I receive several phone calls a week from students telling me that the school, university, or college they are attending is seeking to suspend or expel them. A suspension or expulsion becomes a permanent mark on your educational record. Whether you are in grade school, high school or college you will have to disclose this to other schools and professional licensing boards. Unfortunately, this can mean your future is damaged by this one mistake, whether it was warranted or not.
Can I defend myself in a suspension or expulsion hearing?
Yes, a student has every right to defend themselves. I do however say this with great caution. Many suspension or expulsion hearings, especially ones held at private colleges and universities, are conducted by people who simply do not understand the school’s own procedures or the very basics of due process. If a lawyer is there to ensure the process is followed and object to improper hearing procedures, the student stands a better chance at success.For example, I recently represented a graduate student in Miami who was accused of plagiarism. The academic disciplinary committee was made up of professors. The university had no legal counsel present. The professors attempted to begin the hearing by asking my client what he thought he did wrong and what his definition of plagiarism was. If he did not have a lawyer with him to object, he would have fallen right into a trap. The college was attempting to trap the student into incriminating himself in the accusations. The college had no proof to carry out these charges, they needed the student to admit.
Can an education lawyer come to my suspension or expulsion hearing?
At the K-12 level, public school districts have state laws and specific procedures that must be followed in order to suspend or expel a student. Having a lawyer represent the student during this process is permitted. However, many times at the college or university level, a school’s handbook will state that either an attorney cannot accompany the student, or if an attorney can accompany the student, they are not permitted to speak, but only to confer with the student privately. Don’t let this stop you. Hiring an attorney to assist and prepare you for the hearing is important. It can also put pressure on the school just by having him or her with you at the hearing.
How can an education lawyer help me win my suspension or expulsion hearing?
An attorney can do the following:
- Review your records and the evidence against you.
- Review your school’s handbook to make sure that the hearing process is followed.
- Formulate your arguments and positions for the hearing.
Having an attorney do these things will place a student in the best possible position to defend themselves. It also creates a record for further appeals if needed. Depending if the college is a public university and the facts of the case, a writ of certiorari could be filed in court to force the school to reverse their decision.If a student wishes to appeal the hearing findings, a student must act fast. There are time limits on when you can appeal a decision. I recommend that you check the school or school district’s policies and procedures about the appeal process and time requirements. If you can’t find the rules regarding an appeal, make the school tell you. Once again, having an attorney assist with the appeal will greatly increase your chances of success.Click to read our practice area regarding Writs of Certiorari. Richard Asselta is an award-winning education lawyer with offices in both Florida and New Jersey. He is experienced in crafting student defenses and representing students in suspension and expulsion hearings. Call The Education Lawyers today for a free consultation and protect your educational future. 855-338-5299