I just received a charge letter – what does this mean?
If you receive notification from the Assistant Dean of Community Living regarding possible violations of the Honor Code or the Standards of Conduct, please keep in mind that it is just that – notification of possible violations. No decisions have been made yet about your responsibility, and there is a process in place that will allow you the opportunity to be heard and explain things from your own perspective.
The two most important things for you to do at this point are:
- Attend your scheduled informational meeting.
- Spend some time reading about the student conduct process and your rights and responsibilities as a student in that process. You can find that information on these pages or in the Student Handbook.
Does this mean I am going to be kicked out of school?
Expulsion from the university only occurs if a student is found responsible for the most serious violations of the Standards of Conduct. Once you go through the student conduct process, if you are found responsible, you will be issued sanctions that are appropriate and proportional to the violations you were involved in. During your informational meeting, the Assistant Dean of Community Living will discuss the range of sanctions with you and answer any questions you have about them.
Do I need to call a lawyer?
The Student Conduct process is not a criminal process and has nothing to do with the court system. It is designed as an educational experience that guides students to reflect on their choices and reminds them of their responsibility as members of a community. With that in mind, you may bring an attorney, or anyone else you choose, as an advisor to your student conduct meetings, but an advisor is there as a support role only. They may not directly address your charges or question anyone involved in the complaint. If an attorney does accompany you to your meetings or hearing, they will have to do so acting only as an advisor, and not as legal representation. Also, if you plan to bring an attorney to a formal Conduct Review Board hearing, you need to notify the Assistant Dean of Community Living 72 hours in advance of your hearing.
Don’t I have any rights?
You have rights and responsibilities, and they will be explained to you in more detail during your informational meeting, but in a nutshell:
You have the right to:
1. Fair Treatment – During the conduct process, you will be treated with respect. It is assumed that you are not responsible for the charges until you either accept responsibility or are found to be responsible as a result of your hearing. You will be given access to all information to be used in the student conduct process in accordance with federal privacy laws.
2. Privacy – Your involvement in the student conduct process will be kept private from anyone who has no involvement in the investigation or hearing. The record of your charges and the result of any resolution is protected by federal privacy laws which limit how that information is shared and with whom it can be shared.
3. Presence of an Advisor – As stated above, you can bring an advisor with you as a means of support. However, keep in mind that they are there in a silent role.
4. Notice of Charges – The first step in initiating the student conduct process must be notification of charges. Nothing else can happen until you have been notified that a report has been made against you and charges have been initiated.
5. Hear and Provide Testimony – You will have the opportunity to provide your own evidence, call your own witnesses (when necessary) and speak on your own behalf. You have a voice in this process, and it is essential that all sides of the story are heard.
6. Written Disposition and Appeal – Any decisions made regarding your case will be shared with you in writing. If your case is decided by a formal Conduct Review Board, you will also have an opportunity to appeal the decision. Details on the appeal process will be explained to you and your informational meeting.
You also have the responsibility to:
1. Communicate– notify the Assistant Dean if you suspect any bias or unfair treatment, if you feel your privacy has been violated, if you plan to bring an advisor to your hearing, and be sure to share updated and correct contact information.
2. Be Truthful and Forthcoming – You, and any witnesses you involve in your case, have a responsibility to be truthful and forthcoming when answering questions or making statements. Failure to do so may result in further charges against you.
3. Participate – You have the responsibility to be present and accountable throughout the process. If you request a hearing, attend the hearing. If the Assistant Dean requests a meeting with you, call to schedule the meeting and then show up! Although the student conduct process can and will proceed without your participation, your voice is crucial, and the process has been designed to allow you many opportunities to be heard.
How do I report a violation?
You can report a violation in several ways. The simplest option is to go to the online reporting form here:
Or, you can call the Office of Student Affairs at 770.426.2700 and ask to report a violation or walk in and ask to meet with the Assistant Dean of Community Living. The Office of Student Affairs is located in the Learning Resource Center.
FAQ’s for Faculty and Staff
If you are dealing with students in difficulty:
- Be aware of location of nearest telephone, whether it is within the building or a personal cell phone.
- If the student is a threat to others, call Life University Campus Safety at ext. 2911 and also report it to the Student Behavioral Assessment Team’s online reporting form here.
- If the student is causing classroom disruption but not a threat to others, discuss with the student individually, your department chair or director and/or report to the Assistant Dean of Community Living.
- You may always ask the disruptive student to leave the classroom at the time of the disruption; however, he/she is permitted to return the next class period unless the student is removed permanently pursuant to applicable procedures.
If in doubt, always call Campus Safety!
(Adaptive from materials obtained from the University of Central Florida)
SBAT – Student Behavioral Assessment Team
The purpose of the Student Behavioral Assessment Team (SBAT) is to proactively identify student behaviors of concern in order to provide a coordinated and planned approach to preventing, assessing, managing and resolving interpersonal and behavioral concerns and threats to the Life University community; and to make recommendations for treatment, disciplinary action and/or other responses to the Vice President of Student Services and other campus officials as appropriate, with the ultimate goal of promoting student health, safety and success within a thriving educational environment.
- Provide a safe, physical environment for members of the LIFE community.
- Provide a safe, emotional environment for members of the LIFE community.
- Promote peace of mind for friends and family of the LIFE community.
- Balance the individual needs of the student and those of the greater LIFE community.
- Provide a structured, positive method of addressing student behaviors of concern which impact the LIFE community, including mental health and/or issues of physical and emotional safety.
- Manage each case individually, discreetly and effectively.
- Initiate appropriate intervention in an effort to overt the need for punitive measures.
- Facilitate a coordinated response for students within and across relevant departments, as appropriate.
- Balance the educational, physical and emotional needs of the student and the academic and philosophic missions of Life University.
- Serve as a resource for students, faculty and staff regarding issues and needs pertaining to student behavior.
To report a student to SBAT, click here.
FAQ’s on Classroom or Office Disruption
How should disruptive behavior in the classroom be defined?
Answers regarding classroom behavior can also be applied to students interacting with staff in their offices or departments. Adapted from the ASJA Law & Policy Report, No. 26 | Copyright: ASJA & Gary Pavela: All rights reserved
“We define ‘classroom disruption’ as behavior a reasonable person would view as being likely to substantially or repeatedly interfere with the conduct of a class. Examples include repeated, unauthorized use of cell phones in the classroom; persistent speaking without being recognized; or making physical threats.”
How can disruptive behavior be discouraged?
“Classroom disruption is rare. The likelihood of encountering it can be further minimized by stating reasonable expectations in advance. For example, if you want beepers and cell phones turned off in class, say so in your syllabus and on the first day of class. Explain the reasons for your classroom expectations and invite student comments and suggestions. You will find that students are often the strongest supporters of classroom decorum. Most students want to help you create a positive and productive learning environment.”
How should I respond when classroom disruption occurs?
“Faculty members have broad authority to manage the classroom environment. One court compared teachers to judges, since both teachers and judges focus on relevant issues; set reasonable time limits; assess the quality of ideas and expression; and make sure participants are heard in an orderly manner.”
“While their ultimate goals may be different, judges and teachers need to exercise authority with compassion and self-restraint. It’s best to correct innocent mistakes and minor first offenses gently.”
“Also, if you believe inappropriate behavior is occurring, consider a general word of caution, rather than warning or embarrassing a particular student (e.g., a good approach is to say ‘we have too many private conversations going on at the moment; let’s all focus on the same topic’).”
“If the behavior in question is irritating, but not disruptive, try speaking with the student after class. Most students are unaware of distracting habits or mannerisms and have no intent to be offensive or disruptive.”
“There may be rare circumstances when it is necessary to speak to a student during class about his or her behavior. Correct the student in a courteous manner, indicating that further discussion can occur after class.”
“Overall, key factors in responding to apparent disruptive or uncivil behavior are clarity in expectations; courtesy and fairness in responses (making sure students have an opportunity to discuss the incident with you in a timely manner); and progressive discipline, in which students (in less serious cases) are given an opportunity to learn from the consequences of their misbehavior, and to remain in the class.”
What should I do in the face of persistent disruption?
“Current university policy states that a student who persists in disrupting a class may be directed by the faculty member to leave the classroom for the remainder of the class period and can refer the student to Student Conduct for judicial action. The student should be told the reason(s) for such action and be given an opportunity to discuss the matter with the faculty member as soon as practicable. Prompt consultation should also be undertaken with the department chair and the Assistant Dean of Community Living.”
When should I call the police?
“You should call Campus Safety whenever you believe there is any threat of violence or other unlawful behavior, including a student’s refusal to leave a class after being told to do so. Any threat of violence should be taken seriously. Err on the side of caution and notify the police as soon as you can.”
Should I act immediately or wait for a pattern of misbehavior to occur?
“It’s often a mistake to assume disruptive behavior will stop on its own. A fundamental tenet of progressive discipline is to document and respond to “small” incidents sooner rather than later. Early intervention – sometimes in the form of a ‘behavioral contract’ developed by the Assistant Dean of Community Living and a referring teacher – might help define needed boundaries for a student. Generally, teachers who state reasonable expectations early, and enforce them consistently, help students avoid the harsher consequences that flow from more serious infractions later.”
What confidentiality standards should I follow?
“The University will take appropriate disciplinary action in cases of proven classroom disruption. Consequently, you should discuss allegations against named or identifiable students only with individuals who have some role in the disciplinary process. Examples of people who usually have such a role include your department chair and the Assistant Dean of Community Living. A general rule to keep in mind is that you should refrain from sharing any personally identifiable information from student education records (like grades, or reports of misconduct) with any person (including a colleague) who has no educational interest in the information. If in doubt, confer with legal counsel.”
What if a disruptive student claims the disruptive behavior is the result of a disability?
“The fact that a student may have a disability should not inhibit you from notifying appropriate authorities (including Campus Safety, as needed) about disruptive behavior. Students with or without disabilities need to know they must adhere to reasonable behavioral standards. Setting and enforcing such standards may encourage students with disabilities to obtain needed therapy, and to take prescribed medications.”
“Disability claims and accommodation requests should be discussed with Student Disability Services. There is an established procedure students should follow if they have a disability and seek a reasonable accommodation.”
“Generally, while different rules apply in the elementary and secondary school setting, pertinent federal agencies and the courts have made it clear that an institution of higher education does not have to tolerate or excuse violent, dangerous or disruptive behavior, especially when that behavior interferes with the educational opportunities of other students. Colleges and universities may discipline a student with a disability for engaging in misconduct if it would impose the same discipline on a student without a disability.”
ASJA LAW AND POLICY REPORT
Wednesday July 18, 2001, No. 26
The above suggested “questions and answers on classroom disruption” for faculty members first appeared in *Synfax Weekly Report,* and are revised here.
ASJA Law and Policy Report (LPR) is written by Gary Pavela (firstname.lastname@example.org) and published weekly (except mid-December to mid-January, and the month of August). Copyright: ASJA and Gary Pavela: All rights reserved. Further transmission within ASJA member institutions is permitted, if the author and ASJA are credited as the source. Index, archives, and additional source materials will be available to ASJA members at http://asja.tamu.edu. The information and comments provided here are designed to encourage discussion and analysis. They represent the views of the author-not ASJA-and do not constitute legal advice. For legal advice the services of an attorney in your jurisdiction should be sought.
FAQs for Parents / Family Members / Guardians
FAQs for Parents / Family Members / Guardians
Why wasn't I informed of these charges by the University?
A student’s involvement in any disciplinary proceedings is protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) which prevents University personnel from discussing the details of any specific conduct proceeding with anyone except the student – unless the student signs a waiver allowing them to do so. The Assistant Dean of Community Living would be happy to discuss the general student conduct process and answer any general questions for you, but is not able to discuss the specific details of your student’s case with you unless he/she signs a FERPA waiver releasing information on that specific incident and returns it to the Assistant Dean of Community Living.
How can I help my student?
The best thing you can do to help your student is to be supportive while he/she goes through the process, but to also hold your student accountable to both your own expectations and LIFE’s expectations. Have an open conversation with him/her in which you set your expectations that they will attend scheduled meetings and respond to communication. Spend a few moments reviewing the Honor Code and Standards of Conduct, as well as the information on the Student Conduct website, to familiarize yourself with what your student is going through. Lastly, allow your student the independence to make his/her own choices and navigate this process. It is designed to be educational in nature and allow the student an opportunity to reflect on choices that have been made, as well as the role that they play in the LIFE community. It will not be helpful for your student if you attempt to take over or control the process.
Can I attend the student conduct meeting and/or hearing with my student?
The student may have an advisor present, who may be a parent/guardian. The role of the advisor os to support and advise the student but not to speak for or represent the student. You may communicate with your student in a non-verbal manner (i.e, writing notes).
Do I need to hire an attorney?
The student conduct process is not a legal process, so you do not need an attorney. An attorney may serve as an advisor, but the student may not be represented by counsel. The attorney can only act in the role of advisor. Once again, attorneys, like parents/guardians, cannot speak on behalf of the student but can communicate non-verbally with the student.
André L. Clanton
Assistant Dean of Community Living