Where We Can Help - Vermont Colleges and Universities

Are you a student or the parent of student at a Vermont 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 Vermont 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.

Joseph D. Lento has helped countless students and others in academia in Vermont protect their academic and professional future, and he can do the same for you. Contact him today at 888-535-3686.

An Overview of Vermont Student Discipline and Student Rights

Are you preparing to matriculate in a college or university in the Green Mountain State? There are numerous high-quality academic institutions in Vermont, and there really isn't anything quite like New England in the fall. As you or your student prepares to begin your college experience, you're likely very excited. Justifiably so, you're on the precipice of a wonderful opportunity.

Unfortunately, it can be very easy to let that opportunity slip away. Without realizing it, without actively planning on it, you could find yourself involved in misconduct, or simply struggling more than you expected with your studies. As a result, you could find yourself receiving disciplinary sanctions, or facing progression issues or even suspension or dismissal, and more—any of which could make your future much more difficult than it needs to be.

If this type of stressful situation occurs, you may find that your usual support systems (your mentors, your teachers, even your group of friends) won't be able to be there for you. You may feel very alone.

It's important that you realize that you're not alone. You don't have to figure out how to get out of tough circumstances surrounding academic or misconduct struggles by yourself. At the Lento Law Firm, we want to be a resource both for the information you need and the support you require.

To help get you started on the right foot, we've put together this handy page containing the information Vermont college students definitely need to know before starting their academic experiences or at any point along the way. We'll talk about the various ways that you could find yourself in a sticky situation with your university, then discuss the options you have to work towards a favorable outcome.

Non-Conduct-Related Academic and Misconduct Issues at Your Vermont School

While your specific Vermont school may have unique expectations for your academic performance and conduct, there are general issues that most schools will tend to notice and respond to. These can be divided into academic concerns and code of conduct infractions.

Academic Issues and Concerns

As a college student, one of your primary goals is to achieve comprehension in your courses as you progress towards a degree. You may quickly find that university-level academic courses move very quickly, that you don't work well with the teaching practices of one of your instructors, that you've taken on an overly challenging workload, or are simply struggling to keep up with your peers.

While your school should have support systems in place to help you through this experience, many academic institutions fall short in this arena. As a result, your school may approach you with concerns about your failure to progress. Many schools may break this down into more specific examples of academic issues, including:

  • Your alleged failure to prepare for lab work or coursework
  • Your failure to complete any required supporting work for courses (e.g., papers or readings)
  • Your repeated failure to pass any required examinations
  • Repeatedly earning incompletes in coursework
  • Repeatedly withdrawing from courses
  • Your alleged substandard performance in the eyes of your instructors

This area of concern can extend to a wide array of issues, including simply failing to make satisfactory progress according to your instructors or advisors. This can feel heartbreaking and stressful enough as it is. It can get worse, though, when you realize that these issues and concerns can serve as the rationale for an academic inquiry process or even a dismissal.

Code of Conduct Infractions and Types of Misconduct

Your school has an established code of conduct or a document that details its expectations for student behavior. In that document, which should be readily available on your school's website, you'll be able to find all kinds of regulations and rules detailing what students should and should not do. Your school will likely have at least a few unique or specific regulations, so it's a good idea to check.

Generally speaking, most code of conduct infractions can be divided into two categories: Sexual and academic misconduct.

Sexual Misconduct

Under Title IX, a federal rights law, all United States schools must investigate all allegations of sexual misconduct as quickly as possible or risk losing their funding. While, technically, this only applies to schools that receive federal funding (e.g., public schools), Title IX and its associated practices have become so ingrained in our culture that most private schools adhere to similar practices as well.

Title IX is also a hot-button issue. The past several presidential administrations have each issued updated guidance to influence the way schools implement Title IX. As a result, the way we interpret Title IX tends to be in flux. Many schools have created a dual-policy system so they can be in compliance and present a safe, consistent experience for their students year after year.

The specific actions that fall under ‘sexual misconduct' may vary from school to school, but some of the most consistently banned actions include rape, incest, stalking, dating and domestic violence, sexual exploitation, or just about any sexual activity that occurs without consent.

Academic Misconduct

As we noted above, your job as a student is to grow in comprehension of your studies and, more generally, to grow as a person. To aid you as you work towards both of these goals, most Vermont schools have academic integrity or honor codes that they expect you to respect.

Actions such as plagiarism, cheating, classroom disruption, fabrication of data, unauthorized collaboration, or assistance of another person's academic misconduct will largely be against your school's honor policy. If your instructor suspects that you have been involved in academic dishonesty or if a peer makes an allegation against you, your school could choose to investigate further, and initiate adjudicate processes.

What Are Some of the Public and Private Academic Institutions in Vermont?

Vermont is home to many great colleges and universities. You'll find trade schools, tech schools, community colleges, private schools, and public schools. Some of the most well-known of these academic institutions include:

Private schools in Vermont

  • Middlebury College
  • Saint Michael's College
  • Bennington College
  • Champlain College
  • Norwich University
  • Sterling College
  • Landmark College
  • Goddard College
  • New England Culinary Institute

Public schools in Vermont

  • University of Vermont
  • Castleton University
  • Vermont Technical College
  • Northern Vermont University

To at least some extent, all of these schools are subject to a level of oversight from the government in Vermont and other regulatory bodies. We'll discuss these next.

Statewide Higher Education Laws in Vermont

Vermont has implemented both legislation and governing bodies that help make sure all college students in Vermont enjoy a consistent and safe college experience. Some of these laws and regulatory entities include:

  • The Vermont General Assembly, Title 16, Chapter 003, Subchapter 002, discusses how postsecondary schools in the state can pursue accreditation and formalize their processes. It also talks about the ways that the state can take action against schools in the event that a school does not comply with proper educational standards.
  • The State of Vermont Agency of Education oversees all of the institutions of higher education in the state. This agency also has a complaint process for students who need to seek relief from an external authority.
  • The Vermont Department of Health informs and influences schools in the state with respect to their health and safety procedures. This includes routine health maintenance as well as emergency responses to health-related issues.
  • Vermont is also in the Second Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. Each of these Circuits hears cases that may apply to or affect a specific grouping of states. From time to time, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit will hear a case and issue a resulting opinion that can influence the way that schools in Vermont can operate. For example, sometimes, the Court of Appeals will hear a case about a Vermont student struggling with their school's implementation of Title IX. Based on the opinion the Court issues, any subsequent Title IX cases in Vermont may proceed a little differently.

In addition to these external forms of oversight, every college and university in Vermont will have its own processes and procedures to help enforce its regulations. Next, we'll talk about these internal disciplinary regulations and what you may be able to do to begin negotiations with your school.

After an Identified Academic Issue or Misconduct Concern, What Will Happen at My Vermont School?

The disciplinary processes at your Vermont college or university will likely come into effect when your school receives an allegation about your involvement in an alleged infraction. If you've been struggling with academic performance for a considerable amount of time, an instructor may also raise these concerns to the administration.

The first time you become aware that you're on the receiving end of disciplinary action could occur when your school sends you a notice. You will receive, via student mail or by email, a formal summary of the allegations against you (or the concerns that your school has), a reference to the part of your school's code of conduct that details the expected behavior you may not have exhibited, and an indication of the next steps available to you.

Your first step, aside from getting in contact with a student defense attorney, should be to look up the cited part of your school's code of conduct to familiarize yourself with this information. After that, you may be able to anticipate some version of the following sequence of events:

  • Someone from your school will reach out to you and schedule a meeting. This first meeting will likely be relatively informal, possibly just with your instructor or advisor. During this meeting, you will have a chance to hear and respond to the allegations against you. You'll have a chance to tell your side of the story and an opportunity to decide whether to accept an immediate sanction or to try and fight for your innocence.
  • Your school may take some time to perform an investigation. This may help them come to a decision regarding your involvement in the alleged transgression. Your school may speak with your friends and classmates, pull your records, or even look at your social media.
  • You may receive an invitation to a more formal hearing. At this meeting, you may have the opportunity to present a defense. You may also hear the extent of the evidence that your school has against you.
  • Your school will issue a decision regarding your responsibility.
  • Your school will give you a recommendation for a suspension or other associated sanctions.

At the end of this process, you will have the opportunity to either experience the recommended sanctions or file an appeal to try and negotiate for something more appropriate. Your school's code of conduct or student handbook should have a list of sanctions you may be able to expect. However, for the most part, students tend to receive suspensions for less severe infractions and dismissals or expulsions for more severe or repeated misconduct.

You may wonder why this is a big deal.

Here's the thing: All of your disciplinary sanctions will appear on your permanent academic transcript. Later in life, when you seek to apply for an internship, a future job, a future school, or virtually anything else, you'll need to produce that transcript and disclose your disciplinary experiences.

In most cases, this will very likely result in your losing out on opportunities you would otherwise have likely won. At the Lento Law Firm, we know you don't want to see this happen. Neither do we! That's why we're here to help you pursue strategic steps to make sure that your academic reputation remains as spotless as possible.

The Process of Filing a Strategic Appeal at Your Vermont School

At the end of your disciplinary experience, your school should make the appeals process clear. Typically, you'll have a short period of time to file the paperwork for this option. At many schools, this is only 5-10 business days, and sometimes even less.

You'll also need to consider the basis for your appeal. Once your school reviews your appeal and makes a subsequent decision, that decision will often be final. It's in your best interest, then, to make your appeal as strong as it can possibly be.

Since this is the case, many schools recommend that you wait to file an appeal until you have:

  • New information that was not available to the school when the school performed its investigation
  • Clear evidence that your school did not follow its own disciplinary processes during your adjudication
  • The ability to demonstrate that the sanction your school recommended was disproportionate

To gather this data, you only have that short period of time. For this reason, if you're not already working with a student defense attorney at this time, now is an excellent time to do so.

What if It's Time to Sue My School in Vermont?

After you've filed your appeal, it may feel like there's nothing else you can do. If your school's shown that it doesn't want to negotiate, where do you go next?

The next step could be a drastic one. It may be time to consider pursuing litigation against your school. While suing your school might sound dramatic, it can be an extremely effective way to protect your name and pursue your hoped-for outcome.

Since filing a suit against your school will likely make it very difficult for you to have any relationship with the institution going forward, it's a good idea to speak with your defense advisor and make sure you've already done everything you can possibly do. Once your school has issued its final disciplinary decision in your case, after your appeal, complete the following actions:

  1. First, considering reach out to the State of Vermont Agency of Education and filling out a complaint. This government entity has some level of authority over most schools in the state. Even if this complaint doesn't seem likely to go anywhere, having this formal document on record will help build a logical foundation for your subsequent lawsuit.
  2. Make absolutely sure you are working with a student defense attorney who has the skills and targeted experience to represent you, advise you, and support you through drawn-out litigation. Student defense is a niche type of practice, and not every lawyer will be able to provide the assistance you require. Remember: It's far more important that you find a legal professional who has done this before (successfully) than it is to work with someone nearby!
  3. Have your student defense attorney reach out to your school's office of general counsel. Establishing this connection and discussing the situation lawyer-to-lawyer can provide one way to avoid an expensive, lengthy lawsuit.

Are There Any Other Vermont Laws That I Should Know About as a College Student?

While it's likely that you'll spend most of your time on campus, there are situations in which you may venture into nearby cities. For example, you could work or even live in an off-campus neighborhood. If this is the case, you'll need to be aware of the many laws and regulations that apply in the area around your school.

Even if you don't think you'll be spending much time away from your school, sometimes colleges and universities use local laws as standards for student behavior. Familiarize yourself with the following regulations:

  • Vermont Laws about Underage Drinking: People under the age of 21 can neither possess nor consume alcohol legally.
  • Vermont Laws about Drinking and Driving: Vermont has a stringent drinking under the influence policy. Any non-commercial driver over 21 with a BAC of 0.8 or greater is considered legally drunk.
  • Vermont Tenant Responsibilities: If you live off-campus in an apartment, you will need to uphold your rental agreement.
  • Vermont False Identification Laws: In Vermont, you cannot show a fake ID to a police officer or use one to purchase alcohol as a minor.

Statute of Limitations Laws in Vermont

Other local laws you'll want to pay attention to include the Vermont statute of limitations laws. After an event occurs, there exists a very specified window of time in which one person can bring legal action relating to that event against another. These windows are called statutes of limitations.

No matter why you're interested in these time frames, it's good information to have handy. In Vermont, these laws are:

  • Injury to Person: Three years
  • Libel or Slander: Three years
  • Fraud: Six years
  • Injury to Personal Property: 3 years
  • Trespassing: 3 years
  • Written Contracts: 8 years

We've given you a lot of information on this page, and we understand if it feels overwhelming. Remember that you don't have to figure all of this out on your own. Instead, give the Lento Law Firm a call, and we'll get you the support you need.

Vermont College Students: Call Attorney Joseph D. Lento to Get the Support You Need

Preparing for college is a very fun, exciting, and anticipatory time. After years of studious work in high school—keeping up your grades, studying for standardized tests, working on applications—you're about to head off on a life-changing adventure.

Unfortunately, college can be life-changing in more ways than one. While it's very likely that you'll enjoy four wonderful years, amazing friendships, and receipt of your degree at the end of your time in school, it can also be surprisingly easy to get caught up in missteps or miscommunications that can have lifelong ramifications. Even outside of misconduct situations, you could realize midway through your first semester that you're experiencing high-stakes academic difficulties, and you need help that (maybe) your college isn't giving you.

That's when it's time to call in Attorney Joseph D. Lento. Whether you need help in a tense adjudication or investigation, hope to negotiate lesser sanctions, or even need help filing an appeal or a lawsuit, Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm will be with you to help you pursue a favorable outcome.

Don't carry the heavy burden of safeguarding your future and defending your reputation by yourself. You'll also need to have the bandwidth to protect your mental health, even as you're handling your academic or misconduct-related issues. Give Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm a call today at 888.535.3686, or, alternatively, you can always reach out to us online.

Contact Us Today!

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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