College Racial Discrimination & Harassment

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College Racial Discrimination & Harassment Lawyers

  • Case Results
  • Testimonials
  • List of Schools
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Case Results

Here are some representative results we’ve achieved for our clients.

Female complainant’s rights, health, and safety protected throughout lengthy proceedings

Our client was sexually assaulted by a male student acquaintance. We became involved to support our client in getting proper medical treatment, preserving and collecting evidence and witness testimony, and securing therapeutic support. We helped her understand and navigate the many complex options available to her, including a criminal complaint, an informal complaint process, a formal complaint process, or doing nothing. We guided her through the informal process and then the formal process, including interviews with various school and law enforcement officials, and worked closely with the school to put in place appropriate accommodations ensuring that all interviews and hearings did not retraumatize her. The male student was found responsible and was expelled.

Large private university

Witness to sexual violence protected from intimidation

We represented a female witness to a dating violence case on campus who was being pressured to speak with the police and the school investigators about a violent matter she had witnessed on her dorm floor. We immediately communicated on her behalf to the local police, school administrators, and the Title IX investigators to protect her right to choose to not testify and ensure her safety on campus. She was very relieved not to be pressured by the school, the title IX office or the police to attend the hearing and testify about fellow students.

Small private college

Investigation of sexual assault complaint concludes with no charges filed

Our client contacted us immediately upon receiving notice by his school that a claim of sexual assault was made against him by a female student. We assisted him in preparing his detailed answer to the complaint, and then prepared him and accompanied him to his interview with the campus safety police officers. We worked with the school Title IX administrators and helped our client find evidence to show inconsistencies with the complaint. The complainant withdrew her complaint when presented with these inconsistencies and then recanted. The investigation ended and our client was not charged with anything.

Midsized private college

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Client Testimonials

"I am writing to let any college student who gets accused of something serious by their school know that they need a lawyer like Felice Duffy to defend them.  I was accused of something terrible by a student that I would never do and didn’t do.  Even though I knew exactly what actually happened, I was very scared that my university might not find me innocent. It was terrifying to think that I might lose my full basketball scholarship or could have been suspended or expelled and that me and my family’s name could have gotten a horrible reputation. I can’t even put into words how I excited I was when I got the letter from the school that cleared me completely of the charges against me and I have Felice to thank for that 100%. Since I’m not in Connecticut, Felice and her investigator used video conferencing to interview me and my witnesses, talk with my parents, and get me fully prepared for every meeting I had with my school.  They got all my texts and email that proved my innocence and organized them perfectly for the Dean and the discipline committee. Felice was always very direct and respectful even though the subject matter was very personal, and she was always ahead of the school in terms of getting me and them important information at every step.  It was like having the best scouting report ever." Felice obviously knows her stuff but she also deeply cares.  You can tell that she loves the work she’s doing to help college kids in really difficult situations.

College Sophomre, Colorado

“The claims leveled against me were terrible, but the wonderful news is that I was fully cleared of all the allegations because of the outstanding work Christine Brown and the team at Duffy Law did on my behalf. The first thing that really impressed me was that from the very first call Christine quickly understood what was going on and was able to read between the lines to understand the complicated dynamics of the situation. Despite my entire career being spent in academia, I didn't know much about Title IX procedures. Her expertise and knowledge of the process was immediately apparent and critically helpful in guiding me and giving me as much peace of mind as possible.. Christine knew how to spot the important subtext throughout the process and made sure I understood the strategic options I had at every stage going forward. I felt very confident in the decisions we made together. I felt vindicated by the decision and that this situation will have no further effects on my career. I am very grateful to Christine and Duffy Law for guiding me through this stressful process and recommend them without reservation to any faculty member facing a similarly challenging situation. ”

Assistant Professor in the School of Medicine at a midwest university

“I hired Felice Duffy in the middle of a Title IX sexual assault proceeding. While I had initially retained another attorney on a recommendation, it turns out they did not have much insight to the inner workings of university policy, which I learned is NOT required to follow the basic laws of due process. Felice was absolutely incredible, and as an athlete, she understood my thought process and feelings the entire way. This is what stood out the most to me. At the beginning of my school’s adjudication process, I was an absolute mess. Not only is Felice extremely knowledgeable in law and how school adjudication processes work, but she also really does care about her clients and their well-being. It was initially extremely tough for me to speak about what I was facing. Felice was able to assist me not only in compiling the proper evidence and responding to the school, but also put me in the right state of mind to defend myself and move on with my life after it was all completed. Prior to hiring Duffy Law, I was concerned that I would be relegated to working with a legal assistant or secretary being that my case was in a college setting as opposed to a state court. However, Felice always found a way to make time and was there every step of the way. I feel like an important part of hiring an attorney is being able to trust them to fight for you no matter what the scenario may be and you can rest assured you will be getting that with Duffy Law. I would recommend Felice Duffy of Duffy Law 10 times out of 10 to anyone that may be put in a tough situation like I was”

Female College Freshman, Massachusetts

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Schools Where We've Handled Cases

Here are just some of the schools where we’ve represented students, faculty, coaches, and staff:

  • Amherst College
  • Arkansas State University
  • Belmont Abbey College
  • Bowling Green State University
  • Charter Oak State College
  • Colgate University
  • College of the Holy Cross
  • Columbia University
  • Connecticut College
  • Creighton Law School
  • Dartmouth College
  • Fairfield University
  • Flagler College
  • Florida State University
  • Furman University
  • Guilford College
  • Howard University
  • Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Indiana University
  • Lesley University
  • Louisiana State University
  • Marist College
  • Marquette University
  • Miami University
  • Mississippi University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Plymouth State University
  • Quinnipiac University
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Rice University
  • Sacred Heart University
  • South Carolina State University
  • St. John's University
  • St. Lawrence University
  • Syracuse University
  • Swarthmore College
  • Tallahassee Comm. College
  • Touro University
  • Trinity College
  • Tufts University
  • University of Connecticut
  • University of Kansas
  • University of Lynchburg
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Mass. Med. School
  • University of Miami
  • University of Missouri
  • University of Northern Colorado
  • University of Texas
  • University of Virginia
  • University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
  • University of Wisconsin, Whitewater
  • Utah University School of Medicine
  • Vassar College
  • Virginia Wesleyan University
  • Washington University, St. Louis
  • Wesleyan University
  • Westfield State University
  • Western Washington University
  • Wheaton College
  • William Smith College
  • Yale University

Alert: Biden Orders Fresh Look at Title IX Regulations

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On March 8, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order requiring the Department of Education (“DOE”) to review federal regulations, orders and guidance put in place under the Trump administration that apply to how educational institutions handle complaints of sexual misconduct. The DOE will evaluate whether those regulations are “consistent with the policies” of the current administration. The executive order allows the DOE to suspend, revise, or rescind any or all the prior actions if they are found to be inconsistent. This review will likely result in another major shift in how colleges and universities across the nation handle sexual misconduct cases and alter the policies that schools enacted at their institutions in 2020. The attorneys at Duffy Law stay up-to-the-minute on all applicable Title IX regulations, as well as potential changes expected by mid-June, and are available to consult with you during this tumultuous time in Title IX law. The full Executive Order issued by President Biden can be found here.


Students at nearly all colleges and universities in the U.S. are bound by codes of conduct. Most college codes of conduct include prohibitions against certain forms of bias-motivated behavior, including racial discrimination and harassment. When it comes to racial discrimination and harassment, most college codes of conduct have language that clarifies actions and behavior that violate university policy. It is important for potential complainants and respondents to understand how these codes of conduct function and what they prohibit, and to know what to do if you are the target of racial discrimination or are accused of racial discrimination.

Bias-Motivated Conduct Concerning Race on College Campuses

Bias-motivated conduct is prohibited on college campuses through codes of conduct. In a code of conduct, a college or university will clarify what types of behavior are expected of students, and what kinds of behavior are unacceptable. Bias-motivated conduct is typically any kind of behavior that is motivated by an existing prejudice or even an implicit bias against a specific person or a group that is protected against discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, or religion.

Typically, college codes of conduct make behavior actionable when it is both motivated by bias and intended to cause any type of harm. As such, language or actions that arise out of implicit biases may not violate a code of conduct. The ability of a college or university to limit certain types of speech or behavior depend on a variety of factors, including whether the institution is private or public. Some codes of conduct contain more prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of race and other protected categories than others.

Bias-motivated conduct when it comes to race can affect students in classrooms, residence halls, athletic fields, university-sponsored activities, and other parts of campus life.

Complainant Issues in Bias-Motivated Conduct

Complainant issues in bias-motivated conduct may include but are not limited to:

  • Personal safety concerns and fears of bodily injury
  • Concerns about the safety of others on the college campus
  • Fears about the college or university’s position when it comes to protecting students of color on campus
  • Worries about retaliation for filing a complaint
  • Questions about whether the issue should also be reported to local law enforcement
  • Options for reducing contact with the alleged perpetrator

Respondent Issues in Bias-Motivated Conduct

Respondent issues in bias-motivated conduct may include but are not limited to:

  • Freedom of speech concerns
  • Academic freedom concerns
  • Fears about being suspended or expelled from the college or university
  • Reputation with faculty, staff, and other students in the college community
  • Worries about issues of defamation, or slander or libel, on the college campus and the larger community
  • Possibility of facing criminal charges

Examples of College Policies Concerning Bias-Motivated Conduct on Campus

Each college and university campus has its own code of conduct that outlines prohibited behavior and community standards on campus. When it comes to racial discrimination and harassment, many codes of conduct use language that mirrors certain federal laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For example, Hampshire College has a code of conduct that says it “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, sex, age, marital status, national origin, mental or physical disability, political belief or affiliation, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information and any other class or individuals protected from discrimination under state or federal law.”

In terms of prohibitions against harassment, colleges and universities take different approaches. Some outline prohibitions against bias-motivated speech and conduct, while others give broad allowances to First Amendment free speech guarantees. For instance, Texas A&M University’s conduct code says it “respects the right of free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution and of academic freedom,” but it clarifies that “threatening or harassing speech” is excluded. The university’s code of conduct further clarifies that it prohibits “racial and ethnic harassment,” which it defines as “discrimination on race, color, or national origin and involves behavior that is so severe and pervasive and objective offensive so as to interfere with or limit the ability of a student to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by Texas A&M University.”

In defining racial harassment, Texas A&M, as an example, makes clear that, “to rise to the level of racial and ethnic harassment, behaviors must include something beyond the mere expression of views, words, symbols, or thoughts that some person finds offensive.” Further, the code of conduct explains, “the conduct must also be sufficiently serious to deny or limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the educational program and/or experience.”  The U.S. Department of Education provides additional information about determining whether unlawful racial harassment has occurred based on both a “hostile environment analysis” and a “severe, pervasive or persistent standard.”

Examples of Offending Behaviors

The following are examples of recent offending behaviors at a variety of U.S. colleges and universities:

  • Racist stickers posted around the campus at Iowa State University
  • Student government advisor at Iowa State University in “blackface”
  • Racist graffiti at Syracuse University, including language derogatory to African Americans, Native Americans, and students of Asian descent
  • Syracuse University students participating in a bias-motivated verbal assault against an African American student
  • Students at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire posting a series of racist social media posts from Snapchat
  • Noose in a residence hall at Auburn University
  • Colorado State University students appearing in “blackface” on a social media post

Depending upon the code of conduct, “blackface” may be a violation at some institutions, while it might fall under free speech provisions at other institutions. In many situations, unlike social media posts or other forms of speech, can be interpreted as a threat and may even violate certain hate crime laws.

Indeed, in some cases, bias-motivated behavior could rise to the level of hate crime allegations under state law. Currently, 46 states and the District of Columbia have state laws that criminalize certain forms of bias-motivated behavior. As the U.S. Department of Justice explains, “different jurisdictions define hate crimes to include different bias motivations.” There are also a handful of federal hate crime laws, and certain bias-motivated incidents can be prosecuted federally under the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Generally speaking, most hate crime laws require a knowing attempt to cause bodily injury to a person on the basis of race or another protected category. Most of the incidents described above likely would not be classified as hate crimes, but it is important to know the specific state law where the college or university is located.

Contact a National College Code of Conduct Lawyer for Assistance

At Duffy Law, LLC, we know that bias-motivated conduct cases can be particularly contentious and can raise a variety of issues for all parties involved in the matter. Whether you are facing allegations of bias-motivated conduct or have filed a complaint concerning bias-motivated conduct on your college campus, we know how difficult and complicated this process can be. Given that we routinely represent both complainants and respondents in bias-motivated conduct violations and other code of conduct issues on college campuses nationwide, we are familiar with both sides of the process. Regardless of whether you are a complainant or a respondent, it is extremely important to take allegations of bias-motivated conduct seriously and to work with an experienced college code of conduct lawyer on your case. Contact Duffy Law online or call us at (203) 806-9336 to set up a consultation.

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