Where We Can Help - Wisconsin Colleges and Universities

Are you a student or the parent of a student at a Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin 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 - Wisconsin Colleges, Universities, and Schools

When it's time to head to college, there's a lot of information you need to know.

Between managing your academic schedule, juggling your new relationships, and figuring out how to live on your own for the first time, there's a lot of opportunities for great things to happen.

There's also a lot of opportunities for miscommunication, missteps, and misconduct. While this may not seem like a big deal or something you need to worry about, college misconduct can spiral out of control more quickly than you may think.

At the Lento Law Firm, we want to make sure that you have all of the information necessary to protect yourself and your future. Let's talk about the educational infrastructure in Wisconsin as well as the ways you can pursue relief, should you need to over the course of your college career. We'll start by discussing the schools you'll find in Wisconsin as well as the overarching laws, and then talk about the procedures you may experience during due process at your school.

Academic Laws, Governance, and Infrastructure in Wisconsin

Whether you call it America's Dairyland, the Badger State, or simply “Wisconsin,” it's clear that this northern state has many stellar academic institutions to choose from. There are many great private and public colleges and universities to attend in this state. Wisconsin's Department of Public Instruction oversees every higher academic institution in the state. While public schools are largely required to follow the state's academic laws and governances, private schools generally operate in line with similar rules, at the very least to remain open to public funding and to offer students a consistent experience.

Here are some of the most well-known private and public academic institutions in Wisconsin:

Select Private Colleges and Universities in Wisconsin

  • Milwaukee School of Engineering
  • Lawrence University
  • Marquette University
  • St. Norbert College
  • Beloit College
  • Concordia University - Wisconsin
  • Northland College
  • Wisconsin Lutheran College
  • Alverno College
  • Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design
  • Mount Mary University

Select Public Colleges and Universities in Wisconsin

  • University of Wisconsin (and its many locations)
  • Madison Area Technical College

While each of these public and private Wisconsin colleges and universities have their own policies and procedures, they also operate with some level of governance from the state. In the next section, we'll go over this information.

What Types of Higher Education Laws Are There in Wisconsin?

The state of Wisconsin has several higher education rules and policies in place to maintain a high-quality experience for incoming students at each of the state's academic institutions. These policies include:

  • Executive Order #37, which discusses the distribution of federal financial aid among Wisconsin students;
  • Guidance from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction that discusses the various procedures for supporting students with special needs; and
  • Chapter 36 of the Wisconsin State Legislature, which oversees the way that the University of Wisconsin school system operates on a daily basis.

As noted above, while some of these laws (perhaps, in particular, Chapter 36) may constitute requirements for public schools, they also exist as standards for schools not strictly under their governance (e.g., some private schools).

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and Educational Opinions

Wisconsin is in the Seventh Circuit, a division of the United States Court of Appeals that includes several central states. Occasionally, this Court will oversee cases and issue opinions that can influence the ways that schools in Wisconsin can operate. For example, just recently, the Court oversaw a case regarding the vaccination status of students at Indiana University. As you prepare to attend your Wisconsin school, it may be a good idea to keep an eye on the types of educational cases that appear before the Seventh Circuit. The opinions the court issues may have a direct impact on your educational experience.

Statutes of Limitation and Other Wisconsin Laws that College Students Should Know

In the United States, every state has certain defined statutes of limitation—or specific windows of time after an incident during which a person can initiate related legal action.

Being aware of Wisconsin's statutes of limitation can give you a sense of how long you have to consider your case prior to filing a suit—or give you an idea of how long you may be at risk after some type of infraction. Wisconsin's statutes of limitations are:

  • Injury to Person: Three years
  • Libel or Slander: Two years
  • Fraud: Six years
  • Injury to Personal Property: Six years
  • Trespassing: Six years
  • Collection of Rents: Six years
  • Contracts, Written or Oral: Six years

In addition to Wisconsin's statutes of limitations, there are other laws in the state that may relate to common college student activities. For example:

  • Wisconsin only allows underage drinkers to consume alcoholic beverages in the presence of a parent, guardian, or spouse of legal drinking age.
  • Wisconsin has a very strict intolerance and harsh penalties for any instance where a person drinks and drives or drives while under the influence of any controlled substance.
  • If you elect not to live on campus, instead living off-campus in some type of apartment, you will need to act in accordance with Wisconsin renting laws and comply with any tenant agreements that you may sign.
  • It is illegal to provide false identification to a police officer in Wisconsin.

While the majority of your misconduct processes will occur with respect to the specific policies established at your school, your school may use the local laws as a standard for their own policies. For this reason, at least, it's a good idea to be aware of the local laws around your Wisconsin school.

Next, we'll cover the specific processes that may happen at your school after someone files an allegation of misconduct against you.

Discipline and Due Process: How Wisconsin Schools Manage Misconduct

Due process at your school will begin once the school receives information about an alleged infraction. There are three general types of misconduct that tend to attract school attention.

Since the University of Wisconsin is by far the largest school system in the state, we'll use it as an illustrative example of the types of procedures common in Wisconsin. Your school may have very similar procedures. However, it's always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the specific processes at your school. You should be able to find this information in your school's handbook or in your school's code of conduct. These documents should be freely available on your school's website.

The Types of Misconduct Wisconsin Schools Tend to Discipline

Academic Dishonesty or Academic Misconduct

The University of Wisconsin-Madison provides a detailed list of actions that the school will punish as academic dishonesty. These include:

  • Plagiarism, or any situation in which one student claims credit for the work of another without proper citation, permission, or authorization
  • Any situation where one student copies another person's homework
  • Accessing exam or solution materials without authorization
  • Stealing course materials or an exam key
  • Making a cheat sheet or otherwise using unauthorized materials during an academic exercise
  • Copying answers from another student
  • Collaborating with others on an assignment you should complete alone
  • Forging or falsifying academic records, documents, or any type of identification
  • Tampering with the academic work of other students
  • Helping any other student commit academic misconduct

Sexual Misconduct

Title IX, one of the Educational Amendments of 1972, states that all schools that receive federal funding must investigate all matters of sexual misconduct quickly or risk losing that funding. Even private schools will likely have Title IX policies, even if they do not directly receive federal funding.

Title IX is a relatively hot-button issue, one that each presidential administration tends to weigh in on. Title IX cases also tend to make their way to the Seventh Circuit court.

Under Title IX policies, sexual misconduct policies, or even dual policies, most Wisconsin schools will discipline any student allegedly involved with the following types of actions:

  • Sexual Assault
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Dating Violence
  • Domestic Violence
  • Stalking
  • Rape
  • Incest
  • Sexual Exploitation
  • Retaliation
  • Code of Conduct Infractions

Aside from academic integrity and sexual misconduct infractions, schools will also tend to provide disciplinary processes and procedures for a more general set of code of conduct misbehavior.

Checking your specific school's code of conduct to glean any possible information about, perhaps, more unique infractions is the best idea. However, more general code of conduct infractions tend to include actions such as hazing activities, drug or alcohol infractions, bullying, and cyberbullying.

Once another party—e.g., a student or an instructor—notices your alleged infraction and decides to file a report about it, due process at your school will officially begin.

What Happens After an Allegation of Misconduct in Wisconsin Schools?

Once your school learns about your alleged misconduct, it will learn more about what likely happened, make a decision regarding your responsibility, and then make a recommendation for reasonable consequences in your case.

Depending on your school's specific procedures, this process may include:

  • A formal notice from your school. Via email or as a written letter, your school may give you more information about your specific allegations, the part of your school's code of conduct that most directly pertains to your stated offense, and any next steps that you should know about.
  • An investigation into your involvement or responsibility. Your school may take some time to learn as much as is possible about what happened. This may involve speaking with witnesses, reviewing your social media activity, or even looking into your academic files and background.
  • A meeting with officials from the school. Depending on the severity of your alleged infraction, this may range from a one-on-one meeting with an instructor all the way to a formal hearing before a panel of officials. At this meeting, you should have a chance to tell your side of the story and review all evidence that your school has against you.
  • A determination of responsibility and a recommendation for reasonable consequences. At the end of the hearing or perhaps in a written missive after the hearing, your school will issue recommendations for punitive measures.

What Disciplinary Consequences Should I Expect?

In theory, the punishment you get should fit the stated crime. At the University of Wisconsin, the following sanctions are on the table:

  • Lowered grades
  • Oral or written reprimands
  • Failing grades
  • A failing grade for an entire course
  • Disciplinary probation
  • Suspension
  • Expulsion
  • Mandatory education (e.g., for plagiarism)
  • Reduction or elimination of privileges

In practice, schools tend to mete out suspensions as simple punishments for most moderate cases of misconduct. For severe or repeated cases of misconduct—e.g., for serious sexual misconduct—a school will move to expel relatively quickly.

If a suspension doesn't seem like something to worry about over the long-term compared to the potential for expulsion, do not be misinformed because it's important that you keep your disciplinary consequences in perspective. When you apply to any future jobs or academic institutions, you will need to provide your transcript. Your transcript will contain a reference to your disciplinary consequences—which will very likely have an influence on whether or not you get the job or other opportunity you were working towards!

One of the first steps you have to negotiate a more favorable outcome is to file an appeal.

How do I File a Strategic Appeal at My Wisconsin College or University?

After your school issues a disciplinary recommendation, you should have a short period of time in which you can file an appeal. Generally speaking, it's a good idea to wait to file until you have one of the following pieces of information or evidence:

  • New information that you and your school did not have for review earlier
  • Clear evidence that your school did not follow its own regulations during your disciplinary experience
  • A clear argument that the recommended punishment is disproportionate or inappropriate.

Your student defense advisor can help you discern whether you have a good basis for an appeal. The specific method for filing your appeal may differ from school to school. Usually, it consists of a persuasive argument filed with an official at your school, such as the dean of students.

That person will take time to review your appeal before issuing an updated decision, new disciplinary recommendation, or choosing to uphold the original decisions. This decision will be final.

How do I Know if It's Time to Sue My Wisconsin School?

Once you have filed an appeal, you may decide that you still need to work towards relief in your case. After you have exhausted your school's methods for doing so, it may be time to consider pursuing litigation against your school.

It's important to realize that this is a drastic step. It will very likely terminate any relationship that you may have with your school. However, it can also be very effective.

Before you decide to file a suit against your school, make sure that you have completed the following actions:

  1. File a complaint with the State of Wisconsin Higher Educational Aids Board. This board may be able to provide some external leverage on your school to help you achieve the end that you desire. If not, filing this complaint will help to serve as a basis for your suit.
  2. Make absolutely sure that you're working with a student defense advisor. Litigating against schools is a very niche type of practice. Many lawyers, even lawyers who work at your school, simply won't have the expertise necessary to help you in the way that you need.

At the Lento Law Firm, we're interested in making sure that you have the resources necessary to work towards a favorable outcome.

How a National Student Defense Advisor Can Help You or Your Student Thrive

We've talked about a significant series of stressful situations that you could encounter as you start your college experience.

From tense conversations and panel hearings to writing strategic appeals and even filing lawsuits, there could be a lot going on as you move throughout college. You might wonder: How are you supposed to handle all of that by yourself? Even if you feel like you're good with tense situations, that's a lot to consider—especially when you realize that you'll also have to focus on maintaining your GPA, acing your classes, and all of the other activities that occur in a normal college experience.

We have good news for you: You're not supposed to handle all of it by yourself. In fact, you definitely shouldn't.

Here are just some of the benefits you could experience when you partner with a national student defense advisor to pursue a favorable outcome.

  • The benefit of formal legal training. While a school disciplinary system is not a court of law, the elements of your school's due process (from panel hearings to detailed, confusing policies) can be similar. A professional trained and experienced in legal practices will know exactly how to delve through the fine print of your student handbook, present you well in meetings, and seek the type of evidence that can truly bolster your case.
  • Experience with persuasive arguments that work. Even if you believe that you can draft documents and write appeals on your own, you may find that you're too close to your own case to be able to write with objectivity. Bringing in a clear-eyed expert will help you know the most powerful way to position yourself.
  • Assistance with deadlines, requirements, and more. Much of your disciplinary experience will just involve keeping timelines straight and making sure you don't miss any deadlines! With a second set of eyes on your case, you can enjoy increased confidence that nothing will simply slip through the cracks.
  • More respect from your school. Unfortunately, if it's just you vs. your school, your school may not take you very seriously. Your school may believe that because it's just you, you don't pose much of a threat—or your rights are somehow easier to ignore. With a professional attorney at your side, your school will have a much harder time discounting you and your case.
  • Knowing that you aren't alone. Fighting for your rights can be lonely and stressful. Just knowing that a skilled defense attorney is fighting by your side can make a tremendous difference.

When you want to work with someone who's ready to both fight aggressively and pursue strategic, persuasive, and nuanced negotiations, it's time to give Joseph D. Lento a call.

Wisconsin College Students: Partner with Joseph D. Lento to Protect Your Future

It may not seem like it, but even a minor misconduct issue can have serious consequences that can ripple across your entire future. Since this is the case, it's key to ensure that you take steps now to safeguard your reputation in the event of a tense disciplinary situation.

From negotiating a lesser sanction to handling appeals, complaints, and more, there's a lot that you'll need to handle in the upcoming weeks (and even months). At the same time, you may find yourself feeling very alone. When you're in an adversarial position with your school, there may be few people on campus that you know you can trust.

That's why it's time to think outside your zip code. Hiring a national student defense advisor will help you know that you have an expert in your corner to help you pursue success.

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has been helping students in your precise situation for years. Whether you need assistance managing an investigation, writing the perfect persuasive argument, or handling delicate negotiations with your school, attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can provide the targeted experience and expertise that you need.

Don't try to handle this alone. Instead, reach out to an advisor who can get you where you need to be. Reach out to attorney Joseph D. Lento.

Give the Lento Law Firm a call for more information today at 888.535.3686 or reach out to us online.

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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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