Time is of the essence when students face discipline or dismissal from a university or professional program

On Behalf of | Mar 3, 2022 | Education Law |

Although students often have some forewarning before being disciplined or dismissed, they often wait until the initial decision is finalized to seek help.  In additional to creating more anxiety, delaying can reduce the student’s chances of success.  Hiring a lawyer early on in the process can be instrumental in securing all of the rights afforded by the university’s discipline policy.  Seeking a lawyer early on can make the difference between success and failure.

In most instances, the student handbook or code of conduct identifies the university’s disciplinary process and its internal appeal process.   A lawyer can help students better understand the disciplinary processes adopted by their university and secure every advantage that might be available.

Generally speaking, students are notified of their violations and afforded some opportunity to present a defense before discipline occurs.   Depending on the nature of the violation, the process can vary from an informal meeting to a formal hearing.  Prior to presenting any defense, students should consider consulting with an attorney, who can help assess which argument(s) might be the most persuasive.  In some cases, simply rebutting the factual allegations may be the best option.  In other instances, the argument may focus on extenuating circumstances.  Seeking legal counsel as soon as a student is notified of potential discipline is important because the hearing body makes credibility determinations that are generally upheld during the appeal process.

Many universities also provide students with an internal appeal process wherein the discipline or dismissal is reviewed by progressively higher levels of authority culminating in review by the provost or president.  There are usually timeframes that govern when an appeal must be taken, so if students wait too long, they may miss an opportunity to file an appeal.  Once again, competent legal counsel can assist students with determining which arguments are the strongest on appeal.

Once the internal appeals process is exhausted, a student may still be able to contest the discipline or dismissal in the courts.  The type of appeal and the amount of time for an appeal depends on whether the university is public or private.  In Pennsylvania, students only have 30 days to appeal the final dismissal decision from a public university.   There might be a longer appeal period for private university.  But, in either case, the record that is made in the internal disciplinary process might limit what students can argue in court, which is another reason for seeking legal advice early on in the proceedings.  Appeals to courts can take long periods of time and be curtailed by other legal principles, so it is important that students make their best case in fighting discipline or dismissal internally with the university.

At Olds George Law, we strive to advise students as to what rights they have, and what steps they should take to exercise those rights and reach the best possible outcome.

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