won't get the opportunity that you're interviewing for.
This may happen again and again, over and over throughout the course of your life. It may even make it much more difficult to start your career or further your education than it should be.
That's why we advocate so strongly that you take the time now to ensure your reputation remains spotless. By working with a seasoned student defense advisor, you'll be able to take steps to avoid suspensions and work towards a more successful outcome.
One of the first steps that you'll be able to take after your hearing might involve filing an appeal.
How Do I File an Appeal at My South Dakota College or University?
Filing an appeal at your South Dakota university could be difficult for a few reasons:
- You will likely only have a short period of time (perhaps five to ten business days) to file your appeal.
- You only get one shot at filing an appeal. If your school receives your appeal, reads it, and decides to stick with their initial recommendations, you can't file it again.
- You'll need to come up with a basis for your appeal (e.g., some type of new information that's come to light or the ability to demonstrate that your school did not follow its own rules during your adjudicative experience). Especially with such a quick deadline to work with, coming up with a strategic basis and persuasive argument that are likely to work can be tricky.
Since these factors are in play, it'll work to your advantage if you already have a student defense attorney at your side. Your defense attorney can analyze your case, help you come up with the strongest possible argument for your school to reconsider sanctions and make sure that you get the appeal filed on time.
Once a representative from your school — generally the Dean of Students — receives your appeal, they'll take a short time to consider it and then get back to you. If they indicate that they're ready to negotiate, your defense advisor can help with those conversations.
If not, it may be time to think about other types of legal action.
What if It's Time to Sue My School in South Dakota?
If it's truly time to sue your school in South Dakota, then that's precisely what we'll do. We have the experience and expertise necessary to take this aggressive step with you.
However, there is a step that we like to employ first. After all, lawsuits can be extremely expensive, and they will certainly result in the termination of your relationship with your school. If we can avoid that, we'd like to.
We've seen excellent results when student defense advisors have spoken directly with a school's office of general counsel. These types of lawyer-to-lawyer conversations often provide excellent results and smooth over confrontations in ways that might have previously seemed unthinkable.
Ask your lawyer if they would be willing to do this for you. If this strategy still doesn't work for some reason, your defense attorney will still be the one best poised to help you determine your next steps.
As a College Student, Are There Other South Dakota Laws I Should Know About?
There are a few specific South Dakota regulations that may pertain to your college career, whether you spend most of your time on campus or if you venture off campus from time to time. These laws include:
- Drinking laws: In South Dakota, it's illegal to drink if you're under the age of 21 or under the influence of alcohol (at any age).
- Tenant agreements: If you live off-campus in an apartment building, you'll need to follow your rental agreement (which means paying your rent on time).
- Identification laws: It's illegal in South Dakota to use a fake ID to purchase alcohol or to show an ID to an officer of the law.
Statute of Limitations Laws in South Dakota
- Injury to Person: Three years
- Libel: Two years
- Slander: Two years
- Fraud: Six years
- Injury to Personal Property: Six years
- Trespassing: 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.
South Dakota College Students, Call Joseph D. Lento for a Strong Defense
After you've received allegations of misconduct or failure to progress, the last thing on your mind is going to be research and legalese.
You're going to want to spend time with your loved ones. You're going to need to relax. And, if you're the student facing these allegations, you may even need to concentrate on your normal studies. No matter the case, you're not going to want to shoulder the immense mental burden of these allegations on your own.
You don't have to. Joseph D. Lento is a smart, hard-working, and empathetic student defense advisor who has spent years assisting students across the nation as they work towards favorable outcomes after allegations of misconduct. Whether you're facing an investigation into your academic progress or need help protecting your reputation after alleged sexual misconduct, Joseph D. Lento is here to help you move forward in the best way possible.
Joseph D. Lento can help you put together a strategic argument, file an appeal to your university's exact specifications, negotiate with your school's office of general counsel on your behalf, and more. Instead of having to live with the long-term ramifications of misconduct or failure to progress, you may be able to enjoy moving past this stressful time with your head held high — but you do have to act quickly.
Call Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today, and he'll get ready to bring the benefit of years of expertise to help you and your case. Call 888-535-3686 for more information, or simply reach out online to receive a timely response.