Author: David M. Williams, Jr., Stafford Personal Injury Attorney
Several new bills addressing the issue of sexual assault on Virginia’s college students were signed by Governor Terry McAuliffe and went into effect July 1st. The bills, primarily dealing with reporting requirements, are aimed at protecting students and combating sexual assault.
House Bill 1930 and Senate Bill 712 were identical bills which passed unanimously. The bills deal with reporting requirements for the college administration. Highlights of this legislation include the following:
- The bills require university employees to report acts of sexual violence to the campus Title IX coordinator.
- The Title IX coordinator will in turn report the information to a committee comprised of the coordinator, a law enforcement representative and a student affairs representative.
- The committee will meet within 72 hours after receiving the information to determine if disclosure to law enforcement is necessary to protect the health and safety of the victim or other individuals.
- In cases involving felony sexual assault, the committee shall consult with the Commonwealth’s attorney.
- The law applies to sexual assaults committed against a student on campus, a non-campus building / property, or on public property.
Title IX is a federal law that deals with preventing discrimination based on gender. It also requires that certain college administrators report sexual assaults to law enforcement. The new Virginia law will make it a state requirement as well.[i]
House Bill 1785, which also passed unanimously, deals with reporting requirements for campus police / security departments investigating sexual assaults. It essentially requires campus police to notify the Commonwealth’s Attorney within 48 hours of beginning any sexual assault investigation involving a student.[ii]
Finally, a bill also passed that would require Virginia schools to mark the transcripts of students involved in sexual misconduct. Senate Bill 1193 requires the registrar to include a prominent notation on the academic transcript of each student who has been suspended for, has been permanently dismissed for, or withdrawn from the institution while under investigation for an offense involving sexual violence under the institution’s code, rules or set of standards governing student conduct.[iii]
This wave of new legislation appears to be in direct response to several high profile campus sexual assault cases in Virginia last year. For example, SB 1193, requiring college transcripts to note misconduct, was inspired by the tragic death of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham. A police investigation determined that Jessie Matthew, the man charged in her death, had a history of sexual misconduct allegations as a college student. By requiring higher-education employees to report sexual assaults, and establishing a uniform procedure for handling charges of sexual assaults, legislators are taking aim to curb this crime on Virginia students. Del. Rob Bell (R-Albemarle) commented “As we worked on this legislation, our two goals were to insure that Virginia colleges protect victims of assault and that we prevent future victims.” Time will tell if these new laws accomplish those goals.
About the Author: David M. Williams Jr. is a personal injury attorney in Fredericksburg with Allen & Allen. He has many years of experience in a variety of personal injury related matters including car accidents, premises liability and wrongful death. He is currently managing the Garrisonville / Stafford County Office of Allen & Allen.