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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. 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
  • 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
  • Mount Ida 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

We also represent college students, graduate students, and professional students all 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, NYU, Ohio State University, Middlebury College, Williamette 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, and Northwestern University. In addition to our higher education practice, we represent elementary, middle, and high school students involved in disciplinary cases.

We have been representing students in academic discipline 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 of our attorneys are familiar.

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 university, 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. 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.

We have been very successful in having charges against students dismissed, reduced, or settled favorably to our clients at university disciplinary hearings. For example, we have successfully persuaded a university to grant a new hearing to a client who had been expelled, resulting in a reduced sanction. We have also 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 also 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 also represented students accused of sexual assault; for example, in cases involving both undergraduate and graduate students, we were able to help our clients obtain exonerations of the sexual assault charges.

Because of our extensive criminal and civil litigation experience we are well equipped to litigate students’ claims against their schools when necessary. We have brought such a lawsuit on behalf of a student accused of plagiarism, arguing that the school had violated the student’s implied contractual rights with respect to his university and state laws.

We also represent students and faculty who are being censored or disciplined due to their speech and writing, and represent professors in employment disputes with their colleges and universities.

Finally, we have experience representing university groups such as fraternities against disciplinary action.

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 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.