Campus sexual assault panel mulls transcript notation law

Oct 14, 2019 by

Advocates in Virginia say a law that requires colleges to disclose on transcripts when students are disciplined for sexual misconduct has discouraged some survivors from coming forward.

Advocates from Virginia gave a legislative panel in Vermont mixed reviews of a law passed in that state requiring colleges to disclose on transcripts when students are disciplined for sexual misconduct.

Jonathan Iglesias, the public policy director for the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, said the group had concerns the practice did little to deter misbehavior and in some cases discouraged students from coming forward.

“Lots of things that we typically hear … is ‘I don’t want to ruin his life,’” Iglesias said.

Iglesias acknowledged the Alliance had not collected systematic data about the law’s consequences. But he was emphatic the group had heard from on-campus advocates that the law had in certain cases dissuaded survivors from going forward with their complaints.

Lawmakers created the task force to explore the topic of campus sexual assault last session after a University of Vermont student led a campaign to get a transcript notation law on the books in Vermont. The UVM student, Sydney Ovitt, a survivor of sexual assault, sits on the panel. She urged members on Wednesday not to dismiss the idea of a transcription notation law outright, but to consider using feedback from other states to create a better version of the mandate. The panel is set to next hear from officials in New York, which has also passed a similar law.

Transcript notation laws are a fraught subject being debated in state legislatures across the country. Many, including several professional organizations representing higher education administrators, support the measures on the grounds that they keep repeat offenders from quietly transferring schools when they come under investigation. But civil rights advocates – and even some sexual-violence advocates – say transcript notations can be overly punitive and discourage reporting.

The task force’s work comes as the regulatory framework surrounding campus sexual assault at the federal level is undergoing significant change.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has proposed sweeping new rules under Title IX, the 1972 law prohibiting gender-based discrimination in educational programs that receive federal funding. The department had earlier rescinded Obama-era Title IX guidance, arguing it was unfair to the accused.

The new rules would restrict the definition of sexual harassment, attempt to place the rights of the accused on par with their accuser, and do away with the so-called “single-investigator model,” where the same person is the Title IX coordinator, investigator, and decision-maker on cases.

Source: Campus sexual assault panel mulls transcript notation law – VTDigger

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