Class assignment breeds activism in Staten Island

Jason Ciarlante took his school work outside of the classroom and in a big way.

The legal studies major believes the New York State’s Family Protection and Domestic Violence Act needs to be amended. The student from the Staten Island campus visited Marillac Cafeteria on Jan. 31, asking students to sign a petition supporting a bill that calls for victims or potential victims of domestic violence to be able to seek an order of protection against a non-family member in Family Court.

“If it’s not going to help out, there is something wrong,” Ciarlante said. “If there is an inconsistency, I’m not the kind of person that reads it and leaves it alone.”

Ciarlante, who will receive a Founders’ Week Award, became aware of the bill as part of an assignment in Professor Ellen Boegel’s class. Although his class assignment ended with research about the law, he did not drop the issue.

Ciarlante and his team of seniors Mary Khellah and Ryan Anicete received approximately 500-600 signatures Tuesday and 400 in Staten Island. Students were even able to sign letters to make their State Representative aware of the bill (A5052). All the letters will be sent in a packet around March 1. They will return to Queens on Feb. 16.

“The students really joined in,” he said. “A lot of them sat down and typed their own letters.”

The current law prohibits Family Court from issuing restraining orders unless the parties are related or had a child together. If they are being threatened by others, even former significant others, they must go to criminal court to get the order of protection. People are reluctant to take that option, so they do not get the protection they need.

“If there is not buzz, if there is not drive behind these bills,” Ciarlante said, “they die in the Senate.”

Ciarlante said he is not willing to let that happen.