Advocacy by and for People with ABI (Acquired Brain Injury)
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Please join BIN in campaigning for a state law that mandates that college level personnel and trustees be required to report suspected criminal conduct or abuse against college students with cognitive challenges to local criminal authorities. K through 12 teachers are required to make such reports. We have discovered that this law needs to be extended through the college level. This is why BIN is requesting passage of a law in California ordering that college level personnel (staff, administrators, counselors, employees, trustees) be required to report any criminal conduct arising out of club activities to criminal authorities. If there is a gray area as to whether a reported or suspected activity is a club activity, the presumption should be made to protect the adult who is cognitively fragile, i.e. triggering the reporting requirement. We want these personnel to be subject to a higher degree of accountability. No college personnel or college legal department should ever be allowed to conclude that conduct involving two students in a college club that relates directly to club activities is private conduct, and therefore out of the reporting sphere of the college. Further, when college personnel have reason to suspect criminal conduct outside of the club but on campus, or even off campus and totally unrelated to the college, against any of their students with cognitive challenges (gleaned through counseling sessions, etc.) they must be required to report that information to criminal authorities for further investigation and action. The duty to report must be made abundantly clear in the legislation, and in the governance trainings for all California college boards of trustees. Additionally, this reporting requirement should be made clear to all college level staff, educators, counselors, and other college employees. There must also be disciplinary procedures in the law for colleges or individuals at college who fail to report criminal conduct to the criminal authorities. Below is a sample version of the proposed law. Please improve on it.
A Reporting Law to Protect Adult College Students With Cognitive Challenges Is Needed
The Brain Injury Network (formerly the Brain Injury Network of Sonoma County),is calling for a law in California and in any other state where adults with cognitive challenges arising from brain injuries are attending junior college or four year college programs. In California, schoolteachers K through 12 must sign an oath that they will report suspected abuse against students to the criminal authorities. We want a law that extends this requirement to counselors, teachers, educators, administrators, etc. at the college level if and when the victim is an adult college student with cognitive challenges. We propose that the State of California enact a law that requires that any college employee who has or is given knowledge of alleged criminal conduct against an adult student with cognitive challenges report said suspected criminal behavior to local law enforcement and also to instigate the college internal criminal complaint process.
NATURE OF CONDUCT: The conduct suspected must be criminal in nature. The law should apply to any suspected felony or misdemeanor level misconduct (for example grand theft, embezzlement, etc.). The conduct may have occurred either on or off campus. The conduct must impact a student at the college who is in the protected class. PROTECTED CLASS: All minor and adult students enrolled in college level brain injury special education or disability resource programs will be entitled to protection under the proposed new law. College students with other cognitive challenges and people with developmental disabilities will be covered. We are not averse to extending the law to additional persons with special needs who are served in college disability departments, such as people with visual and hearing challenges and people diagnosed with a mental illness. TRIGGERING THE MANDATORY REPORTING REQUIREMENT: The reporting shall be required when the counselor or administrator or other employee of the college is in receipt of information which would lead a reasonable person to conclude that criminal activity against an enrolled student in the protected class might have occurred. Receipt of a written complaint form from the adult student with cognitive challenges will not be required as a prerequisite to generate the reporting requirement. If the counselor, administrator or other employee has knowledge, by other means, the reporting requirement will be triggered. For example, a student with cognitive challenges might confide to his or her college disability department counselor during a class or counseling session that he has been victimized. That would trigger the reporting requirement.The college president or board of trustees or dean might receive a signed letter with evidence of criminal conduct. That would trigger the reporting requirement. TWO PRONGED APPROACH: Under this proposed law, college personnel will be required to report the alleged criminal activity which impacts the adult student with special needs who is in the protected class. College personnel will be required to report both internally (thus triggering a college’s internal process) and externally, to local law enforcement, for further investigation and review. UNIFORM COMPLAINT PROCESS: The California or other state college system will create a uniform internal complaint process for all protected class student complaints across the college system. Individual colleges should develop a report mechanism with local criminal authority jurisdictions for complaint to their enforcement agencies. INTERNAL COLLEGE PROCEDURES AND REPORT REQUIREMENTS: There must be a mechanism whereby the student who reports allegations is counseled to report said conduct via the college internal mechanism. He or she must receive counsel that he or she should prepare an internal college complain form, if the allegations have to do with another student or another person affiliated with the college. If the student is unable to prepare the form, the college employee or designated college employee, such as a disability ombudsman, must prepare or help the student prepare the form. In such a situation the college school employee must be required to submit documents both through the school’s internal reporting procedure and to local enforcement whether or not the student is able to prepare a school complaint form. OMBUDSMAN: Each College will have a disability ombudsman. A function of the ombudsman will be to assist students in the protected class to prepare and submit any internal complain forms. Said ombudsman will also help the student negotiate the college’s internal complaint process. The ombudsman will also coordinate with local law enforcement on the case as required. The ombudsman will operate independently of the Disability Resource Department and will not report to the Dean in charge of the Disability Resource Department. AFFIRMATIVE REQUIREMENT: Under this proposed law, the college personnel including the ombudsman will have an affirmative duty to report alleged criminal conduct, for further investigation, to local criminal authorities. In other words, the reporting requirement would be mandated by law. This law should apply to college Boards of Trustees members, college presidents, college "of counsels" (school lawyers), academic vice presidents, deans, department chair persons, professors, teachers, tutors, counselors, disability resource department personnel, special education teachers, therapists, in short, anyone having the duty and responsibility to work with or oversee programs for adult students with cognitive challenges who are enrolled in special college programs for disabled students. Please join us in calling for such a law in your state.