New campus sexual assault laws go into effect in Virginia
Three new laws aimed to curb campus sexual assault in Virginia went into effect on July 1.
Two of the laws deal with reporting requirements for colleges and police departments. The other law, regarding transcript notations, has created some confusion.
Local station WHSV reported that, under the new law, "Any student under investigation for an offense involving sexual violence will have a special notation on their transcript."
This is not what the law says, however. The law actually states that schools must "include a prominent notation on the academic transcript of each student who has been suspended for, has been permanently dismissed for, or withdraws 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..."
So no, students under investigation will not have their transcripts noted unless they subsequently withdraw from the university while the investigation is ongoing.
Also, universities under the law would be required to "adopt a procedure for removing such notation from the academic transcript of any student who is subsequently found not to have committed an offense involving sexual violence under the institution's code, rules or set of standards governing student conduct."
Of course, the likelihood of a student being able to overturn a finding of responsible after the notation has been made is probably rather slim.
While it is good news that this law doesn't automatically condemn students just for being accused (the whole process does that already), there are still problems with the other laws that went into effect on Wednesday.
Both laws dealing with reporting requirements use the term "victim" throughout, indicating a clear bias against the accused. This has been a common issue with campus sexual assault bills.
There is some good news in one of the other bills. H.B. 1785 requires cooperation between campus police and local law enforcement. If universities don't relay information to campus police, then this law won't matter, but it is at least an acknowledgement that police should be involved in sexual assault cases.
S.B. 712 requires any university employee who becomes aware of a sexual assault accusation to report to the school's Title IX investigator "as soon as practicable." The investigator must then convene a review committee within 72 hours to determine if the safety of the campus is compromised. If so, the review committee must disclose information regarding the alleged assault to "the law-enforcement agency responsible for investigating the alleged act."
This could bring some much needed legitimacy to the campus sexual assault adjudication process. Given the culture surrounding this issue, however, skepticism is needed.