Policies and procedures are an integral part of higher educational institutions. They assure compliance with state and federal legislation and provide guidance for faculty and staff to follow when making decisions and streamlining processes. Within a college or university's student handbook are policies, procedures, and regulations that a school assures it will adhere to when an issue arises that must be resolved. Students, their parents, and faculty alike are granted easy accessibility to this handbook to understand their school's course of action in their unique situation.
It's natural for students to expect their school to follow these processes thoroughly. But despite this expectation, it's been reported that schools tend to stray from the very rules and processes they implement and enforce. All actions have consequences, and they will be penalized for breaking their own rules? Right? Wrong. Well at least, not all of the time.
You may or may not have noticed a tiny, barely legible tidbit in your student handbook that's hidden in all of the information that is provided. This is known as a disclaimer. It likely reads like the following:
“The provisions of the student handbook do not constitute a contract, expressed or implied, between students and the college.”
This disclaimer, or any other variation of it, though short, comes with many implications. In the past, student handbooks were viewed as contractual agreements in a number of court cases. When students realized that their school did not strictly follow the policies it promised to, and these actions unfairly disadvantaged them, they could sue for breach of contract. For this reason, many institutions now include a disclaimer that student handbooks are not contracts between students and institutions. This sentence or two gives schools the authority to amend their student handbook as they see fit.
Appellate courts have claimed that even despite many instances of willful and wanton conduct exhibited by a school, a student handbook with a disclaimer cannot form the basis of a contract. This is because the policies and procedures outlined are standards that the school aspires to follow, not an assurance that they will be followed.
Title IX Advisor Helping Clients Nationwide
Fortunately, there are alternative options for suing for a breach of contract, that will keep schools accountable for the mistreatment of students. If a student's rights are infringed upon in the Title IX process, they can file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). This government agency investigates unequal access to education through the denial of rights and reprimands the school if there is proof of inequity. Students can also get a litigation hold letter sent to the school to warn that an impending lawsuit on another basis could be coming if the mistreatment continues.
The only way to make sure your voice is heard and your rights are upheld is to retain a student defense attorney. National Title IX attorney Joseph D. Lento has the skill, experience, and expertise to help you preserve your entitled rights under Title IX and your school's policy. For a case evaluation or more information about his representation, contact him online or give him a call at 855-535-3686 today.