Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs and activities. Federal guidelines have reiterated that Title IX requires all schools that receive federal funds must take immediate and effective steps to respond to sexual violence on their campuses. If a school knows or should know about possible sexual violence, it must investigate to determine what occurred and then take appropriate steps to resolve the situation.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resources Center, one in 5 women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. Despite these alarming rates, it is estimated that 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report their assault. These statistics are a serious cause for concern and a call for legislative action to improve how schools address and educate our campus communities about sexual violence. For too long there has been a culture of silence and fear surrounding the issue of reporting incidents of sexual misconduct on campuses – that is an environment we must change.
S.706/H.632 includes provisions that work to change the culture on campuses through improved training, transparency and enforcement of policies and work to decrease the barriers that discourage students from reporting sexual violence incidents. In order to ensure that disciplinary processes on campuses are fair for both the reporting party and the accused, this legislation codifies and compliments the federal requirements as well as establishes some new state requirements by requiring higher education campuses to:
- include information in their campus security policies on dating violence, domestic violence sexual assault, and stalking, such as how to report an incident; where to seek medical treatment and counseling on and off-campus; the right to notify law enforcement; how to seek protective measures like changing dorms or classes; the rights of the reporting party and the accused during the disciplinary process and the sanctions that may be imposed by the school;
- develop their campus safety policies in coordination with the institution’s Title IX coordinator and relevant stakeholders such as institutional administrators, campus counseling, sexual assault services and health care centers; confidential resources; residence life; and law enforcement;
- adopt polices clearly delineating the responsibilities and sharing of information with law enforcement;
- post on their campus websites information on both on and off-campus resources, such as contact information for a sexual assault hotline, the Title IX coordinator and nearest medical facility where a rape kit may be administered;
- email the sexual violence policies to all students and employees at the beginning of the school year;
- enter into a memorandum of understanding with a sexual assault crisis service center and domestic violence agency;
- allow for a method of reporting anonymously and students shall not be subject to disciplinary sanctions for a violation of the institution’s student conduct policy related to the incident, unless the institution determines that the report was not made in good faith or the violation was egregious, including but not limited to, an action that places the health and safety of any other person at risk;
- have a confidential resource advisor available to provide students with information requested by the student on items such as reporting options and the consequences of each of the options, counseling, academic accommodations, or legal processes of the institution or local law enforcement. Conversations with the confidential resource advisor shall not trigger a Title IX investigation by the school and similar statutory confidentiality protections for rape crisis center advocates are included in the legislation for confidential resources advisors.
- have students participate in mandatory annual dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking primary prevention and awareness programming;
- train responsible employees, individuals involved in the school’s disciplinary process and campus police on the handling dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking complaints, and the operations of the institution's disciplinary process;
- report to the DHE, DPH and Committee on Higher Education on the number of sexual violence incidents on their campuses.
Pursuant to this legislation, the Department of Higher Education shall appoint a campus safety advisor with experience in public safety policy to serve as a resource for the schools by providing guidance on campus safety policies and aggregate/disseminate best practices and training opportunities.