New Jersey is acutely aware of the complications associated with harassment, intimidation, and bullying – or “HIB.” To combat this, state lawmakers have enacted regulations aimed at preventing HIB, encouraging individuals to report instances of HIB when they see or hear of it, and ensuring victims are supported. Schools are required to implement detailed policies and procedures to maintain a learning environment that is free from HIB.  

Children who are accused of HIB violations can be disciplined by their school. They can also be charged with a criminal offense and forced to defend themselves in court. Therefore, if your child is accused of a HIB violation, they need a strong defense.  

The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team knows how taxing both proceedings can be, especially if conducted concurrently. To ease your family's stress, they will build a solid defense for both proceedings, ensuring your child gets the best possible outcome in court and at school. Call 888-535-3686 or schedule a consultation online.  

How New Jersey Law Defines LGBTQIA+ HIB Violations 

New Jersey enacted the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights and defines HIB as:  

  • Any kind of gesture, action, or communication that is made electronically, physically, verbally, or in writing that is motivated by the victim's suspected or actual characteristics.  
  • The incident must happen at school, on school property, on the school bus, or at a school-sponsored event or activity.  
  • The incident must also be done knowing that it will emotionally or physically harm the victim, damage their property, or put them in fear that they will be physically or emotionally harmed or that their property will be damaged. 

Or the student must have insulted or demeaned another person in a way that considerably interrupts the school's ability to operate properly. 

Under the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, characteristics are defined as including: 

  • Race 
  • Color 
  • Religion 
  • National origin 
  • Gender 
  • Gender identity 
  • Sexual orientation 

If a student is accused of a HIB violation that relates to an LGBTQIA issue, they can be punished if the other side can prove that the incident involved an action, gesture, or communication from the defendant about the alleged victim's sexual orientation or gender identity. A student can also be punished by the school if they insult or demean another person in a way that significantly disrupts the school environment.   

When neither of these elements is proven, the case must be dismissed. Lento Law Firm will review the allegations and facts surrounding the case to figure out how best to respond. Children who are accused of HIB require strong defenses or run the risk of being thrown out of school, suspended, or imprisoned.   

The Importance of “Intent” in Any HIB LGBTQIA+ Case  

For a HIB related violation to be proven, the prosecution must show the defendant had an intent to harm. With LGBTQIA+ HIB violations, the prosecution must show that the defendant intended to commit some act, behavior, or gesture that was motivated by the other person's sexual orientation or gender identity and that they committed the act knowing that it would harm the victim and damage their property, or put them in fear of being harmed or having their property damaged.  

If the prosecution cannot prove intent, then they cannot prove their case, and the court should dismiss it. As such, the first defense a qualified criminal attorney will construct centers on a defendant's lack of intent. For instance, if a student is accused of harassing another student who is transgender, the prosecution needs to show that the harassment was committed because of the person's gender identity and that the student did it with the intention of harming the other person emotionally. The defendant's attorney will present evidence and witness testimony that refutes the prosecution's case. When the prosecution fails to prove intent, the case will be dropped. 

Potential Defenses Against HIB LGBTQIA+ Violations  

HIB charges are extremely complex. To ensure students are properly prepared for both a school disciplinary hearing and a criminal trial, the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team will craft as many defenses as they can, including showing a lack of intent. Other defenses they may utilize involve showing: 

  • The defendant's actions were not motivated by the victim's gender identity or sexual orientation.  
  • The incident did not occur on school property, the school bus, or at a school-sponsored event.   
  • The student did not think their actions would harm the other person, put them in fear of being harmed, or damage their property or put them in fear of it getting damaged.  
  • The defendant's actions did not prevent the school from operating properly. 

Students should not be convicted of HIB violations related to LGBTQIA+ issues if it does not fall within the state's specific legislation. To prevent your child from being unnecessarily punished, it is crucial you hire an experienced criminal law attorney. The Lento Law Firm will be available every step of the way, ensuring your child's due process rights are always upheld.  

Possible Punishments for HIB LGBTQIA+ Violations 

While the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights has stipulated that incidents of HIB are violations, they have not expressly criminalized them. That means that if a child is accused of harassment, intimidation, or bullying in relation to another person's sexual orientation or gender identity, they can be punished by the school and law enforcement for crimes that are under the HIB umbrella.  

For instance, hazing is closely related to harassment, intimidation, and bullying and has been criminalized. Students who are accused of a HIB violation can be criminally accused of hazing. If a student is found guilty of hazing based on another person's sexual orientation or gender identity, the court can sentence them with up to $1,000 in fines and up to six months in jail. Similarly, if they are accused of cyber harassment that is related to LGBTQIA+ issues, the student can be sentenced to up to $10,000 in fines and up to 18 months in jail.  

Criminal convictions will have serious implications for your student's success in school and in their personal lives. But school disciplinary actions can have just as much impact on a student's future as a criminal conviction can. For example, students who are suspended or expelled for these violations will be removed from their classroom setting, which can prevent them from keeping up with their classmates. When students are left out or set back, it will negatively affect their self-esteem, causing anxiety, depression, and more behavioral issues. Additionally, any time they try to apply to a new school or job, whether it is an undergraduate or graduate program, they will have to explain the incident to the admissions committee. Students who are expelled have a particularly difficult time getting admitted to college later.  

While high schoolers might be the most impacted by school disciplinary actions, children in elementary and middle school can still suffer. Many of these students will be placed into alternative education settings with other students who have behavioral issues. Often, these types of placements hinder the child's academic achievements and cause them to act out even more.  

The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team knows how difficult these types of punishments can be for students, both emotionally and academically. As such, they will work tirelessly to ensure the student is well-defended, both at school and in the courtroom.  

Other Criminal Charges that May Be Related to HIB LGBTQIA+ Violations 

If your child is charged with a HIB violation that relates to an LGBTQIA+ issue in New Jersey, they could also be accused of one of the following crimes: 

How Lento Law Firm Can Help  

Getting accused of harassment, intimidation, or bullying can be overwhelming for any child, especially if it involves LGBTQIA+ individuals. As a parent, you may be feeling frustrated, stressed, and unprotected. However, the best thing you can do to ensure your child is not punished by their school or in a criminal court is to hire a criminal defense attorney immediately.  

HIB violations that involve LGBTQIA+ issues can initiate a series of disastrous consequences for your child. Not only can it prevent them from joining school clubs or engaging in after-school activities, but it can also derail their chance of getting into college, earning a degree, or even being employed. Furthermore, if your child is found guilty of a HIB violation, they could be facing significant financial penalties and potential prison sentences. All of which will adversely impact their education. 

The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team understands how much your child means to you. They have spent years helping students overcome disciplinary actions by their school and criminal cases within their states. They will work tirelessly to gather evidence and witness testimony to create a solid criminal defense as well as a defense to the school's disciplinary charges.  

Additionally, Lento Law Firm will meet with law enforcement, judges, and the prosecution to attempt to negotiate your case before it is heard in court and fill out and file any legal documents required. Call 888-535-3686 today or schedule a consultation online. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team is here to help.  

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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