Friday, May 27, 2011

Tedious College Policies and Procedures- Yes You Have To Follow Them In Your Discipline, Academic, or Other Problem

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

When college issues arise, handling them can be a bear to say the least.  They can range from minor discipline matters to out and out exclusion from a college or university based on academics or some alleged wrongful conduct.  When these problems develop, a student must look toward and follow the college procedures if they want to "fix" the issue at hand.

Colleges usually have quite a number of written policies.  As indicated in an earlier blog, these policies are typically the main guide for a student with a problem.  Applicable policies are usually outlined in the school catalog, on-line, or in handouts and correspondence from the school.

In a typical college matter, a student could be placed up for discipline for alleged bad acts.  When the student becomes aware of the allegations, the student needs to immediately research the policies relevant to discipline and take all steps to try to address the matter.  Often this involves a disciplinary hearing where the student can bring written evidence, documents, and present witnesses.  If the college issues a punishment without a full blown hearing (e.g. "take this punishment or go to hearing") the student is wise to thoughtfully review the matter, the discipline being imposed, and the risks (or potential benefits, e.g. winning) of going to hearing.  Often, the possibility of overturning a matter outweighs the risks, especially if the discipline has no basis.

Sadly, it is not uncommon for busy college students to simply "take" the punishment issued whether warranted or not.  This common lack of opposition can make colleges lazy when they impose punishment and the discipline may be poorly supported.  This can be good for the student who challenges the college as the accusations may fall apart.

Some of the potential hearings which a student can request or participate in include:

1)  Discipline hearing (re: expulsion, suspension, various forms of discipline and their basis)
2)  Appeal of discipline hearing (may or may not be available)
3)  Grade appeal hearing (oppose an unjust grade)
4)  Grievance complaint (to complain about a situation or individual)
5)  Records correction hearing (granted under FERPA- the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act).

In any situation, a university student has to apply themselves to the situation at hand and make the most productive noise possible.  This may mean filing one or all of the above internally or going outside the college setting in certain cases.

An attorney can be helpful in college matters to advise the student or draft documents for complaints.  However, check the college policies which may limit attorney involvement in some situations.  For example, an attorney may not be allowed to attend a discipline hearing, but may be able to help with drafting documents, and attending meetings outside the hearing setting.

Regardless, it is a good idea to thoroughly read the college policies and to take action on any matter at hand.  Otherwise, the discipline or outcome proposed will likely be implemented and can have a long-term negative impact.


Best,
Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page [http://edlaw4students.blogspot.com/]. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

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