Covid-19 Legal Resources Blog

Returning to College from Winter Break and the New College COVID Regulations

If you are a college student who is starting the spring semester, you should know that your college is strictly enforcing its COVID-related rules and regulations and punishing violators with severe sanctions like suspensions and expulsion.

Most students run afoul of their college’s COVID regulations by violating social distancing rules that require students to avoid mass gatherings. Predictably, this most often occurs with parties.

You should also know that while you are enrolled as a student, your college has jurisdiction to punish you for your behavior both on and off campus. Likewise, even if you are attending only virtual classes, even many hundreds or thousands of miles away from campus, you may still be subject to the same social distancing rules as someone on campus. Even if the activity is allowed in the state you are in, it does not mean that activity is allowed by your college.

Colleges find out about parties and other mass gatherings even when they happen off campus. The first way they find out is through social media. If you post and publicly share videos, photos, and other information, your college may find out about it. A selfie at a party with a crowd of people may get you into trouble, but also keep in mind that other party-goers can post too. Students are being caught and disciplined based on someone else’s social media posts that they didn’t even know existed.

The second source is contact tracing. When a student tests positive, that student is required to recount where they were and who they encountered during a certain period of time. Through that process, that student may disclose they were at a party and who was there. Now those other students may find themselves in trouble.

The third source is law enforcement. If the police break up a party and take down the names of the people in attendance, that information can be shared or become known to the college and disciplinary action may soon follow.

Colleges are taking these violations seriously and rightfully so. COVID-19 is deadly, and colleges are trying to keep the members of their campus and the surrounding community safe. As a result, colleges are imposing heavy punishments and even heavy interim measures while the disciplinary process unfolds. What this means is that if you are accused of violating COVID regulations, you can be suspended and prevented from attending class (sometimes even virtual classes), being on campus, or participating in any college activities until the disciplinary process is completed. If found responsible, colleges are suspending and even expelling students, depending on the severity of the violation and how many people were put at risk of infection.

There are enormous academic and financial consequences if you are suspended or expelled for COVID regulation infractions. For example, course credits for that uncompleted term are usually lost. This often requires students to repeat the term or courses and pay to do so. Next, tuition, room and board, books and other expenses are usually lost and not refundable. Also, transcripts are often marked with disciplinary notations indicating a disciplinary suspension or expulsion. All of these findings make graduate school, job and licensing applications that much more challenging. And since the disciplinary process can take sometimes weeks to complete, interim suspensions can be just as damaging to a student even if they are ultimately found not responsible.

While you should obviously follow your college’s rules and abide by your local government’s public health regulations, if you or another student are accused of violating a college’s policies, then all is not lost. You are entitled to defend yourself and to seek help and advice. That is what we do at Student Defenders.

Every college has a disciplinary process that it must follow and there may be remedies a court of law can enforce against a college for violating those procedures. Additionally, a student who is suspended and not able to participate in classes while the disciplinary process unfolds, may be able to seek an Injunction or a Temporary Restraining Order against the college and be readmitted pending the outcome of the disciplinary process and avoid the damage of a temporary suspension.

If you or someone you care about is facing a college disciplinary investigation from COVID regulation disciplinary actions, contact the Student Defenders for a free consultation.

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