The Legal File: The Best (Really Worst) College Student Excuses of All Time
As an overview, this article is part of a series (Overview: The Best (Really Worst) College Student Excuses of All Time — Introduction to the Article Series), exploring what excuses college students have offered to explain an absence, a missed exam, a paper or project being late, etc. All of these excuses have been collected from this author’s contemporaries — professors and instructors at colleges and universities all across America. As such, it is a “crowdsourced” piece, and I owe them my gratitude for sharing their “best” excuses — which in reality means the “worst” — from their students over the years that provided the basis for this article series. And in all of these articles, each of which deals with a different “origin area” for student excuses, from health to tech to social to pets and more, we not only see excuses that make us laugh, but we also see some that could make you cry, as there are also stories of students who “went the extra mile” and persevered over the unique obstacles they might have faced in their lives to succeed in school.
In this article in the series exploring college student excuses, we look at how legal issues — run-ins with the law and even being detained by the authorities — have caused students to miss a class, a test, or a paper/project submission deadline. So, without further ado, let’s open the legal file and explore how legal issues make for some quite “interesting” student excuses.
To begin with, in response to the social media call for best excuses that began the project that became this article series, professors readily related their own experiences from their younger years regarding run-ins/close calls with the law:
“I forgot to pay a speeding ticket and they arrested me. BTW this is my own excuse from when I was a student!”
“In grad school, I got my own visit from the men in suits (the FBI). A computer I’d set up had been used to attack the CDC. They’d hacked in via my machine, without my knowledge. For a brief moment, several people thought I was a kickass hacker.”
Legals problems — of all types — do cause students to have “issues,” as these very real student excuses offered by colleagues from across the country demonstrate:
“This is from a number of years ago but still my favorite. Student emailed: ‘I was being questioned by the FBI. I can give you the agent’s name if you want to check.’”
“A student said he had documentation for his missed classes. He gave me his multiple court summons.”
“My university is within 60 kilometers of the American border. Years ago. A student crossed into the closest state and was forbidden by Canadian border guards from returning until some old paperwork from previous protest activities was cleared up. Border guards confirmed the story.”
“This is not my story, but from one of my colleagues. He had a student take an exam early because the FBI was looking for him. Sure enough, on the day of the exam, two guys in suits showed up and asked him where the student was.”
And yes, students do get arrested in class — occasionally. It can be a show-stopping — well, lecture-stopping — moment if it ever does happen to you! I have seen it happen in classes conducted by colleagues, but in over 30 years of teaching, it hasn’t happened in my class — yet! But this story shared by a contemporary is a common reaction for those professors who have experienced this phenomenon in one of their classes:
“I had a student removed by the police from my class. It was weird. He had an arrest warrant. I was lecturing and police officers came in all three lecture hall doors at the same time. My first thought was, ‘What have I done?’”
And one professor at the University of Virginia even provided a reference for a particularly shocking arrest of one of his students in class:
“That reminds me, I had one former student hauled off for kidnapping. It was an international news story — see: UVa students’ arrests a shock to classmates.”
Unfortunately, college students do come into contact with the law — and some do end-up on the wrong side of it. So, being in jail does come-up as a reason for being absent, missing a test, or being late on an assignment or project every now and then, as these examples from instructors across America demonstrate:
“Miss, I’m sorry I didn’t turn in my paper. I was in jail.”
“My student emailed me saying ‘I got caught with weed and spent the weekend as the guest of Fulton County.’”
“I couldn’t turn in my paper (extended deadline already, mind you) cos I was in Jail cos my baby daddy called in an amber alert on me.”
“One I’ll never forget, a student shows up with a massive black eye — ‘Sorry I missed class, I was in jail, here’s my court paperwork’ — no more explanation.”
“Student shows up after 2 weeks… ‘Sorry professor, I was detained, in Ohio (we are in California) and I need to appear in court again in a week….can I get an extension?’”
“I had one bring me his arrest record as his written documentation for an excuse for missing a quiz.”
“I had a student who was sentenced to spend X number of days in jail. Because she was a student, they allowed her to ‘spread out’ her sentence over numerous months. She missed an exam because she ‘had to be in jail.’”
“My favorite reason is still the student who simply told me, ‘I was in jail.’ And he showed me the bail form thing. I excused it because you can’t be in class if you are in jail and a person who’s been in jail has enough going on.”
“I’ve had three students miss class because they were incarcerated. Which is hilarious because I’ve actually said to students, ‘Did you miss class because you were in jail?’ The last one said, ‘As a matter of fact…’” One of this professor’s colleagues wisely advised in response, “I learned a long time ago not to go there.”
And then, for the one jail excuse from a colleague that is statistically unlikely, but totally true — and worrisome — is this one:
“Twelve students in one of my classes missed a test because they were all arrested in the same meth bust.”
Unlike most of the other articles in this series, this one doesn’t conclude with a story of students persevering or overcoming adversity when it comes to legal issues. With the age demographic of traditional college students, issues with the law — some innocent (like parking tickets) and some not nearly so innocent — are almost inevitably going to occur with 18–25 year olds. Hopefully though, all of these students — and students in the future — will have learned from these experiences (and maybe even have a great story to tell about them someday!).
However, I will end this chapter with a chilling tale submitted for this project by a colleague from Florida. Unfortunately, these kinds of incidents, though relatively rare thankfully, do really happen, and the thought of such confrontations and threats is a reality for all of us in higher education today.
“It’s not an especially creative story, but it’s one I’ll never hard forget! A grad student appeared in my office after flunking several weekly assignments to say that she ALWAYS made A’s (her transcript begged to differ) and that she EXPECTED one in this course, too. She indicated a large, heavy handbag and informed me that she always PACKED and she wasn’t afraid to use it! The moment she was gone, I was in the Dean’s office, of course. They issued a Baker Act for her. That’s a Florida Law which permits a 3-day involuntary detention of someone who might be a danger to self or others. She did own guns and had a carry permit and she lived with her brother who was a violent offender. Since she didn’t actually pull the gun on me and we couldn’t prove she had carried it on campus which is illegal, I had her back in class the next week. She did flunk and it was her last F so she was expelled. I have a bad habit of not locking the doors but-that semester-I locked all the door and tripled checked them.”
Thankfully, her story had a safe ending! But sometimes, such threats and intimidation are indeed real, and it is something that all of us who work in colleges and universities — anywhere in America — do have to be mindful of today.
The Article Series
If you enjoyed reading this article on the best excuses offered by college students regarding legal issues, please check out the other articles in the series exploring a whole host of other “causations” of absences, missed tests, late projects, etc. It’s all offered in a good spirit, and I hope you will check them out for yourself and perhaps share with your colleagues — and maybe even your students!
So, I would encourage you to kick back with a good cup of coffee (or more) and scroll through this series of articles. You will laugh at many of these excuses, and yes, in some instances, you may be inspired and even shed a tear or two!
- Overview: The Best (Really Worst) College Student Excuses of All Time — Introduction to the Article Series
- The “Death Card”: The Best (Really Worst) College Excuses of All Time
- The Medical File: The Best (Really Worst) College Student Excuses of All Time
- The Legal File: The Best (Really Worst) College Student Excuses of All Time
- The Pets and Animals File: The Best (Really Worst) College Student Excuses of All Time
- The Weather File: The Best (Really Worst) College Student Excuses of All Time
- The Home File: The Best (Really Worst) College Student Excuses of All Time
- The Family File: The Best (Really Worst) College Student Excuses of All Time
- The Social File: The Best (Really Worst) College Student Excuses of All Time
- The Tech File: The Best (Really Worst) College Student Excuses of All Time
- The Car File: The Best (Really Worst) College Student Excuses of All Time
- The Online Classes/Zoom File: The Best (Really Worst) College Student Excuses of All Time
- The Travel File: The Best (Really Worst) College Student Excuses of All Time
- The “Better Options” File: The Best (Really Worst) College Student Excuses of All Time
- The Potpourri File: The Best (Really Worst) College Student Excuses of All Time
- The “Caught in a Lie” File: The Best (Really Worst) College Student Excuses of All Time
- The Inspirational Stories File: The Best (Really Worst) College Student Excuses of All Time
Enjoy this article — or these articles? Please buy Professor Wyld’s ebook — The Handbook of College Student Excuses — that compiles all of these excuses in one place — for yourself, for a college student you know (or parent), or for a college faculty member. It is a great, fun read, and makes a great gift! Get it today from Smashwords ( https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1073655) or on Amazon ( https://amzn.to/3rM5IXZ). You can also view the college student “Excuse of the Day” on Dr. Wyld’s blog at http://www.collegestudentexcuses.com/the-best-excuse-of-the-day/.
About David Wyld
David Wyld is a Professor of Strategic Management at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. He is a management consultant, researcher/writer, publisher, executive educator, and experienced expert witness.
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