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Student Rights & Title IX

We have decades of experience in protecting students’ rights in college and university disciplinary proceedings, appeals from disciplinary sanctions, and related criminal cases. We represent students charged with violations of their schools’ codes of conduct and honor codes, ranging from allegations of cheating or plagiarism to sexual assault and sexual harassment. We represent students who have experienced discrimination, harassment, or sexual misconduct on campus in asserting their rights through the campus Title IX and anti-discrimination processes. Since 2013 alone, we have represented hundreds of students (as well as faculty and staff) at more than 85 schools in cases involving Title IX and sexual misconduct and other disciplinary violations. We also have experience representing university groups such as fraternities and sororities against disciplinary action, and to advance the rights of their members.

Because of our Boston location, we have represented many students in New England colleges and universities, in both graduate and undergraduate programs, including:

  • Harvard University
  • MIT
  • Yale University
  • Boston College
  • Boston University
  • Northeastern University
  • Tufts University
  • Brandeis University
  • Brown University
  • Dartmouth College
  • Amherst College
  • Williams College
  • Babson College
  • University of Massachusetts at Amherst
  • Wheaton College
  • Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology
  • University of Vermont
  • Connecticut College
  • Bentley College
  • New England School of Law
  • Colby-Sawyer College
  • Merrimack College
  • Quinnipiac University
  • Smith College
  • Assumption College
  • Saint Anselm College
  • Colby College
  • Bennington College
  • College of the Holy Cross
  • Emerson College
  • Wesleyan University
  • University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth
  • University of New England
  • Bowdoin College
  • Berklee College of Music
  • Suffolk University
  • Salem State University
  • Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
  • Hampshire College
  • Wellesley College
  • New England Law School
  • Saint Michael's College
  • Newbury College
  • MGH Institute of Health Professions
  • Middlebury College
  • Bridgewater State University
  • Simmons College
  • University of Massachusetts at Boston
  • University of Massachusetts at Lowell
  • Plymouth State University
  • University of Connecticut
  • Worcester Polytechnic University
  • New England Conservatory
  • Wentworth Institute of Technology
  • Stonehill College

We also represent college students, graduate students, and professional students around the country. In the past, we have represented students at Columbia University, Princeton University, University of Michigan, Stanford University, Duke University, University of Chicago, Swarthmore, New York University, Ohio State University, Middlebury College, Willamette University, St. Lawrence University, Virginia Commonwealth University, The New School, Tulane University, The Julliard School, Baylor University, Skidmore College, Cardozo Law School, Barnard College, Cornell University, Washington University – St. Louis, Colgate University, University of Notre Dame, University of Wisconsin- Madison, College of Charleston, Drexel University, Gordon College, University of Delaware, Purdue University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Lake Superior State University, The New College of Florida, Moody Bible Institute, and Northwestern University. In addition to our higher education practice, we represent elementary, middle, and high school students involved in sexual misconduct and other disciplinary cases in New England.

We have been representing students in disciplinary and student conduct proceedings for years, long before most attorneys entered this field and well before the uptick in cases due to the federal government’s stepped-up enforcement of Title IX. In the last few years this area has become one of the most active parts of our practice, and one with which all our attorneys are experienced.

University hearings are unlike any other kind of civil or criminal proceeding, which is why it is important to have lawyers who are familiar with these procedures. Each school has its own student handbook, code of conduct, and set of rules that governs how the school investigates, prosecutes, and sentences students for various offenses. Some schools attempt to mimic the adversarial nature of our legal system by holding hearings before panels made up of staff, faculty, or other students where the person bringing the complaint and the accused student are each allowed to present evidence and question witnesses. Other schools have a single investigator gather information from the parties and the witnesses, draft reports summarizing the information, and then make a decision or offer an advisory opinion without the accused student ever having an opportunity to question (or sometimes even see) the evidence against him or her.

We take a creative and aggressive approach in the handling of campus misconduct cases. We understand the need to jump in quickly with these cases; the earlier we enter a case the better our chance of achieving our client’s goals. Our approach in these cases is to figure out what our client most wants; whether that is to stay at his or her school, to withdraw without a permanent mark on his or her record, or to fight as hard as possible against the potential disciplinary action. Once we have determined the outcome, we plan a strategy that takes into account the administrators’ issues and priorities, the philosophy of the school, and the administration’s desire to limit the school’s exposure to either litigation or negative press attention in order to achieve our clients’ goals. We do not hesitate to think outside the box in helping our clients prepare their cases, and routinely call on expert witnesses to provide the school with relevant information about the case. Our longstanding history in handling these cases, the national reputation of our firm partners and of-counsel attorneys, and the exceptional quality of our lawyers help us in our advocacy with the university. Rather than just assisting our clients with their cases before the school administrators, we also try to work with the university lawyers, who can then lead the administrators to a more reasonable outcome for our clients than they would otherwise receive.

Our complementary legal practices give us an edge in representing students in these proceedings. As criminal defense lawyers, we can represent respondents in any criminal matters that arise out of the alleged disciplinary violations, and help our clients evaluate their potential criminal exposure, make informed decisions about when and how to participate in school proceedings, and build strong defenses. For the complainants we represent, our experience representing plaintiffs in employment discrimination and sexual harassment cases gives us a deep understanding of the dynamics and impact of sexual harassment, as well as the broader legal landscape that influences Title IX enforcement.

We have been very successful in ensuring that our clients obtain their desired outcomes in student investigation and disciplinary processes. Because of our extensive civil litigation experience, we are well equipped to litigate students’ claims against their schools when necessary.

Representative examples include:

  • We successfully persuaded a university to grant a new hearing to a client who had been expelled due to sexual misconduct, resulting in a reduced sanction.

  • We successfully argued that a school failed to recognize that a dental student had a disability that affected his ability to perform his academic and clinical duties, obtaining a reversal of the student’s expulsion for failing to meet the school’s academic requirements.

  • We represented a law student in an appeal from an expulsion based on alleged cheating, obtaining a reversal of the decision to expel the student.

  • We have helped many students accused of sexual assault or harassment obtain exonerations or reduced sanctions in matters involving sexual misconduct.

  • We have represented complainants in Title IX proceedings, ensuring that the respondent was properly found responsible for unlawful conduct.

  • In litigation, we have obtained substantial settlements for clients subjected to Title IX violations at their universities.

If you are facing disciplinary action from your college or university it is important to get legal advice as early in the process as possible. You can call us at (617) 742-6020 or fill out our contact form to get in touch with us.

Client Reviews
★★★★★
I hired Mr Duncan to deal with a very sensitive issue that my daughter had. Since the first contact, I had a very good impression of him. He transmitted confidence and appeared to know exactly what to do. I called and emailed him many times, he was polite and comprehensible with the anxiety of a father and appeared to know every step to solve the case. I strongly recommend Mr Duncan. Flavio Lajoia
★★★★★
If you are reading this review, it means either you or a family member is in trouble and needs immediate legal counsel. Please know your search can end right now because Zalkind, Duncan & Bernstein is the law firm to hire. They are honest, responsive, compassionate and have the experience and expertise to bring... Client
★★★★★
I contacted Zalkind Duncan & Bernstein Law in April 2018 to get help for my son on an education-related matter. We worked primarily with Zoraida Fernandez, an Associate, and when needed met with Ruth O'Meara-Costello, a Partner. Zoraida was excellent. The whole process was emotionally exhausting and depressing and Zoraida was the only bright light in all of it... Nancy O.
★★★★★
I worked with Emma Quinn-Judge and Monica Shah. And from my first contact on the phone, on to my first meeting in their office and during the trial, I found them and the firm's entire team to be a group of consummate legal professionals who are very knowledgeable, patient, dedicated, fair, honest and caring... Chantal C.
★★★★★
I am forever grateful to all the staff at this firm, but in particular, Ms. Shah, Mr. Zalkind and Mr. Silverglate. They represented my son who was being sought for extradition to Scotland. The case took years to fight, covering new legal ground, setting precedence. But each one of these legal eagles went above and beyond the duty of office... Suzanne D.