Standards of Evidence in Student Disciplinary Proceedings

Standards of Evidence in Student Disciplinary Proceedings

Exploring the Standard of Proof in Student Disciplinary Proceedings

In the past decade, sexual harassment and other forms of misconduct on college campuses have received significant media attention. This focus has led to questions about students charged and disciplined under a non-judicial system. Consequences that students face through school disciplinary proceedings can be severe; however, standards of evidence deliberated by states, schools, and offenses are varied.

The U.S. legal system utilizes a standard of proof, or the standard of evidence, to determine the amount of evidence necessary to establish proof in criminal or civil cases. For most civil cases, courts usually apply a preponderance of the evidence standard that requires balancing tests to prove the likelihood that something is more likely true than not. Conversely, in criminal cases where there is a risk of jail time for the accused person, beyond a reasonable doubt is commonly used.

At first glance, one might expect student disciplinary cases to follow “beyond a reasonable doubt,” especially when serious consequences like expulsion or loss of educational opportunities are being decided. Despite this expectation and consequent potential severity of outcomes for students involved, many schools use the preponderance of evidence standard in disciplinary adjudications instead. Schools have adopted clear and convincing evidence standard in sexual harassment lawsuits depending on the violation alleged.

Private universities adhere to their own distinct set of guidelines rather than those forbidden by governmental mandates applicable for public institutions. Private universities do not go through federal or state authority regulations related to public universities because public colleges receive funding from state government while federal funds also get accepted. Courts take care of these public institutions under due process clauses given in 14th Amendment along with other laws like Title IX governing regulating student behavior like sexual harassment/misconduct claims often enforced across private colleges/universities receiving federal financial grants as well.

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Although private universities are exempt from adhering to public school standards in disciplinary matters according to law, courts hold these private schools accountable to fundamental notions of fairness, viewing the relationship between schools and their students as a contract. Critics of this approach usually expose that private schools can set unique standards for enforcement.

Unlike private universities, public institutions are state actors who must follow due process rules in disciplinary matters. These schools have specific laws and regulations laid down by federal authorities related to Title IX. Many schools also use preponderance of evidence standard in disciplinary proceedings, but because there is no possibility of imprisonment resulting from disciplinary proceedings; the “beyond all reasonable doubt” due process standard awarded to the accused in criminal trials is not necessary.

When sexual harassment cases occur, guidelines stated under Title IX come into play along with particular evidence protocols which schools must follow. Aside from federal law helping regulate student behavior like sexual harassment cases, many states have also passed their own sets of regulations about required due process levels for such claims.

Until recently, Title IX regulations required “preponderance of evidence” as the established standard for proof; this implied that arbiters must find it slightly more conceivable than not that an accused was responsible for the alleged conduct. However, recent Title IX guidance revised standards around protocols and set clear and convincing evidence instead.

If you or your child are experiencing any student discipline matter—even if you believe you’re overtested—the Spodek Law Group might be able to help. Todd Spodek has managed various cases in several colleges across the nation related to academic misconduct, among other things; call 888-536-3686 today for more information on how an attorney-advisor versed in academic discipline and student rights can help provide due justice when needed most.

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Standard of Proof at Private Universities

As earlier touched upon in this article explaining different kinds of universities’ standpoints when it comes to dealing with conflict resolution through academic discourse—private institutions do not always conform to federal agencies’ directives laid out under public colleges.

Since private colleges/universities do not rely on public funding, they lack the same constitutional and state mandates that help protect students within the public domain.

Thus, private universities formulate their policies and standards governing how students are treated under specific instances. Even though courts cannot enforce state or federal rules stemming from public schools’ authority on private institutions, these schools remain subject to adhering to basic standards of fairness applicable to all organizations – interpreting school-learner agreements as doing business transactions between both parties that sign them.

In certain disciplinary cases like Schaer v. Brandeis University, Massachusetts’s Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that university policies must tell exactly how disciplinary processes unfold; if there were any procedural guidelines misapplied in court hearings, then any decisions passed down would become obsolete because the university had not upheld protocol measures mentioned in handbooks.

So, with no authorization government-provided when it comes to private universities establishing their policies in academic matters outside set contractual obligations with their students (which they nearly always follow), these institutions have full autonomy over decision-making.

Standard of Proof at Public Universities

While colleges in America use a preponderance of evidence primarily to solve student disputes amongst themselves; many states have diverse laws and regulations governing intervention through educational institutions based on a standard appointed by each particular area’s lawmakers.

Public educational institutes typically benefit from Title IX’s support when embarking upon sexual misconduct cases along with other violations. Counselors examine many disciplinary processes inherent across 21st-century American campuses deploy three types when classifying proceedings: institutional investigations comprising informal resolutions worth inclusion into legal frameworks governed either by constitution or regional legislature having special status associated alongside sexual harassment victims requiring redress according to Title IX ordinances enforced nationwide directly influenced by national regulatory edicts lately reformed around directed orders changing longstanding guidance circa 1972 superseded before August last year impacting how much proof guides arbitrators accused failing key grade honor codes these days.

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Standard of Proof in Sexual Misconduct Cases

Allegations of sexual misconduct on college campuses are always complicated, involving victims’ vulnerable emotional states sometimes pitted against their offenders reputations and futures, suspension or expulsion at stake.

The Title IX amendment mandates that all federally funded educational institutions across America must follow guidelines set out when investigating such claims. Institutions can have their disciplinary procedures tailored to specific cases; however, guidance states a “preponderance of the evidence” as the minimal proof standard in any sexual harassment claim. Additional documentary or testimonial evidence can enhance a case but is not necessary for initiating charge against an accused perpetrator.

Nonetheless, in August 2020 new regulations were put upon enforcement forcing varsities to select between applying preponderance of evidence or a higher “clear and convincing standard” while disciplining employee or students until it confirmed they abided by the same guideline for everyone involved with either “tacit complicity.”


Through this piece, weve taken a closer look at different types of universities and how each functions. Prioritizing measures aimed at protecting students’ fair treatment through civil justice once schools become aware there is a problem requires comprehensive due diligence measures toward application into acceptable modes ensuring student protection all-around becomes indispensable today more than ever.

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