Are you a student or the parent of student at a Utah 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 Utah 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 Utah protect their academic and professional future, and he can do the same for you. Contact him today at 888-535-3686.
Where We Can Help - Utah Colleges, Universities, and Schools
When you or your child head off to college, there's understandably a lot on your mind. Going to college constitutes a steep learning curve even before you factor in the academic experiences, from overwhelming course loads to living in a new place.
Especially if you're planning to attend a school in a new state, you'll find that there are new guidelines and paradigms to know. Utah is home to many fine academic institutions and some niche educational laws that could influence your experience whether you're at a private or public school.
It's key to remember that, while at college, you have the opportunity to set up the rest of your future. You also have the potential to make your future much harder than it needs to be. For example, if you end up with a disciplinary note on your transcript, many employers or graduate schools will hesitate to offer you opportunities you'd have otherwise won.
At the Lento Law Firm, we're here to ensure that this doesn't happen to you. In this handy guide, let's talk about what you need to know as a Utah college student before you show up for orientation.
What schools, colleges, and universities are in Utah?
In Utah, you'll find many excellent academic institutions, any of which will provide you with a top-tier education. These universities and colleges include both public and private schools.
Public schools in Utah
- University of Utah
- Utah State University
- Southern Utah University
- Utah Valley University
- Weber State University
- Snow College
- Dixie State University
Private schools in Utah
- Brigham Young University
- Westminster College
- Independence University
- Nightingale College
- Neumont College of Computer Science
- Eagle Gate College
- Stevens-Henager College
Typically, public colleges receive more funding from the government and may be more financially feasible to attend, particularly for in-state students. To remain eligible for crucial state funding, state and public schools must abide by specific higher education laws in the state of Utah. However, just because private schools may not operate under a particular requirement to follow the same regulations doesn't mean they don't operate in similar ways. Many private schools want to leave the door open to government funding, even if they don't receive any; others simply wish to remain competitive and realize that offering students a consistent experience with their peers will help that.
We will use the code of conduct and processes at the University of Utah as an example of the types of prohibited behaviors, policies, and punishments you or your child may experience, no matter where they decide to study in Utah.
Are There Any Statewide Higher Education Laws That Govern My School's Actions?
Yes, there are. Some examples of laws and governing or influential bodies are as follows:
- Title 53B of the Utah Code regulates the state system of education—e.g., the University of Utah and its processes. In doing so, it also sets the standard for many other schools.
- The Utah System of Higher Education has approved a system of policies that oversee the way many schools in Utah plan their campuses, conduct their academic affairs, distribute financial aid, and otherwise run their institutions.
- Utah is in the Tenth Circuit, a part of the United States Court of Appeals that oversees cases in the western part of the country. Recently, the Tenth Circuit has made several decisions pertaining to Utah's school systems, including a case where a student sued their university after a sexual misconduct hearing and another surrounding the responsibilities a university has to students with disabilities. The decisions of the Tenth Circuit may impact your college experience, so it's good to be aware.
What Types of Misconduct Do Utah Schools Investigate?
There are three general types of misconduct that schools will recognize, investigate, and punish: Sexual misconduct, academic misconduct, and code of conduct infractions. The specific behaviors associated with each may vary from school to school, so it's a good idea to check your school's code of conduct for more information.
Here, we'll provide a general overview of what you may be able to expect.
Since 1972, when Title IX, a federal rights law, was established, all public schools in the United States have had to write and operate under specific sexual misconduct policies. For example, to retain their government funding, all public schools must investigate allegations of sexual misconduct promptly. Most private schools have similar Title IX policies in place to keep their students safe.
According to the University of Utah’s sexual misconduct policy, the following constitute examples of punishable behavior:
- Gender- or sexual-based harassment
- Any non-consensual sexual activity
- Interpersonal partner violence
- Dating violence
- Domestic violence
- Sexual discrimination
- Sexual exploitation
This is not an exhaustive list. Your university will likely investigate any allegations which relate to sexual impropriety or non-consensual activity.
American schools, colleges, and universities take academic integrity very seriously. Most have a published honor code that they use to inspire students to take the honest path when it comes to their studies. Any actions that may conflict with this ideal will likely result in punishment for all students involved.
While academic dishonesty is a broad term that can mean a lot of things, the most typical examples of academic misconduct include:
- Fabrication of Data or Records
- Assisting Academic Dishonesty
- Access to Unauthorized Materials
General code of conduct infractions
Aside from academic and sexual misconduct, there will usually be a set of other types of infractions that are more specific to your school's code of conduct. Examples of the types of behavior that a school may find punishable under this last, more universal category include:
- Drug or alcohol infractions
Whether the alleged infraction is academic, sexual, or more general in nature, your school will likely take the time to investigate it and then provide a disciplinary recommendation.
What Are the Disciplinary Procedures I'll Face in Utah?
After information makes it to a school's officials (by way of an instructor or a peer) of a student's alleged infractions, some combination of the following actions will take place:
- The school will deliver the accused student notice of the allegations and an invitation to a meeting (whether formal or informal) with at least one representative of the school.
- At this meeting, the representative will go over the allegations, give the student a chance to respond, and make some initial determination of responsibility. In some cases, the representative—for example, the student's teacher—may simply recommend consequences (e.g., a failing grade on a specific assignment) at this time. In more severe cases, or if the student indicates that they wish to fight the charges, the representative will escalate the matter to higher authorities at the university.
- The school will investigate the matter to learn more about what precisely happened. Once the investigation is complete, the school will invite all involved parties to a formal hearing.
- At the formal hearing, the school will review all relevant evidence, decide responsibility, and issue a recommendation for sanctions.
While the idea is that the school's punishment fits the stated crime, schools tend to turn to low-effort consequences when disciplining students. In serious cases of academic or sexual misconduct, that will most usually be a suspension. If the specific alleged infraction is particularly severe or repeated infractions are involved, the school may escalate from suspension to expulsion.
An expulsion or even a suspension may seem like a harsh enough punishment. Unfortunately, that's just where the consequences begin.
Whenever a student nets a disciplinary consequence, their school will note the discipline and the alleged violations on the student's transcript. Later, when a prospective employer or a subsequent school requests those transcripts as part of a candidate's application package, the employer (or admissions board) will see that note. That alone can be enough to cause employers or committees to decide to award opportunities elsewhere.
The ramifications of a disciplinary transcript note are terrifying. This information could follow a student the rest of their life, closing doors that would have otherwise remained open. You can't let this happen—which is why it's well worth it to take action now to make sure that you or your student's future isn't far harder than it needs to be.
How Do I Appeal Disciplinary Sanctions at My Utah School?
At the end of the disciplinary process at your school, you'll have a set period of time in which you can appeal your school's decision or the specific sanctions that your school recommended.
Choosing to appeal will involve a lot of strategies. For example, most schools will clarify that the decision made at the end of the appeal process will be final. In other words, you only get one chance to appeal.
Since this is the case, most schools recommend that you appeal only in the following situations:
- If you have information that was not available during the initial appeal
- If you can demonstrate a clear procedural anomaly from your disciplinary experience—e.g., that your school did not act according to its documented regulations
- If you believe that the recommended consequence does not fit with the alleged infraction and believe that you can demonstrate this with a clear and logical argument
It's also essential that you work with an experienced student defense attorney to write and submit your appeal. As you only have one chance, you want to make sure that it will likely work.
However, even if it doesn't—or if you believe it won't have any effect—filing an appeal serves a dual purpose. If you think you will need to file a lawsuit against your school, filing an appeal is a preliminary step.
What if It's Time to Sue My School in Utah?
If nothing else is working and you need to pursue heightened action to achieve a favorable outcome, it may be necessary to consider litigation against your school.
This is a drastic step. After you sue your school, it will be very difficult (or impossible) to regain any past relationship you may have enjoyed with your institution or even individuals at your institution.
As such, there are a few steps that you should consider taking before initiating a lawsuit, either to establish a firm basis for your lawsuit or to seek relief with a less powerful strategy.
- Make sure that you have filed a strategic appeal and tried all avenues of negotiations with your university.
- File a complaint with the Utah System of Higher Education. This governing entity may be able to help you move towards your goals, and, if not, this complaint will demonstrate that you are serious about pursuing a favorable outcome.
- Make absolutely sure that you are working with an attorney who has the specific skills and experience necessary to sue successfully. This is not every attorney! Few can do what needs to be done to handle unique code of conduct issues or delicate negotiations with schools. Don't simply settle for the lawyer your school provides or the lawyer down the street: Search for a lawyer poised to provide the specific support you need.
Are There Any Other Utah Laws That I Should Know About as a College Student?
If you're moving to Utah for your college years, you should know about the local laws that may influence your college experience. For example, if you plan to live off-campus for any time during your studies, you will have to obey the laws related to tenant responsibilities. While you won't necessarily have to deal with local law enforcement for any issues that may occur during your time at a Utah college, your school may implement similar regulations to the laws in its area.
For example, it's a good idea for every Utah college student to be aware of the following:
- Utah Laws about Underage Drinking: According to the Alcohol Policy Information System, underage persons must not drink or be in possession of alcohol; there are no exceptions.
- Utah Laws about Drinking and Driving: Utah has one of the most severe drinking and driving laws in the nation; there are serious penalties associated with anyone caught doing so.
- Utah Tenant Responsibilities: If you're not living on campus and instead renting from a landlord, you will have to abide by the tenant contract that you signed at the beginning of your lease, and you will have to pay rent on time.
- Utah Drug Policies: Depending on the substance and circumstances, there can be high fines and even jail time associated with possession or sale of drugs in the state of Utah.
- Utah False Identification Laws: According to Utah Code Title 53, it is illegal to use a fake ID in certain scenarios, including purchasing alcohol and any situation in which you show an ID to a police officer.
Statutes of Limitation in Utah
Each state has guidelines regarding how long after an event someone can initiate legal proceedings relating to that event. Whether you're worried that someone will bring action against you or you're interested in knowing just how long you have to strategize before you need to take action, it's good to know about these guidelines—referred to as ‘statutes of limitation.'
In Utah, the statutes of limitation for specific incidents are as follows:
- Wrongful death: Two years
- Injury to person: Four years
- Injury to personal property: Three years
- Trespassing: Three years
- Libel or slander: One year
- Fraud: Three years
- Collection of rent: One to four years
- Collection of credit card debt: Four years
Other Academic Issues and Concerns
While you or your student is in college, there will likely be other hardships and frustrating or confusing situations that arise outside of misconduct or legal matters. It's key to remember that your mental health is important, and avoiding stress during these times will help you safeguard yourself and your future.
If you feel that your school is not providing adequate support for your academic growth or your physical or mental wellbeing, that's important—particularly if they said that they were going to do specific things (e.g., provide counseling or specific health and wellness services or options) and they are not. Your experience matters, and it's crucial to step up, say something, and fight for your rights—and your college experience.
Whether you need help finding the academic support you need to succeed, you're struggling with the psychological stressors of preparing for your future, or if you have any other concerns or questions that require answers, make sure to reach out to someone you can trust. At the Lento Law Firm, we're here to provide the information you need to ensure that your college experience and all the time and resources you expend to get your degree are well worth it in the long run.
Why Should I Hire a Student Defense Attorney?
If you're facing any situation in which you feel like you're in an adversarial position with your school, you feel like your future's on the line, or you anticipate having a series of difficult conversations with your school that could impact your future, you should hire a professional. Why?
One reason is simple: Your future's on the line! You'll want to make sure that it's in good hands. However, there are other excellent reasons to reach out to ensure you're working with a competent, hard-working advisor:
- You'll be able to concentrate more on your studies and work instead of putting your life on pause to deal with a sticky situation.
- You'll be able to prioritize your physical and mental health during this tricky time.
- You'll be able to leverage years of expertise and experience for every document, meeting, and conversation.
- You'll have help meeting deadlines, drafting top-notch arguments, and more.
- You'll be able to count on thoughtful preparation and coaching for every hearing and meeting you attend.
- You'll know there's someone in your corner during a time that can make you feel very alone.
- You'll know that the power of your negotiations and appeals will go far further—making it more likely that you'll reach a favorable outcome.
If You're Going to College in Utah, Reach Out for the Support You Need!
The years you spend in college should be among the best in your life—and they should set you up for a lifetime of success. However, this isn't a given, and, unfortunately, it can be easy to make a misstep, be involved with miscommunication, or make one simple choice… and endanger your entire future.
At the Lento Law Firm, we want to make sure that this doesn't happen to you. It's our goal to see every single college student graduate successfully and embark upon the career of their choice. Getting through the college years can be difficult, though, and that's where we're happy to provide critical support.
If you face misconduct charges, are struggling to build your reputation after an unfortunate event, need to negotiate disciplinary sanctions, or smooth over your relationship with your school, you're going to need to work with someone who's done these types of actions before successfully. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has worked with students in Utah and across the nation to help them pursue a favorable outcome after a frustrating situation. He can do the same for you.
Whether you need help managing your school's investigation, navigating a complex code of conduct, filing an appeal, or crafting persuasive arguments in your favor, attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm will be here for you. Just reach out today by giving us a call at 888.535.3686, or you can always reach out to us online.