Where We Can Help - Washington DC Colleges and Universities

Are you a student or the parent of student at a Washington, D.C., 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 Washington, D.C., 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 Washington, D.C., protect their academic and professional future, and he can do the same for you.  Contact him today at 888-535-3686.

An Overview of Washington, D.C., Student Discipline and Student Rights

Are you or your student getting ready to go to a college or university in Washington, D.C.?

If so, this is undoubtedly a very exciting (and stressful) time. There's a lot to think about, from what you want to study to where you (or your child) should live. You'll be getting ready to ramp up your academic prowess, meet lifelong friends, and navigate living on your own for the first time. All of this can be a lot of fun.

It can also just be a lot. And, in some cases, the pressures that accompany going to college can result in tough situations that you will need to navigate. For example, managing college's much-increased workload can be a shock for even high-achieving, very smart students. Before you can achieve your degree, you need to make it through years full of tricky exams. Your instructors may be supportive and understanding if you need time to adjust. They also may not be. If you struggle to keep up, or if your instructors deem that your academic performance is concerning, that could result in disciplinary action. As a result, your degree could be in danger.

Misconduct could also result in danger to your degree or even your status as a college student. If anyone at your school files an allegation of academic, sexual, or general misconduct against you, your school may need to investigate and issue you a disciplinary sanction. This could hurt your future.

To make sure that you have all of the information you need at your fingertips, we've put together this guide. If you're a student heading to a Washington, D.C. college (or one of your loved ones is), this is the stuff that will be invaluable as you work towards your degree. At the Lento Law Firm, we're here to make sure that you're able to enjoy the result of your hard work. That starts today, by making sure that you're prepared for anything that could happen at your Washington, D.C. school.

What Are Some of the Public and Private Higher Education Institutions in Washington, D.C.?

Our nation's capital is home to many top-tier colleges and universities. No matter what you're hoping to study, you have a wide array of high-quality institutions to investigate. Here, we'll provide a quick list of some of the most well-known colleges and universities in Washington, D.C.:

Private schools in or near Washington, D.C.

  • Georgetown University
  • George Washington University
  • American University
  • The Catholic University of America
  • Howard University
  • Gallaudet University
  • Trinity Washington University
  • Strayer University
  • University of the Potomac
  • Bay Atlantic University

Public schools in or near Washington, D.C.

  • University of Maryland
  • George Mason University
  • University of the District of Columbia
  • Bowie State University

District-wide Higher Education Laws in Washington, D.C.

In order to ensure a consistent educational experience for Washington, D.C. students, the district has several laws and governing bodies that oversee higher education in the area. These include:

  • Chapter 26 of the Code of the District of Columbia, which discusses the duties of the State Superintendent of Education
  • Chapter 12 of the Code of the District of Columbia, which discusses standards of various public postsecondary educational institutions in the area
  • The Higher Education Licensure Commission, which oversees the operations of higher education institutions in the area (and also takes general complaints)
  • In addition, Washington D.C. resides in the United States Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit. This division of the U.S. Court of Appeals issues opinions on complaints and cases that relate to education from time to time. It's a good idea to stay informed regarding these opinions, just in case the Court rules something (e.g., a Title IX interpretation or similar) that could affect the way your school needs to handle disciplinary cases.

You may wonder whether private institutions will need to follow these higher education laws. For the most part—yes. Many laws, such as Title IX, require all schools that receive any federal funding to comply. Most private schools do receive at least some government funding; and, even if they don't, they would likely keep their processes compliant anyway, in the event that they would ever need funding.

That's some information about how schools are externally regulated. Now, we'll take a quick pivot to some internal regulations. What types of academic concerns could net a student a suspension? Are there code of conduct infractions that come with similar punishments? How can you file a strategic appeal at your Washington, D.C. school? We'll cover this information and more in the upcoming sections.

What Are Some Typical Academic Issues and Concerns That Could Merit Negative Attention at My Washington, D.C. School?

It might be clear that if you break a rule at your school, your school could respond with harsh disciplinary sanctions. It may be less clear that if you're simply struggling to keep up with your instructors' academic standards, your school could move to suspend you for that reason alone.

As you're ramping up your studying style to meet your college's demand, you may find that you require more time or support than your instructors deem necessary. Your college may offer some type of assistance in these cases—additional time, for example, or the help of a tutor or a therapist to help you with stress.

In other cases, your school may not be so understanding. Instead of a helping hand, you could find that your school will simply award disciplinary sanctions for your failure to progress.

The types of academic struggles that could trigger this type of unwanted attention from your school usually include:

  • Repeated incompletes earned
  • Alleged failure to prepare for class properly
  • Alleged failure to complete homework or supporting work for your courses
  • (Alleged) substandard performance
  • Repeated withdrawals from courses
  • Repeated failure of examinations

If you're having a hard time keeping up with your curriculum or your peers, it may be best to prepare yourself. Review your school's stated support systems to see what options you may have. If you feel that your school doesn't have adequate support for you or has failed to follow through on any promises of support, it's time to reach out to a student defense lawyer to make sure that you don't receive a dismissal.

Code of Conduct Infractions and Types of Misconduct at Your Washington D.C. School

Aside from academic issues and concerns, a Washington D.C. college student can receive negative attention from their school in many other ways. Chief among these are code of conduct violations.

In order to define code of conduct violations, it may first be a good idea to define a school's code of conduct. Your Washington D.C. school should have a formal, written, and easily accessible document that outlines all of the expectations it has for a student's behavior. This document is your code of conduct, and it should be freely available on your school's website—or perhaps as a part of your student handbook.

Very widely speaking, there are three categories of prohibited behavior that code of conduct infractions fall into: Academic dishonesty, sexual misconduct or Title IX cases, and general or behavioral code of conduct issues.

Sexual Misconduct

Sexual misconduct is, unfortunately, a pervasive problem at many American colleges and universities. It can also be very difficult to recognize, even for those involved, as many allegations of sexual misconduct are the result of miscommunications or misunderstandings. From a university perspective, however, sexual misconduct can be easy to spot: Any sexual interaction that occurs without the express consent of all involved could constitute punishable misconduct.

Your school will have a more detailed guide of prohibited actions (e.g., rape, incest, stalking, and dating violence) in its code of conduct, along with any Title IX regulations which may apply in select sexual misconduct cases.

Academic Misconduct

In the case of academic struggles and concerns, your school will likely presume that you have been trying your best without attempting to circumvent the actual rules of the school. Academic dishonesty crops up when a student acts in a way that breaks a school rule or a generalized code (such as an honor code).

For example, within a failure to progress scenario, a student may be overwhelmed with work and let deadlines slip by. In a true academic misconduct situation, a student may cheat, plagiarize, fabricate data, or disrupt their classroom environment. This may be because of a stressful academic situation, but the infraction occurs when the student formally breaks the student code of conduct.

General Code of Conduct Infractions

Outside of academic integrity and sexual misconduct issues, a school's code of conduct will typically identify a handful of other behavioral concerns that will result in a university investigation or associated sanctions. These may vary from school to school, so it's a good idea to check your school's documentation to see if there is anything specific that you need to know about. Typical examples of these infractions may include drug offenses, hazing, or campus hate crimes.

Just about anyone at your school can file an allegation against you with your school's officials. Frequently with academic misconduct, the person responsible for escalating concerns is the relevant instructor. With sexual misconduct, the victim or a friend of the victim may file allegations.

What happens next? We'll review what occurs after an allegation of prohibited behavior in the next section.

Once My Washington, D.C. School Receives Information About My Alleged Academic Issue or Misconduct Concern, What Happens Next?

After your school learns that you may be associated with punishable behavior, many things could happen. They could happen very quickly. Your school's disciplinary process may be unique to your school, so familiarizing yourself with your institution's due process is vital.

Shortly after your school receives an allegation linking you to a code of conduct violation (or academic concern), some version of the following sequence of events will happen:

  • In order to process the allegations and initiate any follow-up activities, your school will need to send you some notification of the allegations against you. This notification should be in writing. The notification should also contain a reference to the specific part of your school's code of conduct that prohibits your alleged behavior. It's a good idea to look up that specific part of your school's documentation immediately. Your school should also let you know what next steps they expect you to follow.
  • You'll meet with a representative from your school to learn more about the allegations against you and to present your side of the story for initial review. The nature of this first meeting will depend on the nature of your alleged infraction. For example, if your school suspects that you are responsible for plagiarism, your teacher may simply meet with you and let you know that you're receiving a failing grade for the relevant assignment.
  • In other cases, particularly if the event in question is more severe (e.g., a Title IX violation), your school may choose to launch an investigation to learn more about what might have happened.
  • Next, you will meet again with your school. This may take the form of a formal hearing.
  • At this hearing, you'll state your side of the story. Your school may interview witnesses and review all available evidence.
  • Finally, your school will recommend a sanction.

At the end of this process, you can either accept your school's decision and subsequent sanctions or file an appeal. It's very likely that your sanction will include some type of suspension.

A suspension is a far bigger deal than you may think. When you receive a suspension from your school, you will (by definition) not attend school for a period of time. This will result in a gap on your transcript and potentially a permanent disciplinary note on your record. Later in life, when you're applying to another school, internship, or job, that gap will (unfortunately) speak volumes. When they learn that you were associated with a disciplinary violation, admissions committees and employers alike will be extremely hesitant to offer you opportunities you would have otherwise readily earned.

In other words, this disciplinary event (no matter how manageable it may seem) could adversely affect the next several years of your life. That's why it's important now to reach out to a student defense advisor and set yourself up for success. Doing so prior to an appeal will increase the chances of your appeal working well for you.

Filing a Strategic Appeal at Your Washington, D.C. School

The specific procedures for filing an appeal may vary from school to school, but the general process will go something like this:

  • Gather your evidence or rationale for filing an appeal. Typically, you'll want to show that there was a procedural anomaly, that your sanction is disproportionate to the alleged violation, or that you have new information that was not available at the time of your investigation.
  • Write a persuasive argument summarizing your rationale. This is where it will be extremely helpful to have a trained legal advisor on your side.
  • File this argument and all required supporting documentation with the relevant authorities at your school. In many cases, this will be the Dean of Students.
  • Wait for your school to consider your appeal. Once your school responds, their decision is final. Your school may decide to reopen negotiations or stand firm on itsinitial recommendations.

If your school is open to reconsidering your sanctions, great! Your advisor will know precisely how to negotiate to achieve a result that's in your best interest. If your school is not amenable, it may be time to consider more drastic action.

What if It's Time to Sue My School in Washington, D.C.?

Pursuing litigation against your school may seem like a dramatic step, but it can be an effective way to move towards a successful end result for you and your family.

However, since it can be a relationship-terminating action, it's vital to make sure that you have all your ducks in a row before you get started. It's also absolutely necessary to ensure that you're working with a lawyer you can trust. While hiring a student defense advisor up until now will have been extremely helpful (and could reduce the likelihood of a lawsuit), filing a lawsuit cannot happen without a lawyer on your side.

Before you file your suit, consider the following preliminary actions:

  • Ensure that you have completed your appeal to its fullest extent. This can help provide the basis for a successful suit.
  • File an official complaint with the D.C. Higher Education Licensure Commission. This regulatory body can exert some pressure on D.C. schools. If this doesn't work, this too helps round out the basis of your lawsuit.
  • Have your lawyer get in touch with your school's office of general counsel. This step can possibly help you avoid an expensive lawsuit and allow you and your school to remain cordial.

Suing your school can be complex, but your student defense advisor will be with you every step of the way. We'll round out this guide to the things Washington D.C. college students need to know with a quick summary of local D.C. laws.

Are There Any Other Washington, D.C. Laws That I Should Know About as a College Student?

While you're a college student in D.C., most of your actions will fall under the regulation of campus policies. If you spend any time off-campus, you'll need to follow local laws and regulations. Here are a few to keep in mind.

  • Washington, D.C. Laws about Underage Drinking: If you are under the age of 21, you cannot possess or consume alcohol. (This may take you by surprise, but it's the law!)
  • Washington, D.C. Laws about Drinking and Driving: Washington D.C. has a very strict policy regarding driving under the influence. You will receive steep penalties if caught doing so.
  • Washington, D.C. Tenant Responsibilities: If you live off-campus, you need to adhere to all of the responsibilities mentioned in your rental agreement. This includes paying your rent on time, every time.
  • Washington, D.C. False Identification Laws: In D.C., you can't show a fake ID to an officer of the law. You also can't use a fake ID to purchase alcohol.

Statute of Limitations Laws in Washington, D.C.

The statutes of limitations in every state detail the period of time after an event during which an involved party can bring legal action against another. These are good to keep in mind for a variety of reasons! Here are the statutes of limitations in place in D.C.:

  • Injury to Person: Three years
  • Libel: One year
  • Slander: One year
  • Fraud: Three years
  • Injury to Personal Property: Three years
  • Trespassing: Three years
  • Contracts: Four years
  • Judgments: Twelve years

If all of this information seems overwhelming and complicated, that's because it is! Fortunately, you don't need to handle all of this on your own.

Call Joseph D. Lento for Targeted Expertise from a National Student Defense Attorney-Advisor

Whether you or a loved one are in need of assistance at a Washington, D.C. college or university, you're going to need professional help to achieve the most favorable outcome possible.

It's key to remember that your future is at stake. Because of this, there's no such things overreacting. As soon as you know that you are involved in a misconduct allegation at school—or that you are struggling in such a way that your school is likely to retaliate—you need to act quickly.

During your school's investigative and adjudicative processes, you're going to need help doing everything from finding evidence, managing witnesses, putting together evidence, and staying as mentally healthy as you possibly can. It's vital that you don't try to shoulder all of this by yourself. Instead, rely on a seasoned, smart student defense advisor. Joseph D. Lento has helped hundreds of students in your precise situation save their reputations and remain in their positions as happy students. He can do the same for you.

Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to learn more about how we can help, or simply fill out our online contact form, and we'll get back to you in a timely manner.

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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