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Suing a College for Unfair Campus Disciplinary Proceedings: Observations from a Student Defense Lawyer

Title IX By Binnall Law Group - 2021/10/29 at 01:16pm

Most students spend considerable time reviewing colleges before choosing the place to invest in their education. Then they commit tremendous amounts of money and effort into succeeding at the school’s program. 

When the school lets them down by treating them unfairly during campus disciplinary measures, it hurts financially and emotionally. Once they’ve exhausted administrative remedies in an attempt to right the wrongs, what comes next? Should they file a lawsuit?

An experienced student defense lawyer discusses the factors to consider before suing a college for unfair campus disciplinary proceedings related to Title IX, sexual misconduct, or other allegations.  

Students Need the Right Grounds to File a Lawsuit 

Anytime someone brings a claim in court, they need to have valid legal grounds to support their claim. Regardless of the facts, if there is no legal basis for a lawsuit, the court will throw it out. 

A student generally cannot sue a university because they did not like something the school did. A student can sue a university if the school violated the student’s rights or broke the law in a way that gives rise to an actionable claim. 

Therefore, the first step for a student considering a lawsuit after the conclusion of a disciplinary proceeding is to find the right grounds to allege in court. Examples of grounds for a lawsuit could include:

  • Civil rights violations
  • Failure to provide due process
  • Breach of contract
  • Tort liability

A knowledgeable student defense lawyer could review the facts surrounding the investigation, interviews, and all aspects of the disciplinary efforts to find instances where the school could be held liable in court. 

Breach of Contract

In many cases, a school’s code of conduct is considered to create a contractual relationship between the college and the student. In exchange for a student’s pledge to abide by rules, the school agrees to treat them fairly and follow appropriate procedures when a student is accused of wrongdoing. 

When a school fails to follow the procedures established in the code of conduct, it might be liable for breach of contract. However, the failure to follow procedures must involve something important. For instance, if the school gave you less time to prepare for a hearing, you need to show that the extra time would have made a difference. One less hour might not be important. One week could make a significant difference. Your student defense lawyer could analyze code violations or other contract breaches to see if they make a material difference. 

Due Process and Other Violations

Students embroiled in disciplinary proceedings are not always entitled to the same due process rights as if they were accused in criminal court, but they do have some rights. They also have civil rights, such as the right to freedom from discrimination on the basis of gender and other protected factors. If a student defense attorney can show that a college violated the student’s rights, the court could find in the student’s favor.

Discuss the Case with an Experienced Student Defense Lawyer to Learn More

Every student is unique, and every situation leading to a campus disciplinary proceeding is also unique. That means it’s impossible for a student defense lawyer to determine whether you have grounds to succeed in a lawsuit for an unfair disciplinary proceeding without a thorough review of the facts. 

A lawsuit could provide the means to completely exonerate a student of wrongdoing, or it might provide the impetus for a college to reduce the impact of its actions and the effect on a student’s permanent record. It is important for students to consider their goals in light of the circumstances. 

To discuss your case with an experienced student defense attorney at the Binnall Law Group, contact us today for a confidential consultation.