Sending Your “Child” to College – Legal Issues to Consider
Next month colleges and universities will reopen their doors and admit new and returning students. If your kid’s one of them, congratulations. We’ve got a checklist of items to help you prepare your child for a safe and hassle-free semester.
Your Baby’s Not Your Baby Anymore – Get Authorizations
Your child is or soon will be an adult legally. This means that without your child’s consent, you won’t be able to a) make decisions for them if you need to and b) get certain information about them. You need authorizations, like general and medical powers of attorney, and health care privacy releases or waivers.
Schools are for growth and learning, but campuses are not crime-free. Your kid’s safety should be the foremost concern. Serious, violent crimes, like murder and rape, do happen on and near college campuses. Schools have better security than ever, but students can’t let down their guards because of this. They need to be even more aware of their own security and safety. Safety tips include:
- Know your surroundings and trust your instincts
- Keep campus safety phone numbers in your cell for emergencies
- Lock your door. Don’t loan your key to friends
- Don’t accept drinks (alcoholic or otherwise) from others. Remember alcohol is the #1 date-rape drug
- When you go out, let someone know where you’re going, who you’ll be with, and when you plan to be back
- Don’t prop doors
- Be careful about posting personal information and statuses on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites
You can start by checking the Education Department’s Campus Security and Safety Tool. It has statistics for crimes reported at every school.
Sexual harassment happens. Students, female and male, can receive unwanted advances and threats from faculty and staff. In addition to local criminal law, federal law prohibits conduct of this sort and provides rights and remedies for it. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects students from this conduct. It also provides procedures for reporting and dealing with it. Do not be intimidated into thinking you’re stuck with the problem.
Hazing is a so-called "rite of passage." So-called, that is, by the perpetrators of these foolish and often dangerous rituals. Campus administrators and law enforcement have other words for it, like "illegal" and "against policy." Unfortunately every year it seems these rituals leave someone dead or seriously injured, and others facing prosecution and rueful. Many states have laws against hazing; all higher education institutions have policies against it.
Know also that schools can discipline students for off-campus behavior. And zero-tolerance policies can trip up even well-intentioned kids. Any criminal or civil misbehavior can have serious consequences for an academic career. That’s often the last thing one thinks of as punishment for misconduct. Sometimes it’s the worst, with lasting effects. If accused of wrongdoing, students have rights in the discipline process.
Underage drinking on and off campus is naturally a concern. Particularly serious problems have involved alcoholic "energy drinks" like Four Loko and flavored malt beverages like Pabst Blast. Students have been hospitalized with alcohol poisoning and one teen was hit and killed by an automobile after getting very drunk on these kinds of beverages.
- Before your child registers you’ll have to provide information including proof of medical insurance. You have options in insuring your child, especially since the new federal health care laws enable children to remain on their parents’ insurance to age 26. School-sponsored medical insurance is also available, and may be a good option. You must read the fine print though to understand deductibles, limits, copays, and exclusions. As for access, some plans have different rules for urgent care and regular appointments or nonemergency care
- Getting a checkup, things like a tetanus shot, and a clean bill of health in general from your regular physician are important too. Your doctor can give your kid some valuable health advice before leaving for school
- Get a medical power of attorney, authorizations, and releases. In an emergency, will you be able to get information about your child from a hospital or healthcare provider? Not without his or her permission. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects patient privacy, and hinders your attempts to obtain information about your adult child
Don’t forget auto and property insurance. If your teen is attending out-of-state, make sure the policy covering any vehicle your teen is using meets the minimum requirements of that state. Of course it’s usually better to have more than the minimum liability coverage, so check that too. Leaving the car behind can cut you a break on premiums.
Also, the personal property your kid lugs to school is probably worth much more than that stereo you had. Your homeowner’s policy may provide limited coverage. Renter’s insurance can provide additional coverage, if needed. These are all Additions to the "College Survival Manual."
It’s all about setting expectations. Help your kid set up a budget and stick to it.
- How will your child pay for ordinary expenses? Many college IDs serve as debit cards. You’ll need to fund that account. A standard bank debit card is another option
- Credit cards. Unless your child has income, she can’t get a card in solely in her own name if she’s under 21. You can cosign a card in her name, or she can be authorized to use your card
- Of course the big-ticket items tuition, room and board, and travel should be funded already. There’s plenty of standard and oddball scholarships/financial aid available. Student loans are available in federally subsidized and private options. At the same time, you must watch out for college scholarship scams
Who pays for college when parents are divorced? That can be worked out in a separation agreement/property settlement or child support agreement.
Ah, roommates. Sometimes they’re great and you become friends for life. Sometimes they’re the roommate from hell and you can’t wait for a reassignment. Sometimes, they’re just there. Roommate matchmaking can start as soon as you learn their names. It’s a great idea, before anything’s changed or committed to, for the parents of roommates to have a talk and discuss expectations.
You can’t, however, discriminate against a potential roommate based on religion, race, disability and certain other factors.
Foreign study adds another layer of complexity to back-to-school. It means a whole new set of laws and behaviors to conform to. The challenges of funding your child’s ordinary living expenses are similar to those above, only with transfer issues, fees, and restrictions. Healthcare is also more complicated, make sure couple of common-sense tips are followed:
- Health insurance must of course provide for coverage overseas. Find out about coverage for emergency evacuation costs
- Take adequate supply of prescription medication and additional written prescriptions in case of loss or refill needs
- As an added precaution, take along extra passport photos in case of a lost passport. Students abroad should take even greater precautions for physical safety
Related Apps for Your Smartphone*
- duiKnow – Self-administered test BEFORE you get behind the wheel. $.99
- Bully Block – Android app captures threats and blocks bullies. $1.29
- My Mobile Watchdog – Monitor your kid’s mobile use and get updates of unapproved incoming. $9.95
*Please note that these apps are for informational purposes only, and neither LexisNexis nor Lawyers.com endorses these apps or accepts liability for their use.
- Learn more about education law on Lawyers.com
- Find an education law attorney on Lawyers.com
- Discuss your community issue on our Education and School Law Forums
- Lawyers.com Suggested Legal Books
- Did this article help you? If so, please consider sharing it with your friends and encourage them to become a fan of Lawyers.com on Facebook. Or follow us on Twitter to retweet to your friends/followers.
- Download the Lawyers.com app for the iPhone or access the site on your smartphone