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Monday, Jun. 8th 2020


Our higher education appeals practice is based largely on the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which guarantees that no person shall be deprived of ‘life, liberty or property without due process of law.”

The murder of George Floyd is yet another reminder that Black Americans all too often are deprived of life without any process of law. State sanctioned murder is the most abhorrent abuse of government power and the nation appears poised to finally extinguish this medieval practice.

There are, for Black Americans, and other minorities, other deprivations of “liberty” and “property” without due process of law. In tax supported public colleges, universities and community colleges, the right to pursue higher education is a “property right” and protected by the 14th Amendment. The protection of one’s “liberty” under the 14th Amendment is not just a reference to freedom from imprisonment  without due process of law; it is also a protection of one’s reputation or “good name.” This too, may not be taken by an arm of government without due process of law. The actions of higher education officials in various punitive measures directed at students amount to a deprival of that student’s “liberty interest” or reputation, which often affects further educational and career opportunities.

The racial discrimination suffered by Black Americans takes many forms, including lack of educational opportunity, fair treatment and equal protection under the law. Actions of higher education officials can be a disguised form of discrimination when the effect of lower grades, higher dismissal rates and other actions have the effect of depriving Black Americans of rights inherent in citizenship and applying even to those persons here legally under a student visa.

At the time of this heightened concern for rights of those persons of African heritage, we also recognize that the seeds of hatred, bias and prejudice affect other minorities, including Hispanic, Asian, Arabic or other groups of foreign birth or heritage. Students who feel that an adverse action by a higher education official may have an element of bias, prejudice or discrimination should make those concerns known to their attorney when discussing a higher education issue.

The Black Lives Matter expression is a call for change on the streets of America. It also represents a broader call for change in all forms of opportunity for Black Americans and should be an awakening of the need for change in how all minorities are treated in the United States, whether on the street, at work or in the classroom. Cohen & Duncan Attorneys, LLC is proud to be at the forefront of advocating for the civil rights of students of color and all students affected by discriminatory or unfair deprival of their student rights.

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