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State University of New York at Binghamton’s Alcohol, Drug Amnesty, Confidentiality and Retaliation Policies

Drug/Alcohol Amnesty and Title IX

It is no secret that many instances of sexual discrimination, harassment and abuse occur within an environment where drug and/or alcohol use is involved. Life on SUNY Binghamton’s campus is no different. It is understandable that a student who has partaken in the use of drugs and/or alcohol, whether voluntary or involuntary, may be hesitant to come forward to report an incident of violence, such as domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, harassment, or sexual assault for fear of potential consequences for their own behavior. Fortunately, however, Binghamton University’s publicly public policy is clear. A bystander acting in good faith or a reporting individual acting in good faith that makes a report of any incident of domestic violence, dating violence, etc., to University officials or law enforcement will not be subject to the University’s Student Code of Conduct for violations of alcohol and/or drug use policies that occurred at the time of the alleged Title IX violation.

Bottom line, the University strongly encourages students to report any incident of stalking, sexual assault or other crimes to institution officials, regardless of the circumstances or atmosphere that surround them. Keep in mind, however, while the college may not act against you as a student, the need for a student misconduct lawyer is still quite real. No faculty member can prevent the Broome County District Attorney, New York State Police, or Binghamton Police Department from conducting their own investigation, arresting individuals and prosecuting offenders.

Reporting Violations and Criminal Offenses: Protection from Retaliation

When reporting a Title IX violation, retaliation is a legitimate concern. Students who report violations of Title IX rules are protected from reprisal by federal and state laws, as well as University policy. Some of the relevant provisions that provide protection in these circumstances are the Violence Against Women Act, which states that an institution, or an officer, employee, or agent of an institution, may not retaliate, intimidate, threaten, coerce, or otherwise discriminate against any individual for exercising their rights or responsibilities under any provision of the Act. In addition, the New York State Education Law states that a person has the right to make a report to university police or campus security, local law enforcement, and/or state police or choose not to report; to report the incident to your institution; to be protected by the institution from retaliation for reporting an incident; and to receive assistance and resources from your institution. This places a directive on Binghamton and all other educational institutions in New York to put protective measures in place.

The University procedures, accordingly, state that retaliation against members of the University community who make good faith reports regarding potential school-related violations of laws, regulations or University policies, is prohibited.

Reporting Crimes, Infractions and Violations: Requesting Confidentiality

Should a complainant request confidentiality, it is important to know how Binghamton University will weigh and respond to such a request. When you disclose an incident to school employee who is responsible for responding to or reporting sexual violence or sexual harassment, but you want to maintain confidentiality or you do not consent to the institution's request to begin an investigation, the Title IX Coordinator must then weigh your request against the school's obligation to provide a safe, non-discriminatory environment for all members of the community, including you. If you are concerned that your requests or issues will not be adequately addressed or respected, retaining legal counsel experienced in Title IX and student misconduct is invaluable.

Binghamton University states that it will assist any complainant or reporter with academic, housing, transportation, employment and other reasonable and available accommodations regardless of your reporting choices. While reporting individuals may request accommodations through several college offices, the primary point of contact is the Dean of Students' Office.

The University also may take proactive steps, i.e. – training or awareness efforts –to combat gender discrimination, violence and other forms of sex discrimination in a more general way that does not identify you or the situation you disclosed. Again, your safety and privacy should remain paramount.

After making a report, the University may ask for your consent before opening an investigation. You can decline to consent and the school should honor that request so long as failure to investigate does put you or the safety of others at risk, in the view of the University. Keep in mind that you may not be the only person making such allegations against a particular person and declining an investigation may not mean that Binghamton does not initiate an investigation based on another person's complaint or some perceived overriding interest.

If and when the University decides that an investigation is necessary, they should notify you and may take immediate action as deemed necessary to protect you, even if you request that the complaint be withdrawn and any investigation cease. Having an experienced attorney advocate involved and representing you and your interests, can very much change the dynamic and tenor of such a situation.

Ultimately, when weighing your interests and desires versus that of the greater University, SUNY Binghamton considers the following factors in making a determination: whether the accused has a history of violent behavior or is a repeat offender; whether the incident represents escalation, such as a situation that previously involved sustained stalking; the increased risk that the accused will commit additional acts of violence; whether the accused used a weapon or force; whether the reporting individual is a minor; and whether we possess other means to obtain evidence such as security footage, and whether the report reveals a pattern of perpetration at a given location or by a particular group.

Sharing Criminal Information: The Clery Act and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

Pursuant to the Clery Act, 20 U.S.C. 1092(f), reports of certain crimes that occurred in specific geographic locations will be included in the University's annual security report in an anonymous manner that will not identify the specifics of the offense or identity of the reporting individual. Binghamton University is subject to the same law and is required to issue timely warnings of crimes enumerated in the Clery Act occurring within relevant area that represent a serious or continuing threat to students and employees. Although a fairly strict rule, the exception to this law is where issuing this kind of warning might compromise law enforcement efforts. A reporting individual will not typically be identified in this kind of situation.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a federal law, also allows institutions to share information with parents when there is a health or safety emergency or when the student is a dependent on either parent's prior year federal income tax return. But the law also provides generally that any educational institution should not share information about a report of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, or sexual assault with parents without the permission of the student/child.

Ultimately, SUNY Binghamton must balance the rights and protections afforded a complainant with that of the greater student and faculty population at the University. No matter your circumstances, wishes and needs, if you lack the right advocate much of what you are seeking to remain confidential can be compromised along with whatever criminal, Family Court, or Title IX violation is prosecuted or pursued. Do not allow yourself to become a statistic whether you are an accuser or an accused.

The University must answer your questions, maintain your academic offerings, and hear your voice loud and clear. Don’t let any school or law enforcement fail you no matter what side of the law you find yourself. Saland Law’s former Manhattan prosecutors, student discipline advocates, defense counselors and Title IX attorneys are the advisors you need to best ensure these rights, and others, are protected.

Call our New York criminal defense attorneys, Title IX and disciplinary hearing lawyers at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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