College Racial Discrimination & Harassment

Felice and Cristine standing in suits

College Racial Discrimination & Harassment Lawyers

  • Case Results
  • Testimonials
  • List of Schools

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 was introduced to Attorney Duffy by my criminal defense attorney because I was fighting both a criminal charge and a conduct code violations charge. Felice's office responded right away and she and I met by Zoom video. She and her team were respectful, professional and super knowledgeable. They made everything clear and easily understandable. They knew exactly what questions to ask the school officials to get them to focus on the facts that supported my case. I was incredibly well prepared. I knew what I was going to say before I went in to my interviews and how to react to the many questions that would have tripped me up. I got probation, which was definitely the best possible outcome and I couldn’t have gotten that without Attorney Duffy’s help.

College Junior

“When your kid is accused of a serious conduct code violation at his college, you quickly learn that there’s a whole different set of rules in place than in the real world. There are no legal standards, no assurances of a “fair trial.” You're presumed guilty and you have to backtrack and prove why you’re NOT guilty. We pretty quickly realized that we needed strong legal representation and guidance. Our son was completely falsely accused and we were ready to dig in to clear his name.

Felice's truly unique background and deep experience with navigating the school’s process was amazing. She made it clear that our son was the client, not us (his parents). She worked with him extensively and earned his total trust. He felt empowered that he had the right person in his corner to defend him. Felice gave our whole family a sense a calm and confidence.

Thanks to incredibly hard work by Felice and her team, our son was found “not responsible” (meaning innocent of any wrongdoing). The outcome was everything we could have hoped for.

I have already recommended Felice to a friend who’s son was caught up in a serious, very complicated conduct code charge, and I will continue to recommend her to any student or parent without reservation.”

Parent of a private college senior

“I selected the firm after doing extensive research trying to locate an attorney that specializes in sexual assault cases on university campuses. Late one night I emailed her for a consult just to see what she had to say. By 6:30am the next morning she had already emailed me back leaving her information for me to call her. I was impressed by her promptness and early morning response. Our criminal attorney informed our family that this simply wasn’t his specialty and strongly recommended we hire someone who really understood how university disciplinary systems work.

In our culture, we are not often trusting and it took a huge step of faith to consider someone we didn’t know (much less one from out of state) to defend our son.

Based on her collegiate athletic background I felt that she would have a better understanding of our case as our son is a D1 athlete. Based on that and her professional accomplishments I felt like she was driven and determined and she clearly had the ability to understand the laws associated with Title IX.

Bottom line is that our son was found 100% not responsible (meaning not guilty) of the extremely serious charges that were brought against him by a female student.

Felice Duffy and her team were professional, focused, responsive and did a great job throughout the entire stressful ordeal. When we think about how badly and unfairly our son might have been treated by the school, we truly count our blessings that we found Ms. Duffy.”

Parent of a College Sophomore, Ohio

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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

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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