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College discipline hearings trample students' rights


An arrest for possession or distribution of drugs means your child will have criminal issues to deal with that could drastically derail his or her future. Having an attorney as early as possible in the legal process will allow your child to build a defense strategy in hopes of reaching the most positive outcome possible. However, the institution of higher learning your child attends also has a say in your child's future, even if the arrest occurred off campus.

In many cases, South Carolina colleges and universities work alongside local law enforcement. Police will likely inform the campus administration of the details of your child's offense. Consequently, in addition to your son or daughter's criminal case, the university is likely to summon your child for a disciplinary hearing to determine an appropriate penalty. This may include suspension, loss of campus housing, loss of college scholarships, exclusion from your child's program of study or even expulsion.

Does your child receive due process?

Unfortunately, campus administrations may trample on a student's rights to a fair hearing in the name of protecting other students and the reputation of the institution. One common violation is considering your child guilty and accepting a very low standard of evidence to support the guilt. In fact, fewer than 30 percent of the top colleges in the country offer the most basic rights to their students including the rights to do the following:

  • Face their accusers
  • Hear the details of the charges against them
  • Cross-examine any witnesses against them
  • Present witnesses or evidence in their own defense
  • Have an attorney to advocate for them or represent them

Since your child's future is at stake, you are justified in your concern that he or she should have every legal advantage, both in the criminal case and the university's administrative process. Most colleges and universities discourage legal counsel or even refuse to allow students to have an attorney present during the hearing despite the fact that so much is at stake in your child's life.

Anytime your child's rights are in jeopardy, he or she has the right to legal counsel. The advice of an attorney can guide your child in making wise decisions throughout the legal and administrative processes he or she faces. A skilled criminal defense attorney with experience navigating school disciplinary hearings can be a great benefit to your child.

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