The United States Department of Justice defines hate crimes as “a crime motivated by bias against race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.” In general, hate crimes refer to crimes motivated by beliefs against groups of people.
Colleges across the country also have strict policies that prohibit students from engaging in hate crimes. University codes of conduct typically outline the disciplinary procedures and punishment for students facing hate crime allegations. They may also have rules that forbid bias-driven incidents, even if they don't qualify as a crime.
In recent years, schools have received increased scrutiny for their response to high-profile hate crimes. As a result, the stakes are higher than ever for students accused of committing a hate crime. Students found guilty of a hate crime may face potential expulsion and a devastating blow to their reputation.
With such high stakes, students who face hate crime allegations must take action to defend themselves. An attorney can help protect your rights during disciplinary proceedings and ensure that you receive a fair chance at clearing your name.
What Do Colleges Consider Hate Crimes?
Although federal law defines hate crimes, universities may have their own interpretation of these acts. The term “hate crime” usually refers to violent acts committed by a student against an individual or group due to pre-existing beliefs.
Most university codes of conduct forbid students from committing acts of violence. When there is evidence that the crime was motivated by bias, the student could face an elevated offense and sanction. A nationwide study revealed the most common hate crimes at postsecondary institutions are as follows:
- Destruction, damage, and vandalism
- Simple assault
- Aggravated assault
- Forcible sex offenses
- Motor vehicle theft
Nonviolent Hate Crimes
Although hate crimes specifically refer to acts of violence, students may also face punishment for nonviolent acts. Many schools have also adopted policies that forbid students from engaging in acts motivated by biases, even if they don't constitute a crime. Violations of student codes of conduct that are driven by bias may result in additional punishment.
The University of San Diego considers hate crimes to be “not only offenses against persons but also offenses involving damage to property, such as breaking windows, spray painting walls with offensive words and/or symbols or defacing or burning property.”
They also prohibit acts of intolerance that involve protected speech but do not meet the university's values. The University's Department of Public Safety investigates these acts on a case-by-case basis. Many schools have adopted similar policies to prevent offensive actions that cause harm to students.
How do Universities Respond to Hate Crimes?
If you've been accused of a hate crime, you must familiarize yourself with your school's disciplinary procedure. Universities outline their investigation process in their code of conduct, which is typically available on their website.
Although schools handle code of conduct violations on a case by case basis, hate crimes are usually subject to a formal investigation. Students accused of hate crimes normally receive written notice of their violation and a call to attend a disciplinary hearing.
During a disciplinary hearing, an administrative board will review the evidence to determine if the student is guilty of the offense. The board gives the student a chance to defend themselves before making a ruling. If they find the student is responsible for the alleged act, they will decide on a punishment.
Hate Crime Consequences for Students
Being accused of a hate crime is no laughing matter. Hate crimes involve not only a breach of student codes of conduct but also anti-discrimination policies. Universities have strict punishments for students who commit violent acts. When the violation involves racial, gender, religious, or other forms of discrimination, it only makes matters worse.
Even first-time offenders face severe backlash from their university for committing a hate crime. Here are some common punishments:
- Disciplinary Probation
- Loss of scholarship
- Loss of financial aid
- Removal from student housing
- Removal from extracurricular activities and programs
Hate crimes are serious offenses that go on your permanent student record. That's not to mention the other collateral consequences that can follow you well into adulthood.
Being found guilty of a hate crime does not only affect your standing at your university, but it can also impact your access to other institutions. You might face backlash when applying for other universities, graduate programs, and jobs.
Fighting Back Against Hate Crime Charges
There's no denying that a hate crime allegation can disrupt your life. It's important to take steps to fight back against these charges to protect your future.
Few students are aware of their rights in university disciplinary hearings. If you face a hate crime accusation, you should speak with an attorney right away. A student defense attorney can review your school's policy and help you prepare a defense for your hearing. They can also ensure that your school does not infringe upon due process and your right to a fair hearing.
Schools usually allow students the opportunity to use an advisor during disciplinary proceedings. Choosing a lawyer as your advisor gives you the best possible chance of success. Even if they are not allowed to speak during the proceedings, a student-defense attorney can be instrumental to your case.
Schools must have evidence that discrimination or biases fueled a student's crime. An attorney can push back against unsubstantiated charges and fight to reduce the punishment. They can also identify any violations of your first amendment rights.
Being accused of a hate crime can have serious repercussions. If you've been accused of committing a hate crime, you should contact a student discipline advisor right away.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has spent many years defending students and achieving positive results. He has the knowledge and experience to fight for you. Don't let a hate crime allegation threaten your future. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation today.