When a student attending school at a college and university is accused of wrongdoing there is usually some sort of process that is followed. Many times that includes a formal or informal hearing. If a student gets a decision that they do not like, there usually is an appeal process. There are normally time limits in which the student can file their appeal. That will be in your handbook. The handbook will also set forth what you can and what you cannot appeal. Instead of reading these requirements, and then taking the time to think about your appeal, students rush through it. I can’t tell you how many times I see that at 11:30 a.m. the student was found to have violated a school policy and by 3:00 p.m. that day their appeal has been filed. And guess what, most of the time they stink. And then what happens? That’s denied and you’ve essentially wasted your opportunity.
So what should you do? As always, I think that at the very least, students should consult with an education law attorney. You normally do not get many chances to appeal, so you want to make it count. A good education law attorney can help. Short of that, you need to understand the process.
Most times there are strict time limits in which to file your appeal. It can five days or 20 days. Check your handbook. If you can’t find it, then email the faculty person who has been involved in your matter and ask. Remember, if you blow the deadline, they don’t have to accept your appeal.
This can be a little tricky for someone not trained in the law. I’ll try to give you a simple overview and explanation. In our justice system, there are many different courts. One type of court is a trial court. Different states call them different things. But essentially, this is the court where your lawsuit will be tried either before a judge or a jury. It’s the court where the person accused of a crime will get their jury trial. If you lose in the trial court, then you can appeal. That court is the appellate court. Primarily, appellate court only are there to decide whether or not the law or the process was followed correctly. Meaning, for the most part, an appellate court will not decide whether or not Witness A was really telling the truth. Or whether they believe the criminal defendant’s story over the prosecutor’s story. They don’t decide facts.
The same is true many times for school appeals. The Dean, or Appeals Committee of your school is probably not going to go back and decide whether your facts should have been believed over what lets say, the teacher or another student said. They are probably going to want to review whether or not the process was followed correctly. So for example, were you given the correct notice? Were you given enough time to prepare? Did the school allow you to look at the evidence? These are all procedural matters. So if your appeal is limited to those types of arguments, don’t waste your opportunity by arguing the witness lied or that you’ve never been in trouble before and are a great person.
If you have ten days to file your appeal, then use the time. Don’t just sit down at your laptop and type. Think about your arguments. Find support for what you want to say. Read your appeal before you send it. Look for typos, check your grammar, and make sure it looks professional. Be respectful. You are asking people to agree with you and go against the school.
Many times an appeal can be a life saver for a student. But they take some skill to pull off. Know the process, take your time, and understand what you can and cannot argue. Consult with an education law attorney to see if he or she can help you - it may just make all the difference.
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Richard Asselta is an education law attorney who offers student defense services to college students throughout the United States. Contact us today for a free consultation with a knowledgeable education lawyer with over a decade of experience. (855) 338-5299
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