What to Do if My Child Faces School Discipline?

Posted by Tamar BirckheadJul 22, 2023

Nearly every school in the U.S. – whether secondary, college, or a graduate program – has a code of conduct

These Codes can subject students to sanctions for violations of the terms.  Although the consequences of violations can negatively impact your child's academic and professional life for decades to come, there are few due process or confidentiality protections within most campus-based judicial systems.  In addition, the process often includes fact-intensive evidentiary hearings with complex procedural rules and procedure. 

If you are a parent of a child who has been accused of a conduct code violation or if you are a student facing charges, it is critically important to keep in mind the following:

Statements to school officials can be used against you in a criminal prosecution

This means that trying to “talk your way out of it” – even if you are confident you did nothing wrong, poses significant risks.   It is wise to get professional legal advice from the outset to help you navigate the institution's policies and regulations, ensure that the rights afforded to you are being protected, and negotiate with local law enforcement to avoid separate criminal proceedings.

School disciplinary sanctions can be more than a mere “slap on the wrist”

Among the sanctions typically imposed are formal reprimand, expulsion from student housing or transportation, loss of financial aid, suspension, and expulsion. With very few exceptions, such sanctions stay on a student's permanent academic record and often must be reported when applying to other academic programs as well as on professional licensing or certificate applications, whether to practice law, medicine, accounting, or teaching

Even if attorneys can't attend interviews, meetings, or formal hearings, legal representation can be critical to the outcome

A lawyer familiar with campus disciplinary proceedings can help investigate the allegations; explain the process to students and parents; determine whether the school has violated its own rules or state or federal laws; and weigh the various options.

Allegations of sexual harassment or assault can be devastating 

A sexual harassment or assault allegation will almost always threaten or harm the reputation of the accused student and the student's family.   When the accusation triggers a report to the police or a Title IX investigation, the stakes are even higher, and it is imperative to have a sophisticated defense strategy to properly react and respond.  Immediate steps may include capturing and preserving the accuser's social media; locating surveillance video footage that supports the defense; and consulting with an attorney before speaking with police or university administrators. .

For more information about this topic or other legal assistance in Connecticut, please contact Attorney Tamar Birckhead at (203) 805-7851 for a free consultation.