Where We Can Help - West Virginia Colleges and Universities

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

Overview of Student Discipline and Student Rights in West Virginia

Going off to college is a big time in your life, and you're probably looking forward to it. But academic issues and misconduct allegations can stand in the way of your education and ultimately prevent you from having the collegiate and professional career you imagined.

At the Lento Law Firm, we want you to have the resources to succeed and defend your right to get your education. We've compiled this helpful page for college students in West Virginia who may be facing academic progression or misconduct issues. We'll cover laws and regulations you should know as a college student, typical misconduct violations and procedures, and what you can do to keep your education safe from harm.

The Biggest Public and Private Academic Institutions in West Virginia

Private colleges and universities

University of Charleston

West Virginia Wesleyan College

Wheeling Jesuit University

Alderson Broaddus College

Davis & Elkins College

Bethany College

Ohio Valley University

Appalachian Bible College

Public colleges and universities

West Virginia University

Marshall University

West Virginia State University

Shepherd University

Concord University

West Liberty University

Fairmont State University

Glenville State College

Higher Education Laws in West Virginia

Four-year colleges and universities work with the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (WVHEPC) to help ensure institutions carry out state procedures. Laws pertaining to higher education in West Virginia cover things like accreditation, tuition and fees, financial aid and scholarships, equal opportunity and affirmative action, campus safety, awarding and transferring college credit, health services, human resources, and student affairs. The WVHEPC also authorizes private and out-of-state accredited institutions to operate in West Virginia.

The WVHEPC is your first resource when it comes to higher education laws in West Virginia, but there are other agencies and regulatory bodies to note as well. The West Virginia Legislature, for example, is responsible for drafting and passing the higher education laws that the WVHEPC helps to implement.

Also, West Virginia is in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals jurisdiction, and on some occasions, this court hands down decisions related to higher education. An example would be a ruling on how federal Title IX policies should be implemented at West Virginia colleges and universities.

As a student, you should always read your university's code of conduct and relevant policies. Understanding statewide policies, however, can help you better understand your school's specific policies as well as your rights as a student.

Common Student Issues at West Virginia Colleges and Universities

Each school has its own rules concerning academic standing and misconduct, and what counts as a violation at one university may not at another. On the whole, however, most schools in West Virginia have similar procedures that govern students' status and conduct. The two types of issues that can lead to serious consequences at most West Virginia schools are academic concerns and code of conduct infractions.

Academic Issues

Academic issues refer to your standing as a student at your college or university. These concerns take effect without your even knowing in most cases. When you start falling behind in your courses and get low grades on a consistent basis, your school often has the right to put you on academic probation. If academic issues of this nature continue, it could even lead to expulsion.

When you enter college for the first time—for most people when they're 17 or 18 years old—all of the changes can be overwhelming. Classes may move faster than what you're used to in high school, or the challenges of living away from home and being independent might weigh on you and interfere with your academic success. Some students also deal with personal or medical problems that prevent them from performing at the academic standards their college expects.

Despite these issues and how common they are, many schools are not lenient when it comes to concerns affecting academic standing. You could be placed on probation or expelled for any one of the following:

  • Failing to complete work required for courses such as term papers and readings
  • Allegedly coming unprepared to labs and courses
  • Earning incompletes on coursework repeatedly
  • Consistently failing exams
  • Allegedly performing under standards expected by instructors
  • Repeatedly withdrawing from courses

Most West Virginia colleges and universities have resources and support systems available for students who struggle academically, especially in their first year. If you need support and your school is not providing it, your academic status could be in jeopardy. You need to take responsibility and speak up for your rights to an education.

Code of Conduct Violations

Your college or university likely has a student handbook or code of student conduct freely available for access on its website. If you violate any of the rules, you could be subject to the investigative and disciplinary procedures mentioned in the code of conduct.

College student misconduct encompasses sexual misconduct and academic misconduct.

Sexual Misconduct

Sexual misconduct refers to any sexual act that occurs without the consent of every person involved in the act. Schools in West Virginia typically ban:

  • Rape
  • Incest
  • Domestic violence
  • Dating violence
  • Stalking
  • Sexual exploitation

This list is not comprehensive, and you should refer to your school's sexual misconduct policy for specific rules and violations.

Most US schools are compelled to investigate and adjudicate reported acts of sexual misconduct under federal Title IX rules; those institutions that don't comply with Title IX could lose federal funding. Staying compliant with Title IX can prove tricky for colleges and universities, as the government implements updates and modifications to Title IX rules with each new presidential administration.

In order to stay compliant and keep up with frequent updates to Title IX rules, many schools have two policies. One policy addresses Title IX and its changes, and the other is a general sexual misconduct policy that stays consistent.

Academic Misconduct

Academic misconduct is not the same as academic concerns that affect student standing. Falling behind in class is not considered misconduct. Academic misconduct, rather, is breaking a rule related to the university's code of conduct. Examples of academic dishonesty that students can face punishments for are:

  • Cheating
  • Plagiarism
  • Falsifying information
  • Gaining unauthorized access to course materials
  • Disrupting class
  • Fabricating data
  • Destroying school resources

Again, this list isn't comprehensive, and each school may define what is considered academic dishonesty. Additionally, if you assist another student with any act of academic dishonesty, it's also considered an infraction, and you may face the same consequences as the student who committed the misconduct.

Keep in mind that there is also code of conduct violations, which may not be sexual or academic misconduct but are still prohibited by your school. These violations could relate to student housing, alcohol on campus, or hazing, for example.

What Happens Following an Academic or Misconduct Concern?

When someone files a complaint against you for misconduct or an instructor raises a concern about your academic performance to the administration, your college or university may start a disciplinary process to address the complaint or concern. What do you need to know about these processes in West Virginia?

Each school may set its own procedures for dealing with alleged conduct violations or concerns over academic performance. In general, you can expect a process that resembles the following steps.

  1. Your school notifies you about the issue. You receive official communication from your college or university either by letter or email. This communication may contain information about the complaint against you, the relevant school rules you have supposedly violated, and how the process proceeds.
  2. You have an informal meeting with someone from the administration. After receiving a notification concerning your academic issue or alleged misconduct, your school may schedule an informal meeting between you and someone from the administration. If it concerns an academic standing issue, you will most likely meet with the professor who raised the issue. The informal meeting allows you to tell your side of the story and resolve the issue without having to investigate or adjudicate. If you accept responsibility for your actions at an informal meeting, you may end up with a sanction.
  3. Your school starts an investigation into the matter. In some instances, an informal meeting won't take place as your college or university deems it necessary to go with the formal investigation and adjudication procedures. Investigations also result when there's no resolution from an informal meeting. During an investigation, a school official may speak to you or your friends, review prior coursework, examine your social media accounts, or access other pertinent information.
  4. You attend a formal meeting or hearing before a panel of school officials. For misconduct that is more severe, many schools schedule a formal hearing or meeting. These hearings usually involve a panel of school officials who listen to arguments and evidence from you and a representative of the school. At the hearing, you can state your case and usually can present evidence or even call witnesses.
  5. Your school notifies you regarding a decision. Once the hearing is over, the panel decides if you are responsible for the actions you are accused of. Your college or university then formally notifies you of the decision and, if there are appeal options, informs you on how to appeal.
  6. You receive a recommendation for disciplinary sanctions. If the hearing panel decides you are responsible for the alleged actions, it may also recommend disciplinary sanctions. Most schools list sanctions ranging from remedial courses to suspensions and expulsions.
A Note on University Disciplinary Sanctions

Although most schools have a list of sanctions that range in severity, the most common form of discipline in misconduct cases tends to be suspension. Many universities start with suspension as a baseline punishment, unfortunately.

As suspension is usually temporary, you may wonder if it even has an impact on your education. It's true that you don't get kicked out of school, but you will have a gap on your transcript. If your suspension lasts a semester, you will have to explain to potential employers or internship managers why there's a gap, admitting that you were disciplined for misconduct.

Furthermore, a suspension slows down your progress toward your degree. You end up finishing one semester later or even one year later than planned, as all your required courses may not be offered each semester.

If you want to prevent these outcomes, you need a clean record. The best way to get a clean record after receiving sanctions from your university is to appeal.

Can You Appeal Decisions From Your West Virginia University?

Most schools allow you to appeal a decision regarding academic standing or misconduct. These procedures differ by school, so it's important to understand your college's appeal process thoroughly.

We can use the West Virginia University (WVU) system as an example for appeal procedures.

  1. Students who are determined to have violated the WVU code of conduct may appeal the decision or the imposed sanction with the Office of the Dean of Students within five calendar days of receiving their official notification. If the student does not submit the appeal within five days, WVU applies the sanction.
  2. While appeal procedures are ongoing, sanctions do not take effect unless there is a perceived danger to the university community or property.
  3. The Dean of Students or a designee reviews the appeal and supporting documents and has thirty calendar days to make a decision.
  4. The appeal decision can be to deny the appeal; modify or reduce the sanctions imposed; hold a new disciplinary proceeding; or remand the matter to the original decision-maker.

The Dean's decision on the appeal is final, so you want to be sure you have a strong rationale. At WVU, appeals are only accepted under the following considerations:

  • Jurisdiction was not properly asserted under the code of conduct
  • The proceedings were not conducted fairly in light of the charges and evidence presented
  • The proceedings were not conducted according to prescribed procedures in the code of conduct
  • The decision was clearly unreasonable based on the information presented
  • The imposed sanction was not appropriate

You only have five days to put together a strong appeal at WVU. If you haven't been working with a student defense legal advisor up until this point, you may strongly consider doing so for the appeal.

Is It Possible to Sue My West Virginia College or University?

The appeal process at your school is the final decision, right? Not necessarily. Your college or university may deny your appeal or refuse to open any further negotiations at all, forcing you to take more serious actions.

The next step after filing an appeal is pursuing litigation against your university. You shouldn't make this decision lightly, as suing your school will sever your relationship with the institution; you'll never again be able to be a student there. In some cases, however, you might be facing expulsion and permanent disassociation from your university anyway.

Before you file a lawsuit against your West Virginia University, consider these alternatives:

  • Submit a complaint with West Virginia's higher education authority. The US Department of Education requires that each state has a student complaint procedure for public and private higher education institutions to receive federal funding. In West Virginia, the WVHEPC maintains a formal student complaint system, and students can submit a form to have their complaint considered by the Commission.
  • Ask your attorney to contact the university's legal team. Before you initiate a lawsuit, it's a good idea to have your, and the school's legal representation meet and discuss the matter. They may be able to find a solution that does not result in litigation. If they don't end up resolving the matter, having this first contact will be beneficial anyway.
  • Find an experienced lawyer. You need to be sure the attorney you hire has experience dealing with institutions of higher education and can deliver results. Student defense is a specialized field, so finding a local attorney or using the university's legal resources probably won't cut it.

Other West Virginia Laws to Know About as a College Student

Most on-campus activities will fall under your school's code of campus conduct and typically will not involve civil law enforcement. Most schools also keep their investigation procedures separate from those of the authorities, however, WVU has the right to file a criminal complaint in some Title IX cases.

It's important to know your university's code of conduct and academic standing rules, but you should also familiarize yourself with local laws that may pertain to life as a college student.

West Virginia Underage Drinking Laws

The legal drinking age in West Virginia is 21, and underage drinking violations can carry a fine of up to $500 and 72 hours in jail. You also cannot sell alcohol in West Virginia if you are under 18. West Virginia also prohibits the sale of beer, and wine between 2:00 am – 6:00 am each day, and the sale of liquor is prohibited between 12:00 am – 6:00 am each day.

West Virginia Drinking and Driving Laws

In West Virginia, the admissible blood alcohol content (BAC) level is .07 or below. A BAC of .08 or higher is considered legally drunk, and driving in this condition can lead to a DUI conviction. If you are under 21 years of age, the legal BAC limit is .02.

West Virginia False Identification Laws

Possessing, making, selling, or using any form of false identification is illegal in West Virginia. Exhibiting or displaying false identification is a misdemeanor and could lead to a fine of up to $100 and jail time of up to 30 days.

West Virginia Tenant Laws

If you do not utilize campus housing, you will have to abide by West Virginia's tenant laws.

West Virginia Hazing Laws

West Virginia has an Anti-hazing Law that prohibits hazing everywhere in the state, including at institutions of higher education. A hazing conviction could lead to a $1,000 fine or up to nine months in jail.

Statute of Limitations Laws in West Virginia

Like all states, West Virginia's laws have statutes of limitations. After an event occurs, there's a limited time frame during which those involved can initiate legal action. West Virginia's statute of limitations laws include:

  • Personal injury: Two years
  • Fraud: Two years
  • Trespassing: Two years
  • Collection of rents: Five years
  • Libel or slander: One year
  • Injury to personal property: Two years
  • Written contracts: Ten years

For felony crimes, West Virginia has no statute of limitations except for perjury, which is three years.

Trying to understand West Virginia laws in addition to your university's academic and conduct policies is overwhelming. With the right student defense advisor by your side, however, you don't have to figure everything out on your own.

Call a Student Defense Attorney-Advisor

The years you spend in college can be some of the best of your life, but they can also be challenging. You're aiming to get an education that will set a course for your professional life, and if things don't go as planned, the ramifications can negatively impact your future. That's why it's best to be prepared when you attend college in West Virginia.

Academic issues and misconduct concerns shouldn't stand in the way of working toward and achieving your degree. It's hard to do so when facing allegations of misconduct or disciplinary sanctions. When you want to better understand your school's code of conduct, file an appeal, or figure out what to do next, you need an experienced legal professional by your side.

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped students throughout the country with investigations and adjudications at their colleges and universities. He's ready to help you present a strategic defense and keep the future of your education safe. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to learn more about how we can assist you.

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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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