Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts
Pennsylvania college and university administrators have wide powers in the handling of disciplinary processes. An institution of higher learning, such as a college or university, has the power to bring charges against anyone who attends and works there. Offenses don’t have to be spelled out or specified in the code of conduct. This gives administrators an enormous range of powers over the conduct they choose to address—often, without fair warning to the students. This can be a surprising discovery for unsuspecting students and faculty members charged for conduct they didn’t know was prohibited.
Attorney Andrew Shubin has successfully defended Pennsylvania college students and professors facing disciplinary proceedings. If your son or daughter is going through this ordeal, don’t expect the administrators to be looking after your child’s best interest. School officials are “the adversary” in these proceedings. And this is the primary reason not to delegate the investigation and interviews of witnesses to their hands alone.
The expansive powers of college officials can lead to serious consequences for your son or daughter’s life based on the outcome of these proceedings. There is ample discretion given to colleges and universities on the implementation of notices, hearings, and investigations related to the student charges. This can put students at a great disadvantage from the start of the disciplinary process. However, these wide powers are not always unfettered. Pennsylvania has enacted statutes that apply to higher education institutions imposing certain standards aimed at protecting student rights. Pennsylvania Education Law is governed by various statutes, including:
- The Pennsylvania Public School Act of 1949
- Federal and State “Right to Know” acts
- The Pennsylvania Sunshine Act
- The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which protects students records from unlawful disclosure.
- The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
- Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972
The Law Firm of Andrew Shubin is known for its dedicated attorneys committed to helping students and college faculty and professors fight charges. They are well versed on the law governing the right to fair discipline and will not stand for unethical practices. Call us at (814) 826-3586 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
Should You Hire a Lawyer for Student Misconduct in Pennsylvania?
There are multiple ways an attorney can be helpful in Pennsylvania to students and faculty facing disciplinary charges. Colleges in Pennsylvania are required to provide formal hearings where the privacy of their records and other constitutional rights should be protected. Pennsylvania gives students the ability to cross-examine witnesses in disciplinary proceedings. This gives attorneys an ability to challenge the witness’ testimony that can make a difference in the final outcome.
If you are concerned there has been inadequate notice, a biased investigation, or an unlawful breach of privacy, an attorney can be very helpful. The accomplished team of attorneys working at the law office of Andrew Shubin will work vigorously to safeguard your procedural rights. They are known for effective and zealous advocacy to stop administrators attempting to abuse their power and ignoring important constitutional guarantees.
Campus Disciplinary Hearings in Pennsylvania
Campus hearings can lack the basic fact-finding mechanisms and procedural safeguards provided in a court of law. Even offenses considered minor within the context of the criminal justice system, can be categorized as major in a school, university or college code of conduct. This gray area is where an attorney can be your best advocate in preventing the school from unethical and malicious exaggeration of a young student’s behavior.
Students in Pennsylvania threatened to be expelled are entitled to due process. A “formal hearing” is typically held by an official board or committee that reaches a decision made with a majority vote. 22 Pa. Code 12.8 (b).
Student misconduct and disciplinary hearings must be fair and equitable. Notifications have to be sent via certified mail. In addition, the Public Education Act of 1949 provides that:
(1) Three days notice of the time and place of the hearing must be given to the student along with a copy of the expulsion policy and notice that legal counsel may represent the student and hearing procedures.
(2) A private hearing, unless a public hearing is requested by the student or parent.
(3) A lawyer can represent the student at the hearing. The lawyer is paid by the parent. Parents and guardians can also attend the hearing.
(4) Students can be provided the names of witnesses as well as copies of the statements and affidavits of those witnesses.
(5) An opportunity to request that the witnesses appear in person and answer questions or be cross-examined.
(6) The student with a chance to testify and present witnesses on his own behalf.
(7) Written or audio record of the hearing.
(8) The proceeding shall be held within 15 school days of the notification of charges, unless mutually agreed to by both parties.
(9) Notice of a right to appeal the results of the hearing with the expulsion decision.
22 Pa. Code 12.8.
It’s in the student’s best interest to have an opportunity to review the evidence used against him or her. If you are going through a disciplinary process and you are concerned that the evidence is too one-sided, an attorney experienced in this area can be of great help. You can seek information by official written request, asking for all relevant parties be heard during the hearing, or for a more comprehensive review of evidence of innocence.
Every misconduct and disciplinary hearing has its own challenges. The experienced team of attorneys at the Shubin Law will help you pursue an effective strategy. We will seek with clients the best course of action and turn the potential drawbacks of not being in a judicial forum into an advantageous position for the student or professor charged. We are known to seek the opinions of counselors, therapists and other professionals to help when the student’s side of the story is presented at a hearing.
The Impartial Arbiter Requirement
As a general rule, Pennsylvania schools, colleges or universities are required to allow the student to present their side of the story to an impartial arbiter, board or panel. Sometimes an administrator will seek to blame a single student for an incident that is indicative of a school-wide problem. A disciplinary board should not refuse or be indifferent to facts showing the student is innocent. The presence of an attorney can open the lines of communication more widely so that the student’s situation can be properly addressed.
Can Student Records Be Disclosed in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania public schools are generally required to comply with the federal law known as Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”), which governs the disclosure of student records.
Protecting private information in these proceedings is important. An attorney can help the student understand the nuances of the process and the duties the school, college or university officials have pursuant to the laws of the state and the codes of conduct within the institutions.
Our Penn State Lawyers for Student Misconduct and Disciplinary Hearings Can Help
If you know someone who has been a victim of a college or university disciplinary proceedings in Pennsylvania, the Shubin Law can work with you and help you fight and defend your rights. Call (814) 826-3586 for more information or to schedule a free and confidential consultation.