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Helping your child through a college disciplinary hearing

You may have been concerned that your son or daughter hadn't chosen a major, or that his or her grades indicated that perhaps your child should be studying harder. However, the phone call from the police saying they had arrested your child probably blindsided you.

Not only may your son or daughter be facing a criminal trial, but the college will likely call him or her before a disciplinary panel. Now your child may have to consider two serious judgments that could alter his or her future.

Possible charges that may result in a disciplinary hearing

A college or university may convene a disciplinary hearing if a student is accused of any number of offenses, including:

  • Crimes involving drug possession or distribution
  • Alcohol-related offenses, including underage drinking or DUI
  • Sexual assault or other violent crimes
  • Shoplifting or other property crimes

In many cases, the college may have jurisdiction over off-campus infractions as well as those that occur on campus.

Preparing for your child's hearing

The institution will allow an attorney to represent your child; however, in some cases, you may have to give the college written notification. A lawyer with experience in charges involving college students will know how to represent your child at the disciplinary hearing without jeopardizing the outcome of any criminal proceedings to which he or she may be subject.

Your chosen attorney will counsel your son or daughter about what to expect during the hearing. Similar to a criminal trial, the person who filed the complaint will relate the events of the incident and answer any questions the panel or your child's attorney asks.

Next, your child will tell his or her side. The representatives of each party will make brief closing arguments, then leave the room so the panel can discuss the testimony.

The consequences of the panel's judgment

When the hearing reconvenes, the panel will announce its decision. If the panel determines that your child is responsible for the infraction, both your child and the person lodging the complaint may submit written penalty recommendations for the panel to consider. Your child will receive a copy of the final decision in the mail.

Any student called before a disciplinary panel is usually accused of an offense serious enough to warrant suspension or expulsion if the panel finds fault. The reputation of the institution may be on the line, and the disciplinary panel may have every incentive to impose sanctions.

Your child will benefit from a counselor who understands the short- and long-term complications of a negative judgment. Having an attorney to advise your child through the proceedings provides the best chance of avoiding consequences that will damage your child's future.

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