No Criminal Charges Warranted in East Middle School Strip Search Claim
The Broome County District Attorney's Office is releasing a letter sent to Binghamton City School District officials concerning the claim by four middle school students that they were 'strip searched' on January 15, 2019.
The students alleged they were pulled aside, sent to the nurse's office and searched when they supposedly had been acting in a giddy manner and drugs were suspected.
In a letter dated May 8 and addressed to school Superintendent, Dr. Tonia Tompson and board of education president Brian Whalen, D.A. Stephen Cornwell says
Neither the Binghamton Police Department or New York State Police have recommended any criminal charges be filed in this matter. I have reviewed their investigation, and agree, there is no basis for any criminal charges to be filed against any employee of the Binghamton City School District.
Cornwell says usually when there are no criminal charges filed, a case is sealed but due to the media attention surrounding the girls' claims and reaction from some community activists, he felt it appropriate to notify the school district and release the letter to the public.
Following the initial reports of the incident, there had been allegations of racial profiling or racism which prompted New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to call on the State Police to investigate the claims of a strip search.
The City of Binghamton Police conducted an investigation and the City School District engaged in its own review.
In his letter, Cornwell concludes:
This investigation was solely into criminal charges, under New York State law, and not into school policy or Constitutional rights, as law enforcement agencies and the District Attorney's Office have authority only in matters of criminal law.
Meanwhile, the school district is still facing legal issues.
April 29, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund announced the filing of a federal lawsuit naming the district, the board of education and three East Middle School employees in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York.
The complaint alleges that racial bias caused the officials "to interpret the innocent and playful behavior" of the girls "as so suspicious that they conducted the extreme measure of strip searching them." and points out that the girls were black and Latina while all the school officials are white.