Today is Denim Day — a yearly call during Sexual Assault Awareness Month to bring awareness to and prevent sexual assault, harassment and abuse. We’re continuing our coverage of this issue by highlighting legislation that states have adopted to address sexual violence on college campuses.
The federal government has heavy influence on sexual assault policies because of Title IX regulations required for federally funded higher education institutions. Title IX has been interpreted to determine how institutions must investigate and adjudicate allegations of sexual violence involving its students. The U.S. Department of Education introduced proposed rules last year on the 50th anniversary of the enactment of Title IX, and the department is expected to release its final rules in the coming months.
Likewise, states have taken a variety of approaches toward addressing and reducing the incidence of sexual violence on college campuses. In 2021 and 2022, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas and Vermont enacted legislation that sought to address sexual violence.
Some states have begun requiring higher education institutions to disseminate climate surveys for students to determine the incidence of sexual violence involving their students. For example, Maine enacted legislation that establishes the Higher Education Interpersonal Violence Advisory Commission, which is tasked with developing an interpersonal violence climate survey.
Likewise, Nevada enacted legislation that requires the creation and dissemination of a campus climate survey on sexual misconduct. The bill also establishes the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct and requires higher education institutions to adopt a policy on sexual misconduct.
States have also established committees and similar entities to review strategies for how institutions address sexual violence. Illinois enacted legislation that establishes the Task Force on Campus Sexual Misconduct Climate Surveys. Louisiana enacted legislation to create the Louisiana Power-Based Violence Review Panel. The state gives the review panel the authority to assess institutions’ policies on power-based violence incidents such as dating violence and stalking.
Vermont enacted a bill that creates an affirmative consent policy and details when a student is incapable of consenting. The legislation also creates the Intercollegiate Sexual Harm Prevention Council, which is intended to create a coordinated response to campus sexual harm.
States have also enacted legislation that create policies related to the reporting of incidents of sexual violence. Connecticut enacted legislation that stipulates students who report being a victim or witness of sexual assault, stalking or violence are protected from disciplinary action by a higher education institution. The bill also requires institutions to conduct a sexual misconduct climate assessment and establishes the Council on Sexual Misconduct Climate Assessments.
Another bill from Louisiana requires the reporting of incidents of power-based violence. Minnesota made appropriations to staff a campus sexual violence prevention and response coordinator to provide professional development and guidance on best practices for institutions. The bill also makes an appropriation for mandatory campus sexual violence reporting. Texas legislation highlights the anonymous reporting of sexual violence and requires campus police officers to redact the name of a victim and other personal information and only include the type of incident when filing a report.
Information and Training for Students
Some states have started requiring higher education institutions to provide information and training to students related to sexual violence in hopes of understanding how to reduce and report instances. California enacted several bills with provisions including requiring annual training on sexual violence and harassment for students attending the California Community Colleges, California State University or independent institutions. The legislation also requires each campus of the California Community Colleges and California State University to post educational and preventative information on campus sexual violence and sexual harassment on the campus website.
Delaware enacted legislation that allows institutions to include the contact information for the National Sexual Assault Hotline. Finally, Pennsylvania passed a bill that requires institutions to implement an education program for all students on dating violence, domestic violence and stalking and information on confidential resources and services available for victims of this kind of violence.
These state approaches highlight the policy levers that have been used for the reduction of sexual violence involving students at higher education institutions. Title IX antidiscrimination and investigatory requirements by the federal government play a major role in how claims of sexual violence are addressed at the institutional level too. Keep an eye out for upcoming coverage of the final Title IX rules after they are released later this year.