McCaskill Introduces Campus Sexual Assault Bill
August 6, 2014
Last week a bipartisan group of eight senators—led by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)—introduced the Campus Accountability and Safety Act. The new bill would require colleges and universities to take preventive measures to protect students from sexual assaults, increase institutional accountability, and require establishment of new campus resources for assault victims.
The Department of Education has yet to finalize its proposed rules implementing changes to the Violence Against Women Act which require colleges and universities to revise annual security reports, gather statistics for new crime categories, and maintain ongoing prevention and awareness campaigns for students and employees. McCaskill's bill goes much further by imposing stricter penalties on institutions for Clery Act violations and creating new transparency requirements through annual student surveys.
The Campus Accountability and Safety Act would require institutions to:
- Establish campus resources and support services for student survivors of sexual assault, including designating confidential advisors who will coordinate support services and accommodations for survivors, provide information about options for reporting, and provide guidance or assistance in reporting the crime to campus authorities at the direction of the survivor. Smaller institutions would be allowed to form partnerships to provide these services.
- Provide specialized training for campus personnel responsible for sexual assault investigations and disciplinary proceedings.
- Ensure that an "adequate, random, and representative sample size of students" completes an annual, anonymous survey regarding their experiences with sexual violence and harassment that will be developed by ED in consultation with the Department of Justice. Survey results, by institution, will be published online for public viewing. ED also will be required to publish the names of all schools with pending investigations, final resolutions, and voluntary resolutions agreements related to Title IX. Earlier this year, ED began releasing such information on schools with open Title IX sexual violence investigations.
- Establish a uniform campus-wide process for disciplinary proceedings and no longer use athletic departments or other alternative processes to handle sexual violence complaints involving certain types of students. In addition, colleges and universities would be required to enter into memoranda of understanding with local law enforcement agencies.
- Institutions that do not comply with certain requirements under the bill may face a penalty of up to 1 percent of the institution's operating budget. Penalties for failure to comply with the Clery Act would also increase from $35,000 to $150,000 per violation.
The new bill comes only weeks after McCaskill released "Sexual Violence on Campus: How Too Many Institutions of Higher Education Are Failing to Protect Students"—a report based on a survey of 330 colleges and universities that found institutions were failing to provide adequate training, victim support, coordination with law enforcement, or an appropriate adjudication process. McCaskill, who co-sponsored the bill with Sens. Dean Heller (R-NV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Marco Rubio (R-FL.), said, "This bill represents a rare thing in Washington—a truly collaborative, bipartisan effort-and that bodes well for our shared fight to turn the tide against sexual violence on our campuses."
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