Democrats in Colorado’s General Assembly are pushing legislation aimed at preventing sexual misconduct at colleges and universities, but there’s a chance it won’t make it to the governor’s desk before they adjourn for the year.
With just a week left in 2019’s legislative session and hundreds of bills still unresolved, Democrats will have to decide which ones to act on and which ones to let die.
Among those is Senate Bill 7, which would dictate how institutions of higher education respond to reports of sexual misconduct and ensure that campus policies are clear, consistent, transparent, and fair toward all students, particularly those who have experienced sexual violence.
With increased awareness around sexual misconduct in the #MeToo era, policymakers nationwide have been pushing legislation to protect survivors, and colleges and universities have been focal points due to the pervasiveness of sexual violence on campuses.
Multiple studies have shown that around one in five women will experience sexual violence at some point during their college career. For male students, that number is closer to 5 percent. Sexual violence frequently goes unreported on campuses.
In an effort to remove barriers that can prevent survivors from coming forward, the bill protects those who report a case of misconduct from being reprimanded for violating the campus rules related to the incident, like those prohibiting underage drinking and drug use. And, in order to prevent “slut-shaming,” it prohibits the unrelated sexual history of either party from being used as facts in the case.
Retaliation toward those who report sexual misconduct is specifically prohibited as well, giving schools an avenue for addressing such behavior.
The bill also specifies how reports are investigated, requiring that both parties be given timely updates on the investigation and that the preponderance of evidence is used as the evidentiary standard.
In addition, the bill requires the schools to provide training to students and staff for recognizing and preventing sexual misconduct and to ensure they’re clear on the campus’ policy and what resources are available to them.
Senate Bill 7 passed out of the Senate yesterday despite strong opposition from Republicans, and now moves on to be considered in the House.
Another bill addressing sexual misconduct might not make it to Governor Polis’ desk before the end of the legislative session, either. Introduced in the wake of reports of a culture of sexual misconduct at Colorado’s capitol, Senate Bill 244 would revise sexual harassment policies for lawmakers.