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PREMIUM LEGAL RESOURCES LEGAL FORMS ASK A LAWYER

Information about the "elements of the charges" and "issuance of findings" for formal administrative hearings excerpted from a number of sources.

from School Discipline and Student Rights: An Advocate's Manual by Paul Weckstein, revised edition, 1982
Center for Law and Education.

p. 397 'Elements of the Charges
One common formulation is "the specific charges and grounds which if proven, would justify expulsion [or suspension under the regulations of the Board of Education."
[references to four cases: three high school and one college]

Even this, however, probably does not supply enough guidance as to the meaning of "charges." A break down into (a) the alleged facts or acts of the students and (b) the regulations which such acts are claimed to violate would better indicate the comments of the charge. See, for example, Mills v. Board of Education, supra ("state specific, clear and full reason for the proposed action, including the specification of the alleged act upon which the disciplinary action is based and the reference to the regulation subsection under which such action is proposed").'

p. 456 'Right to Written Findings of Fact, Reasons, Etc. Courts have generally held that students are entitled to written findings of fact, at least for long-term discipline, and have sometimes required additional detail, in terms of reasons, references to evidence etc. See, for example: [18 references for, 1 against]'
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from the ACLU's Handbook The Right of Students 3rd Edition by Janet. R. Price, Alan H. Levine, and Eve Cary. p. 61.

[Question:] What is the right to adequate notice of charges?

[Answer:] Before you can be severely punished, you have a right to know the specific acts you are charged with committing. A hearing is useless if you have no idea what accusations you're supposed to be defending yourself against. This idea is one of the oldest in criminal law and is now established in such administrative proceedings as school suspension hearings.

Often a student is charged with "violating school rules" or "serious misconduct" -- phrases that fail to give any idea of offense has been committed or what rule as been violated. That is not adequate notice. A federal court in Washington, D.C., has required that the notice "state specific, clear and full reason for the proposed action, including the specification of the alleged act upon with the disciplinary action is to be based and the reference to the regulation subsection under which such action is proposed." In addition, some courts have required that, for longer suspensions, that student be provided with a short summary of the evidence to be used against him or her.{67}

A Wisconsin federal court held that a letter given to student's parents stating "your son ... continues to conduct himself in an irresponsible and disruptive manner" and "has been deliberately defiant of reasonable requests by teachers ... on three occasions within the past few weeks" did not satisfy due process requirements of adequate notice of the charges.{66} The court found that the lack of specificity of the charges adversely affected the student's ability to prepare his defense and thus the meaningfulness of his opportunity to be heard.

In addition, courts have held that students have a right to know the charges sufficiently in advance of the hearing to permit them "to examine the charges, prepare a defense and gather evidence and witnesses."{69} The Supreme Court in Goss held that the notice given to a student in a case involving the possibility of a short suspension could be either oral or in writing. For longer suspensions, however, other courts have held that notice must be in writing.{70}

A student suspension cannot be based on charges other than those specified to the student in advance of hearing.{73} In other words, schools cannot change students with one offense and then find them guilty of another, because to do so would "render meaningless" the "opportunity to present their side of the case," in the words of one judge.{74}

[References]
{67} Mills v Board of Education of the District of Columbia, 348 F. Supp. 866 (D.D.C. 1972); Vail v. Board of Education of Portsmouth Schools Dist., 354 F. Supp. 592 (D.N.H. 1973); Quintanilla v. Carey, Civil Action No. 75-C-829 (N.D. Ill., 3/31/75).

{68} Keller v. Fochs, 385 F. Supp. 262 (E.D. Wis. 1974).

{69} Sullivan v. Houston Independent School District, 307 F. Supp. 1328 (S.D. Tex. 1969); Fielder v. Board of Education of School District of Winnebago (Nebraska), 346 F. Supp. 835 (N.D. Tex. 1972); Esteban v. Central Missouri State College, 277 F. Supp. 649 (W.D. Mo. 1967), aff'd, 415 F.2d 1077 (8th Cir. 1969), cirt. denied, 398 U.S. 965 (1970).

{70} Pervis v. LaMarque Independent School District, 466 F.2d 1054 (5th Cir. 1972).

{73} Strickland v. Inlow 519 F.2d 744, 747 (8th Cir. 1975).

{74} John A. v. San Bernardino City Unified School Dist., 654 P. 2d 242 (Calif. 1982)
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from Procedural Due Process Guidelines For Disciplinary Hearings Resulting In Suspension Or Expulsion In Higher Education by Ernest Buchanan III. Published by Education/Law Research Assoc, 1972

6. Notification of Charges and of the Hearing [...] The notice of charges must identify the person against whom charges are bing brought, describe the proscribed conduct, set forth the text of university regulations upon which the charges are based,{56} and conclude with the statement that the described conduct is believed to violate the cited regulations.

12. Findings of Fact and Violation; Determination of Guilt or Innocence; Notification of Decision

Once the evidentiary hearing has been completed, the recording of the proceeding should be reviewed, and a written set of findings of fact should be prepared by the chairman of the board or the hearing examiner.{72}
[...]
These findings of fact, together with the record of the testimony given at the hearing, are used by the fact finder to determine whether or not the student is guilty or innocent of the conduct charged.
[...]
Findings of fact, the determination of guilt or innocence, and the penalty, if any, should be reduced to a written report, and this report must be delivered to the student at the earliest possible time.{77}

[References]
{56} State ex rel Sherman, p. 826; Dixon, 294 F. 2d 150, p. 158; Buttney, p. 288.

{72} Speake, 317 F. Supp. 1253, p. 1257; Siegal, p. 826; Esteban, 277 F. Supp. 649, p. 651.

{77} Speake, 317 F. Supp. 1253, p. 1257; Esteban, 277 F. Supp. 649, p. 651. Examples of finding of fact are set out in Wassoon, 284 F. Supp. 936, pp. 947-948; Counts, 312 F. Supp 598, p. 604.
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from The Redefinition of the Exclusionary Rule as to Student Procedural Due Process in High Education. A monograph from the Office of the General Counsel [of Southern Illinois University] by Dr. Larry French, General Counsel, 1977.

Introduction

The debate whether education is a right or privilege, is no long a subject of controversy, because the student's right to the benefit of a state educational system is an interest protected by the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution{1}.
[...]
The "exclusionary rule", as defined herein, pertains to any policy from which a violation of, could result in exclusion from school either on a temporary or permanent basis.
[...]
The landmark decision of Dixon v. Alabama State Board of Education{4} remains as the basic authority providing students in higher education the right to appropriate due process protection in disciplinary proceedings which involve long term suspension or expulsion (dismissal). Such due process means any accused student must be given adequate notice and an opportunity for hearing prior to the initial disposition of his case.
[...]
Although the facts of [Goss v. Lopez{5}] were directed at the secondary level of public education, they are as well applicable to proceedings in high education, both as to academic and non-academic matters.
[...]
As to what constitutes proper notice of charges, it may be said that a student must be given, at a time reasonably prior to the commencement of the proceedings, a written statement in which the charges are explicitly set forth as well as the the specific ground or grounds, which if proven, would justify the penalty commensurate with the violation.
[...]

[References]
{1} Board of Regents v. Roth, 92 Supreme Court 2701 (1972).

{4} 294 F2d 150 (5th Circuit, 1961) cert. den.

{5} 419 U.S. 565 (1975)

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