Over 50 letters sent to parents of city offenders

The mayor’s office has sent over 50 letters to parents of Oswego State students that were arrested in the city of Oswego for alcohol and vandalism-related incidents since the practice began in mid-September.

According to Mayor Randy Bateman, the purpose of informing students’ parents when they are arrested is to make them more accountable for their actions.

"Hopefully it’ll tell them that if you do this, there will be consequences," Bateman said.

While the mayor’s office sends the actual letters to parents, the process is a collaborative effort between the mayor, Oswego City Police and Oswego State, according to City Police Captain Tory DeCaire

"If a person is arrested for an offense in which alcohol is a factor, and if the defendant is currently a student at SUNY Oswego, a letter is sent from the mayor’s office to the defendants parents informing them of the incident," DeCaire said.

The letter sent by the mayor’s office is a form letter with the charge filled in and details provided.

The students are usually cooperative, admit that they attend Oswego State and voluntarily provide police with their home address.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allows schools to provide personal information to other organizations or agencies in similar instances.

"We’ve never been asked to provide a student’s home address, but we would help them if they needed it," James Scharfenberger, Oswego State’s dean of students, said.

Scharfenberger admits that while the college’s involvement is minimal, it is part of a broader effort to promote good relations between the city and the college community.

Many of the arrests that occur involve issues such as open container law violations, underage drinking, public urination and vandalism.

"You have citizens who are not thinking about the consequences of their actions," Scharfenberger said.

Students often don’t initially realize the impact of their actions in the city of Oswego beyond their own personal consequences.

"They represent us and every student is part of the community," Scharfenberger said.

Most students have been relatively quick to admit that their actions were inappropriate, and the feedback from parent has been mostly positive, Bateman said.

"We’ve had a couple of parents that have questioned the procedure, but many have said they were happy to know about the incident," Bateman said.

Oswego City Police have also received a good deal of positive feedback from parents that have received letters.

"We have received a lot of positive feedback from parents who appreciate being informed," DeCaire said. "I personally am unaware of any negative feedback from the practice."

The city, police, and the college are all concerned with improving the relationship between the college and local communities.

"By keeping parents informed as to their son or daughter’s unlawful actions and/or alcohol use on and off campus, we have taken a step toward strengthening our relationship and improving the overall quality of life for everyone in the city of Oswego," DeCaire said.

Bateman said that none of the letters mailed have been to students from the immediate area and that he plans to continue the practice of notifying parents.

"You wouldn’t do this at home and we want to send the message that when you come to our community, we expect you to act the same way," Bateman said.

According to Scharfenberger, despite the program’s success, the college will continue to evaluate it for the future.