Restorative Justice For College Code Violations

Felice and Cristine standing in suits

Restorative Justice For College Code Violations

  • 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

Most colleges and universities across the country have codes of conduct in place, with specific outlined procedures when a student is accused of violating the code of conduct. Depending upon the college or university, a code of conduct might also be known as an honor code, or another named document specifying expectations for student behavior and conduct in classrooms and on campus more generally. Many colleges and universities have judicial-like bodies that review violations of the code of conduct in hearings, and these hearings are largely retributive in nature. To be clear, these bodies, panels, or boards—they can have many different titles—are tasked with determining whether or not a student violated the existing code or policy, and then they are typically tasked with issuing an appropriate punishment for the violation. In most cases, a student who is found “guilty” of violating an honor code or a code of conduct will face penalties such as a suspension or even expulsion from the college or university.

While this type of retributive or punitive approach mirrors much of the U.S. justice system more generally, some colleges and universities are beginning to consider the benefits of a restorative justice approach. Rather than employing traditional disciplinary procedures with the aim of punishing the student and deterring other similar behavior from students in the future, a restorative justice approach may be able to promote dialogue, healing, and improved well-being.

What is Restorative Justice?

In order to learn more about the potential for restorative justice solutions as an alternative to traditional disciplinary procedures during conduct code hearings, it is important to understand the basic tenets of a restorative justice approach.

According to the Centre for Justice & Reconciliation, restorative justice might be defined as “a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior,” which is “best accomplished through cooperative processes that allow all willing stakeholders to meet.” Ultimately, according to the Centre, a restorative justice approach “can lead to transformation of people, relationships, and communities.” Generally speaking, restorative justice approaches have three major elements:

  • First, restorative justice approaches must involve an element of repair. Whether a crime or violation occurs in broader society or on a college campus, there must be a recognition that a violation of an existing law or code has caused harm, and that “justice requires repairing that harm.”
  • Second, any restorative justice approach must involve an “encounter” between or among the parties involved. Each encounter may be different and distinct, depending upon the facts of the case. In most situations, a restorative justice approach seeks to have the parties make a decision together about what an encounter could look like. The underlying idea here is that the resolution of a crime or a violation should involve not only the party accused of a violation, but also any party who has been affected.
  • Third, and finally, restorative justice must have an element of transformation, or “fundamental changes in people, relationships, and communities.”

Restorative justice is certainly not a new idea, although it is a relatively new approach for many college and university communities when it comes to code of conduct violations.

How Might Restorative Justice Be Applicable in the Context of College Code Violations?

In the college and university setting, the idea of restorative justice might apply in the following type of scenario: A student is accused of violated the school’s code of conduct for making a racist statement or engaging in sexual misconduct in the form of “unwanted sexual touching.” Rather than the student being suspended or expelled after being found “responsible” (i.e., “guilty”) for the violation, the two parties instead would engage in mediate dialogue and activities—by mutual agreement—that seeks to educate and change behavior in a positive manner, rather than involving a purely punitive response.

Accordingly, colleges and universities that are using a restorative justice approach are largely still retaining their honor code boards or hearing boards that make a decision about a code of conduct violation. However, the restorative justice approach applies instead of a purely punitive reaction to the student being found “responsible” for a violation of the code of conduct. By taking a restorative justice approach, colleges and universities are working to reintegrate the parties into the campus community.

Potential for Restorative Justice Solutions Instead of Traditional Disciplinary Procedures

A number of colleges have developed restorative justice solutions for code of conduct violations, and most of these solutions take a flexible approach. To be sure, restorative justice solutions may have underlying guiding principles, yet the principles usually are applied in different ways depending upon the facts of the case. For example, the University of Kentucky uses the following guiding principles for its restorative justice approach:

  • Inclusive decision-making
  • Active accountability for the offender
  • Repairing harm
  • Rebuilding trust

Siena College explains that restorative justice often works to decrease recidivism, to increase the respondent’s sense of accountability, and to foster a greater sense of community on campuses. Siena College clarifies that its restorative justice approach has two primary components:

  • Including all parties to reach an appropriate solution to amend the harm
  • Reintegrating all parties into the community

Depending on the particular matter, Siena College has a variety of options that provide restorative justice solutions, including the following:

  • Community Accountability Boards in which communities discuss the impact of an offense on the broader community
  • Circles of Support and Accountability in which dialogue is facilitated between or among the parties
  • Victim and Offender Panels in which an offender expresses remorse and a victim explains the impact of the offense

Contact a National Code of Conduct Lawyer for Assistance

At Duffy Law, we provide representation to complainants and respondents in college code of conduct violation cases across the country. We know how complicated these cases can be, and we have years of experience serving students and their families in these difficult matters. If you have questions or need representation, an experienced national code of conduct attorney at our firm can help. Contact Duffy Law online today or call our office at (203) 946-2000.

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