A state appeals court has reinstated an expelled male student to Skidmore College, finding the college failed to comply with its own sexual- and gender-based misconduct procedures when it investigated and sanctioned the student.
The student, referred to by an Appellate Division, Third Department, panel as “John Doe,” can attend the school after being expelled in 2016, said his lawyer, Harris Beach partner Victoria Graffeo.
The unanimous panel said Skidmore made several errors when investigating the petitioner, beginning with a complaint that lacked factual recitation of the allegations, which violated school procedure and caused prejudice against the petitioner.
“The investigative report described the complainant’s statement during her interview that petitioner had coerced her to perform oral sex upon him, and then noted that petitioner had not mentioned any form of oral sex during his interview,” wrote Justice Elizabeth Garry for the unanimous panel. “In his written response, petitioner denied that he and the complainant had engaged in oral sex and asserted that he had not mentioned the subject … because he was not told that the complainant was making that claim.”
Justices Garry, John Egan Jr., Michael Lynch, Robert Mulvey and Sharon Aarons also noted that in expelling the petitioner, Skidmore wrongly considered a previous incident in which he made inappropriate remarks to a female. The panel said the remarks were not “substantially similar” to the allegations of sexual misconduct.
The June 13 opinion in Doe v. Skidmore, 524303, reversed a 2016 decision by Saratoga County Supreme Court Justice Thomas Nolan.
Graffeo, a former Court of Appeals judge, said the decision underscores “the need for colleges to be very careful in developing their policies, and the need for training.”
Robert Manfredo, a Bond, Schoeneck & King attorney representing Skidmore, could not be reached for comment.