In the COVID-19 era, colleges and universities have enacted policies and procedures to help protect against COVID-19 outbreaks on campus. But each school is handling this process differently and putting very different rules in place with varying levels of restriction. These are challenging and confusing times, particularly as students struggle to distinguish between what is a recommendation and what is a true campus policy with disciplinary repercussions for those who fail to comply. If you are a student who has been charged with a COVID-19 school policy or code of conduct violation and are at risk for dismissal or discipline of any kind, KJK’s Student & Athlete Defense team is here to help. Call us today for a free consultation: 216-736-7236.

Below is a list of FAQs to help students navigate these unprecedented times.

Can a school require me to wear a mask and practice social distancing? 

Yes! Aside from government-issued health orders, most schools have published their own guidelines requiring students to wear masks on campus and to practice social distancing. A student may seek an exemption from wearing a face mask through a COVID-19 related accommodation request. Just assume you need to “mask up” and stay six feet away from the next person around you.

If I live off campus, do I still need to follow my school’s social distancing protocols?

It depends. And not to sound too “lawyerly,” most likely. Some student conduct policies expressly state that they apply to behavior on and off campus. We strongly recommend that all students not only review their school’s guidelines, but also check from time to time to make sure that there are no updates or changes to the rules. All students will be held accountable for what is posted online or emailed to them. Don’t just delete what looks like a boring email. 

Can a school discipline me for violating social distancing protocols?

Generally, yes. Most schools have student conduct policies with broad language relating to the failure to follow applicable administrative, local, state and federal laws. This year, student conduct codes have been modified to include language stating that the failure to follow safety protocols can subject the student (or student organization) to disciplinary action. 

What types of discipline can be imposed for violating social distancing protocols?

We have seen sanctions ranging from a simple warning to suspension from campus.  

If I tested positive for COVID-19, can I request accommodations? 

Yes. A student experiencing any physical or mental impairment that limits the student’s ability to participate in educational activities may request accommodations. A request, accompanied by supporting documentation, should be made through the school’s office of disability services. Common accommodations include the following: remote attendance/participation in class, on campus housing accommodations, alternative arrangements for face coverings and academic flexibility during an isolation/quarantine period. 

What is the difference between quarantine and isolation?

Quarantining is designed to keep someone who might have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others. Isolation is used to separate people infected with COVID-19 from people who are not infected. 

If I get tested for COVID-19 at a student health services center, will my school find out my test result? 

If a student is tested for COVID-19 at a campus health center and tests positive, it is likely that a member of the school’s administration or the local department of public health will communicate with the student to discuss contact tracing to determine who came into contact with the student and could therefore be infected. 

If I cannot leave my room or go to the dining hall, how will I eat? 

Most schools offer services for meals to be delivered directly to the student. 

If I live in a house with more than 10 people, how can I prevent disciplinary charges related to violating social distancing guidelines?

While it is impossible to control the behavior and choices of other students, each person should make sure that some simple rules are followed. Wear a mask when outside of the house and avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. There is well-deserved concern about student infection rates growing, and students should assume that campus police will be vigilant about enforcing the rules, as well as fellow students. We have defended cases that arose after an unknown student posted photos of an off-campus party and the picture found its way to the student conduct office.  

What do I do if I receive a charge letter from my school informing me that I may have violated the guidelines?

Make sure you consider discussing next steps with your parents or an attorney. Any student conduct violation is serious and it is never good to handle a matter without proper support and a strong advisor. 

If you need help or have further questions, call us for a free consultation: 216-736-7236.