FMA(LOCAL) - DISCIPLINE AND PENALTIES: DISCIPLINE PROCEDURE
The purpose of this policy is to set forth the College District's student disciplinary procedures relating to allegations of a violation of the Student Code of Conduct or Board policy, excluding allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking, which are addressed in policy FFDA(Local).
In all cases of an alleged violation of the Student Code of Conduct or Board policy not involving sexual misconduct as defined in FFDA(LOCAL), the Dean of Student Services ("the Dean") or designee shall make an initial determination as to whether there is sufficient basis to determine that a violation has occurred. The Dean or designee shall interview the complainant and may interview other witnesses as appropriate to the circumstances. The Dean or designee shall meet with the accused student, describe the allegations against the student, and provide the student an opportunity to respond.
If the Dean or designee determines that reasonable grounds support the complaint, the Dean or designee shall inform the accused student in writing, describing the allegations and the charge, the proposed penalty, and the student's procedural rights. If the proposed penalty includes suspension or expulsion, the hearing procedures for suspension or expulsion shall apply.
If the Dean determines that there are insufficient grounds to establish that a violation of the Code occurred, the complaint shall be dismissed. The Dean or designee shall inform the complainant and the accused student in writing if the complaint is dismissed and the reason(s) for the dismissal.
Informal Resolution When the Accused Student Does Not Dispute the Allegation of Misconduct
In cases in which the accused student does not dispute the facts upon which the charges are based, the student may choose not to contest the charge and sign an acknowledgment and a written waiver of the hearing procedures. The Dean or designee shall impose an appropriate sanction or sanctions based on the nature of the charge, the evidence, and the student's disciplinary history, if any. If the accused student does not dispute the underlying allegation of misconduct but does dispute the proposed sanction(s), the matter shall proceed to the formal hearing process.
Formal Hearing Process
When the Dean has determined that there are sufficient grounds to support a charge of misconduct, or when the accused student does not dispute the charge but does dispute the proposed sanction, the matter shall be heard by the College Community Appeals and Adjudication Board (CAAB).
The deadlines provided in this policy may be extended by mutual agreement or for good cause by the Dean or CAAB.
The Dean shall notify the accused student by letter of the charges and date, time, and place for the CAAB hearing, which shall take place not fewer than ten class days after the date of the letter. The ten-day notice requirement may be altered by the Dean or by mutual agreement of the hearing board chair and the student. A student's failure to update his or her postal and email addresses with the College District, refusal to accept delivery of a letter, or refusal or failure to open an email will not constitute good cause for failure to comply with a notice.
Contents of Notice
The notice shall contain a statement of the specific charges and a general description of the evidence in support of the charges; the rules, regulations, or policies that the student allegedly violated; the proposed penalty; a copy of this policy; and the contact information of the Dean or designee and the chair of the CAAB. The notice shall identify the members of the hearing panel. The notice may be sent to the student by electronic mail, U.S. mail, or hand-delivery.
The accused student may challenge the impartiality or objectivity of members of the CAAB but must do so promptly after receipt of the notice identifying the CAAB members. A challenge must be submitted in writing to the chairperson of the CAAB. The challenge must state the factual reasons for the challenge. The chairperson will be the sole judge of whether he or she or other members can serve with impartiality and objectivity. If a CAAB member recuses himself or herself, an alternate member will be assigned.
Hearing Procedure for Expulsions and Suspensions
When a student has been proposed for expulsion, suspension in excess of ten school days, revocation of a degree, or removal from campus pursuant to Sections 51.231–.243 of the Texas Education Code, the following procedures shall apply:
- The student shall be entitled to a private hearing and to appear in person and, if desired, with an advisor or legal counsel. The advisor or legal counsel may not be a witness in the matter. The student shall inform the Dean and CAAB chair of the name and contact information of the student's advisor or legal counsel at least three business days prior to the hearing.
- The student's advisor or legal counsel, if any, may attend the hearing and confer with the student but may not participate in making arguments, presenting evidence, or questioning witnesses.
- In the event that a student is a qualified person with a disability under federal law and is unable to represent himself or herself at the hearing because of his or her disability, the College District, as a reasonable accommodation to the student, will permit the student to be represented by counsel at the hearing. If the student is represented by counsel, then the College District also may be represented by counsel.
- At least three business days prior to the hearing, the administration and the student shall exchange witness lists that identify the names of the witnesses who will testify along with a brief description of each witness's knowledge.
- At least three business days prior to the hearing, the administration and the student shall exchange their proposed exhibits.
- The hearing shall be recorded via an audio recording device.
- All witnesses shall be sworn in by a notary or another person authorized by law to administer oaths. The accused student may question witnesses presented by the administration, and the administration may question the witnesses presented by the accused student.
- After the parties have questioned a witness, members of the hearing panel may question the witness. An accused student may not be compelled to testify.
- The hearing shall be conducted as an administrative hearing. Courtroom rules of evidence and judicial rules of civil procedure shall not apply. Evidence, however, must be relevant and of the type that would be accepted by reasonable persons in the conduct of important affairs. The CAAB may limit cumulative, repetitious, or irrelevant testimony and may impose reasonable time limits on the presentation of evidence. The CAAB may impose reasonable restrictions to prevent the harassment or badgering of witnesses. Finally, although the legal rules of evidence shall not apply, the CAAB shall give effect to legally recognized privileges, such as the attorney-client privilege. The CAAB may seek legal advice from an attorney before making a decision on the assertion of privilege by any party or witness, even if such would require a recess in the hearing.
- The administration bears the burden of proving the charges by a preponderance of the evidence, i.e., more likely than not.
- The order of the hearing shall be as follows:
- The Dean or designee may present an opening statement not to exceed five minutes. The student may present an opening statement not to exceed five minutes.
- The Dean or designee shall present the College District's case first. The student shall present his or her case. The Dean or designee may present rebuttal evidence.
- After the close of the evidence, the chairperson shall determine the number of minutes that the parties will be given for closing arguments, taking into consideration the complexity of the case. Each party will receive the same amount of time for a closing argument. Neither party may present new evidence during closing arguments.
- After closing arguments, the hearing panel shall deliberate privately. The hearing panel shall render a decision within five business days. The panel shall determine whether the evidence supports the charge(s) by a preponderance of the evidence, and, when warranted, determine a penalty. The panel's decision shall be decided by majority vote. The decision shall be in writing and contain findings of fact, the rationale for the decision, and a statement regarding any applicable appeal procedure. The hearing committee shall transmit a copy of the decision to the student and the Dean.
Hearing Procedure Not Involving Expulsion or Suspension
When a student has been proposed for discipline but the penalty does not involve expulsion, suspension in excess of ten days, revocation of a degree, or removal from campus pursuant to Sections 51.231–.243 of the Texas Education Code, the above procedures applicable to expulsion hearings shall apply, except as follows:
- Witness lists and exhibit lists shall be exchanged one business day in advance of the hearing date.
- Parties may present their own witnesses; however, cross examination of witnesses by the parties shall not be permitted. Members of the hearing panel may question any witness.
Failure to Appear
If the student fails without good cause, as determined by the CAAB, to appear at the scheduled hearing after receiving proper notice, the Dean or designee may proceed with the hearing in the student's absence, and the student shall forfeit any right to appeal. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Dean or designee shall provide written notice to the student of any action taken in the student's absence.
Right of Appeal
The student or the Dean may appeal an adverse decision. Appeals must be submitted in writing within five business days of the date of the decision to the Vice President, Academic and Student Affairs, or designee. The appeal must set forth the specific grounds that the party believes would warrant setting aside the panel's decision.
The Vice President or designee shall render a written decision based upon the record developed by the CAAB. The Vice President or designee may affirm, reject, or modify the decision of the CAAB. The Vice President or designee may also remand the case back to the CAAB for further fact-finding or correction of procedural error, if any. The Vice President shall render a written decision on the appeal within five business days of receipt of the appeal and shall promptly transmit a copy of the written determination to the parties. The decision of the Vice President or designee is final.
The disciplinary records and proceedings shall be kept separate from the student's academic record and shall be treated as confidential as required by law.
Types of Penalties
The CAAB or Dean may impose one or more of the following penalties for offenses listed above or for violation of College District rules or regulations:
- Educational sanction, counseling, training;
- Verbal warning;
- Written warning;
- Disciplinary probation;
- Revocation of a privilege;
- Grade changes;
- Denial of degree; and
- Other conditions appropriate to the circumstances as identified by the CAAB.
Nature of Disciplinary Penalties
The penalties above shall be defined as follows:
- Educational Sanctions: While any sanction will be punitive by nature, educational sanctions are those designed to educate students and may include counseling or training.
- Verbal Warning: An admonition is a verbal warning to a student who has violated a College District rule or regulation.
- Written Warning: A written warning is a formal notice of a violation and indicates that continuation or repetition of such conduct may be cause for more severe disciplinary action. The written warning will be placed in the permanent file of the student and may be used in any future conduct proceedings.
- Disciplinary Probation: A student on disciplinary probation is excluded from participation in all extracurricular activities set forth in the notice for a specific period of time. Further violations of any kind during this disciplinary probationary period may result in suspension or expulsion.
- Revocation of a Privilege: The sanction may include prohibition on participation in a specific activity or restrictions on access to a location on campus.
- Grade Changes: A student violating academic integrity rules may have a course grade lowered by a letter, changed to a W or an F, or have an assignment or exam graded as a zero.
- Restitution: Restitution is reimbursement for damages to or theft of property. This could be paid to an individual or the College District depending on the ownership of damaged or stolen property. This may take the form of appropriate service work or financial compensation.
- Suspension: Suspension is the revocation of a student's privilege to enroll and to be physically present on campus for a specific period of time. The conditions for reinstatement of these privileges shall be stated in the formal decision of suspension sent to the student.
- Expulsion: Expulsion is the permanent revocation of a student's privilege to enroll in the College District. This effectively ends an academic career at the College District. The student may not register for any classes or take part in any academic programs associated with the College District. Likewise, expulsion is a revocation of a person's privilege to be physically present on the campus.
Suspension from the College District prohibits, during the period of suspension, the suspended student from entering a College District campus or facility under control or jurisdiction of the College District without prior written approval of the College President or designee; from being initiated into an honorary or service organization; and from receiving credit for scholastic work done in residence or by correspondence or extension. Except when suspension is imposed for scholastic dishonesty, the Dean may permit the receipt of credit for scholastic work done during the period of suspension.