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Heading off to college is one of life’s greatest accomplishments. You get to explore life on your own for the first time, make new friends, and enrich your knowledge. There are few things about college to not be excited about.
Many college students find themselves in difficult situations at some point in their education. That doesn’t mean that you have to sit back and take whatever comes at you. In fact, as a student, you have many rights in your education.
Read on to learn all about student rights.
Your Right to Privacy
The first right you have as a student is the right to privacy. This right is so important that the federal government enacted the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to make sure that educational institutions respect this right.
FERPA is designed to allow parents and students to have the right to examine their educational records. However, once a student enters college or reaches the age of 18, parents no longer have the right to access or examine your educational records.
If your parents are paying your tuition, then most colleges and universities allow you to create a login for them.
What if you want your parents to have access to your education records?
Contact your registrar and ask about filling out a FERPA waiver so the school can discuss and release your records to them. It’s important to note that you can specify which parts of your education record to which you want your parents to have access when you sign your waiver.
Disabled Student Rights
Students with disabilities have rights in the education setting as well as in the outside world. There are several bodies of law that cover the rights of students with disabilities. These include Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Section 504 prohibits educational institutions from prohibiting otherwise qualified individuals from being admitted to the university on the basis of disability. It also requires that schools assist disabled students by providing “appropriate academic adjustments.”
What does this look like in practice?
It means that everything on the school’s website needs to be accessible to screen readers for students or potential students with visual impairments. Students with test anxiety may be eligible for extended examinations. Students who are unable to take notes are eligible for notetakers in their classes.
These are just a few of the many accommodations that are made for students with disabilities.
Most colleges and universities have specific departments that are dedicated to supporting students with disabilities. If you are unsure if your institution has an office like this, try searching the name of your college alongside terms like “disability services.”
Student Code of Conduct
No matter which school you choose to attend, your school is going to have a policy on student conduct. Ordinarily, this is termed the Student Code of Conduct. This policy governs your behavior on and off-campus.
For example, many schools prohibit students from consuming alcohol in on-campus housing, regardless of their age. If you’re 25 and caught with a bottle of alcohol, you will have to face the consequences, regardless of your age.
Whenever a student is accused of a violation of the conduct code, they have the right to some level of due process. In the most minimal sense, the school must notify you of the allegation and give you a chance to respond.
Some schools have independent people who investigate violations of the code, while many others have hearing panels. Don’t be afraid to ask the office of student rights and responsibilities about your rights in any conduct case.
Title IX is a federal law that requires educational institutions to not discriminate on the basis of sex. For years this meant that women had equal access to institutions of higher education and granted them the right to participate in athletics. These rights are still a huge component of Title IX, but the law has evolved since 2001.
Today, Title IX is primarily known for its protections against sexual harassment. This includes sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking. The Department of Education recently narrowed the scope of Title IX to apply to people who are participating in or attempting to participate in a school’s education program or activity.
If you are a student who experiences some form of sexual harassment or sexual violence, then you should reach out to your school’s Title IX coordinator for support. Your Title IX coordinator can assist you with supportive measures, including moving dorm rooms, changing your schedule, or issuing a no-contact directive to the accused. And you should also take harassment training to protect yourself in case of any type of harassment.
If you have been accused, then you should know that the recent change in Title IX regulations has strengthened your due process rights. You now have the right to a live hearing, an advisor, and the right to live cross-examination. Many respondents in Title IX cases choose to have an education lawyer serve as their advisor.
Like student conduct policies and Title IX policies, your school is going to have a policy on academic misconduct. Here you will also have the right to due process, though it is less stringent than it is in Title IX cases.
It is important to read and fully comprehend your academic misconduct policy to avoid potential violations. If you find yourself in hot water, make sure to ask about your rights in the process. Consider contacting an attorney if you want to apply to law school, med school, or grad school.
Always Fight for Your Rights as a Student
College is a time of self-discovery. If you find that you’re struggling and need assistance, don’t be afraid to ask for the help you deserve. If you find yourself the subject of an investigation, stand up for yourself, and make sure to enforce your student rights.
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