Lawmakers kill campus sexual assault bill

Lawmakers kill campus sexual assault bill

State senators killed a bill that would have drastically changed the way public universities handle reports of sexual assault on campus.

With only three days left in the 2017 legislative session, the Senate judiciary committee voted unanimously on March 23 to shelve House Bill 51, or what the bill’s sponsors have called the “Campus Safety Act.”

Under current law, students who are victims of a crime can report it to the university and seek punishment against the perpetrator like suspension or expulsion. Alternatively, they can choose to report the crime to campus police and press charges.

HB 51, written to protect the due process rights of students accused of sexual assault, would have required colleges and universities in Georgia to report instances of felony crime to law enforcement rather than pursue their own internal investigations.

After days of emotional testimony from students, parents, and sexual violence activists, senators finally concluded that the matter was too complicated to address in the short time left in the legislative session.

The decision came almost exactly a year after the Board of Regents approved new measures for investigating allegations of sexual violence on campuses.

The bill’s author, Rep. Earl Ehrhart, told The Atlanta-Journal Constitution that, although the legislature will not discuss the bill any further this year, he expects the matter to come before lawmakers again.

“This is too serious an issue,” Ehrhart told the AJC. “It’s not dead by any stretch of the imagination. The issue hasn’t gone away.”

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