Unfair Disciplinary Proceedings and Punishment

Private schools, colleges, and universities must follow their own rules — often stated in a Student Handbook — when seeking to discipline a student. Often, they fail to do so.

The result can be an unfair disciplinary proceeding that may result in potential expulsion, suspension, or another sanction that permanently clouds the record of the student involved, results in the forfeiture of tuition and course credits, and leaves a student unfairly found culpable. Long-term consequences often result, such as difficulty obtaining employment or acceptance at another school, or professional licensing difficulties. While virtually all schools have fair-minded faculty and administrators, there is a surprisingly high incidence of school disciplinary structures that can lead to very unfair results. Teachers may be well versed in Chaucer or chemistry but due process, on which a young student’s entire future can depend, eludes them more than one would expect. Markham Read Zerner has advised and defended many students and their parents during disciplinary proceedings and filed court cases where appropriate due to unfair treatment of a student in a disciplinary proceeding.

The law requires schools and colleges to follow their own rules and the courts will grant relief if they do not. Obtaining advice if you or your child is facing such a proceeding is very important and can frequently lessen or avoid altogether a harmful result.

A Safe Environment

Educational institutions must also provide a safe environment for their students. If you or your child is being bullied or subjected to threats or assaults, there are real remedies available to the student. You should consult a knowledgeable attorney about your rights.


By law, private schools are not allowed to discriminate on account of race, nationality, gender, religion, or disability. By their own rules, to which they are legally bound, they often promise to protect the rights of specific groups, including LGBTQ students. While many schools genuinely are committed to honoring these obligations, there are exceptions, and any student who feels they are being subjected to discrimination is encouraged to seek counsel. Sometimes the pendulum has swung too far and schools that are focused on protecting certain groups needing protection fail to treat others fairly in the process.