The attorneys of Franczek have a depth of experience, both as in-house counsel and in private practice, counseling, training, and representing colleges and universities on a wide range of issues broadly described as “student affairs.” This includes academic, disciplinary, athletic, disability, medical, privacy, and residence life issues.
Our attorneys regularly draft and update student disciplinary, sexual assault, and academic integrity codes, and we assist institutions in administering these codes. Several of our attorneys have worked as in-house counsel, which proves invaluable in helping institutions make and document the difficult judgments involved in administering different student disciplinary procedures.
We are particularly experienced in advising institutions on strategies for responding to troubled students. We draft and help implement “best practices” in threat assessment and related policies (including involuntary withdrawal, interim withdrawal, mandatory assessment, and conditional readmission policies). We also help student affairs personnel, security departments, counseling centers, and residence life personnel apply these policies and determine whether particular circumstances present a legitimate threat. We assist institutions in responding to concerns from parents and the community and serve on threat assessment teams as needed. Our goal is to help our clients maintain a safe learning and living environment for the entire campus community, including troubled students.
Student Discrimination & Disability Issues
We are highly experienced in defending institutions during government investigations, including Office for Civil Rights (OCR) proceedings and Department of Justice audits of campus facility accessibility under Title III of the ADA. We also defend educational institutions against student complaints filed with the OCR, alleging individual violations of the Rehabilitation Act or Title VI. To help institutions avoid such issues, we also draft and update appropriate anti-discrimination and disability accommodation policies, including Section 504 grievance procedures and “threat assessment” protocols.
Student Records & Confidentiality
Franczek is experienced in helping institutions adopt and implement records policies that protect the rights of parents and students alike. We advise higher education institutions on the maintenance of school student records and student confidentiality rights, and we also counsel institutions on the application of HIPAA and state medical records laws to campus health centers.
We have extensive experience advising institutions on issues related to compliance with Family Education Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA), the Clery Act, and other statutory and regulatory requirements applicable to higher education institutions; and we have represented institutions in proceedings within the OCR and the Office for Postsecondary Education (within the Department of Education) regarding compliance with relevant provisions of FERPA or the Clery Act. As part of our work helping institutions with proper threat assessment, we also guide administrators as to when an imminent threat or danger makes disclosure of records or medical information legal and necessary.
Student Rights & Responsibilities
Higher education continues to experience significant disputes regarding alleged violations of student contract rights as well as alleged violations of rights to free speech, religious expression, or privacy. In matters ranging from the rights of a student press to the rights of individual students to free expression, we provide practical, thoughtful advice that reflects the ever-changing laws as well as the evolving needs of higher education. Our experience includes defense against student class actions challenging governing board decisions to eliminate degree programs to defense against student lawsuits challenging disciplinary, grading, and academic misconduct decisions.
Our attorneys advise and counsel colleges and universities on the various legal aspects surrounding student athletics. We have represented institutions being investigated or audited for alleged violations of Title IX in athletic programs. We also have experience advising athletic departments on NCAA compliance and other conference requirements, as well as with anti-discrimination and ADA provisions.