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Senate Campus Sexual Assault Legislation Could Include New Penalties

Senate Campus Sexual Assault Legislation Could Include New Penalties

May 21, 2014 — Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) on Monday hosted the first of three Capitol Hill roundtable discussions about legislative efforts to combat sexual assaults at colleges, Insider Higher Ed reports.

Senate Bill

McCaskill previewed legislation she is drafting with Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). The measure aims to simplify the "complex labyrinth" of rules -- such as the federal Clery Act, the federal antidiscrimination law Title IX and various state laws -- regarding how colleges are supposed to handle sexual assault cases, McCaskill said (Stratford, Insider Higher Ed, 5/20).

Monday's discussion focused on the Clery Act and the Campus SaVE Act, according to the Washington Post’s "She The People." The 1992 Clery Act requires colleges and universities that receive federal student financial aid to track and publish crime statistics. The Campus SaVE Act -- included in the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (PL 113-4) -- expanded Clery to apply to domestic violence, dating violence and stalking cases that are reported to campus or local police (Reese, "She The People," Washington Post, 5/20).

McCaskill indicated that lawmakers also are considering a revised penalty structure for schools and that she feels "very strongly that fines would need to be based on the size of the institution." She said the existing penalty of ending federal funding seems unrealistic because it penalizes students for a college's violations. At the same time, the current maximum fine of $35,000 has little effect on some schools.

The legislation also might include efforts to incentivize states to alter laws on consent. McCaskill said she was disappointed to learn that 16 states do not recognize incapacitation as a reason why an individual cannot provide consent.

Panel Discussion

Discussion participants told McCaskill and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) that current reporting requirements are confusing and involve information that students do not find useful when inquiring about campus safety.

Several of the university-affiliated participants said they would like to see the government release model policies and best practices (Insider Higher Ed, 5/20).

Meanwhile, Laura Dunn, executive director of SurvJustice, encouraged lawmakers to prioritize enforcement.

Only 13 auditors review compliance at about 7,000 colleges and universities nationwide, although the number of auditors is expected to double, according to Lynn Mahaffie of the Department of Education's Office of Federal Student Aid ("She The People," Washington Post, 5/20).