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College Student Bias-Motivated Conduct Defense Attorneys

Protecting the rights of college students accused of violating their school’s code of conduct

Each college and university has an extensive code of conduct setting out unacceptable acts by students attending the school. Because higher-learning institutions often place significant emphasis on acceptance and diversity, schools often have particularly strict rules against acts that may be considered to be bias-motivated conduct and set out harsh penalties for violators. Allegations of bias-motivated conduct may be based on unfounded suspicion and may arise from an incident that involved a simple assault or other offense. For this reason, you can face substantially inflated consequences for certain actions if your school believes it was a crime.

If you have been accused of bias-motivated conduct by your college or university, it is imperative to seek representation by a highly experienced defense lawyer as soon as possible. Call 203-946-2000 for a consultation with a knowledgeable attorney at Duffy Law, LLC today.

What constitutes bias-motivated conduct?

Bias-motivated conduct occurs when an offense is motivated by prejudice or bias against an individual or group due to protected factors such as race, religion, or sexual orientation. Bias-motivated conduct is further intended to cause fear, terror, or psychological or emotional harm to the targeted victim. Examples of acts on college campuses that may be considered to be bias-motivated conduct include:

  • A physical assault accompanied by derogatory comments or slurs.
  • Graffiti or other types of vandalism directed toward certain individuals with derogatory words or symbols (e.g. spray painting a swastika on the housing of a Jewish individual).
  • Burning a cross on the lawn of a largely minority fraternity.

These are only a few examples as a wide array of unlawful acts may be considered to be bias-motivated conduct if biased motivation is inferred. To show biased or prejudiced motivations, however, an investigator must prove what you were thinking at the time of the act. Often, even if you did not say or display anything specifically prejudicial or offensive, a school administration may allege bias-motivated conduct based on circumstantial evidence.

Bias Based on Religion or Political Beliefs

Many college codes of student conduct describe a bias-related incident as behavior demonstrating bias on the basis of ethnicity, color, gender, gender identity, disability, national origin, race, religion, or sexual orientation. These are factors protected by federal and state civil rights laws.

Political beliefs are not included on this list, but in an increasing number of situations, accusations of bias-motivated misconduct on campus involve the expression of political ideology. For some issues, a student’s political stance is influenced, partially or completely, by their religious beliefs. But other issues rest more on economic grounds or factors completely unrelated to traits protected by civil rights laws.

In our nation’s increasingly divisive political climate, it is becoming more common for allegations of bias-motived conduct to be founded not on bias against race, ethnicity, or gender issues but on political and religious views. The team at Duffy Law is dedicated to protecting student’s rights to education in an atmosphere free from unlawful bias. But at the same time, we protect all students’ rights to self-expression. Students are often treated in a way that violates a school’s own disciplinary procedures, receiving treatment that amounts to punishment before a matter has been subject to investigation or a student has had the opportunity to mount a defense. When a college or university fails to abide by its own policies and procedures or when it violates a student’s legal rights, we are prepared to fight for fair treatment and a level playing field.

When Expression of Personal Belief is Treated as Misconduct

Many schools, in their code of conduct, specify that the mere expression of an idea or point of view is not necessarily a bias-related incident. However, actions taken against students who express ideas that don’t meet with public approval indicate that institutions often give in to pressure or even see it as their duty to take disciplinary action against students who express controversial ideas or viewpoints that differ from those espoused by prominent members of faculty or the majority of students.

Increasingly, one person’s expression of an opinion or belief may be viewed by others as an expression of bias or hate. Students who express genuinely-held religious or political beliefs are accused of bias-motivated conduct and are sometimes subjected to no-contact orders and other treatment without having any opportunity to defend their position or receive an explanation of precisely what school rules they are accused of violating.

There are situations where a school’s disciplinary action against a student for bias-motivated conduct actually constitutes a violation of the student’s civil rights.

Protection of rights often requires a balancing of two competing interests, but the value of the less-popular interests can be overlooked in the heat of debate. This is why our legal system is so valuable, because it provides an opportunity to focus on the rights of everyone involved and to ensure those rights are protected. At Duffy Law, we defend students wrongfully accused of code of conduct violations in campus proceedings, but we also know how to succeed in court when necessary to protect the rights and opportunities of students unfairly treated for expressing opinions on campus.

Potential penalties for bias-motivated conduct violation

If a school administration determines that you were responsible for bias-motivated conduct in violation of the code of conduct, a lengthy suspension or expulsion will be the likely consequence. Colleges and universities have very low tolerance for bias-motivated conduct and often will discipline you to the fullest extent possible. In addition, if the alleged bias-motivated conduct in question also qualifies as a criminal offense, your school may report the incident to law enforcement and you may face charges in state court. These charges have severe penalties including probation or jail time, as well as a conviction on your permanent record.

Contact an experienced college student bias-motivated conduct defense lawyer for help today

Accusations of bias-motivated conduct by your college or university should never be taken lightly. Consequently, your first call should be to Duffy Law, LLC to consult with one of our highly experienced college student defense attorney regarding your case. Call Duffy Law at 203-946-2000 for a confidential consultation with a knowledgeable Conduct Code attorney today.

How Can We Help?

How Can We Help?