Harrisburg, PA – With the Trump administration proposing to weaken campus rules for responding to sexual violence, Governor Tom Wolf today renewed his call for the General Assembly to swiftly pass a package of bipartisan bills that would help protect students at Pennsylvania’s K-12 schools and our colleges and universities.
“The federal government may be turning its back on these survivor/victims, but Pennsylvania must continue to make progress,” said Governor Wolf. “One year ago, I stood with hundreds of students and bipartisan legislators to support these bills. Given what’s at stake, it should be commonsense to pass this legislation to make schools and campuses safer.”
Under Governor Wolf, Pennsylvania launched “It’s On Us PA” in 2016 to combat sexual assault in schools and on campuses, becoming the first state in the nation to join the national campaign. The governor has secured $3 million, $1 million in each of the last three state budgets, to provide grants to colleges and universities, reaching tens of thousands of students and professional staff to develop evidence-based prevention, reporting, and response systems to address campus sexual assault.
The first six weeks of the fall semester until about the Thanksgiving break are often referred to as the “red zone” when sexual assaults on college campuses often spike. First year students are especially vulnerable.
“Now—during a period when so many survivors have been empowered by the #metoo movement to share their experiences of sexual abuse—is not a time to take a step backwards in how we protect our loved ones at schools and campuses across the Commonwealth,” PCAR CEO Karen Baker said. “We know that sexual harassment, abuse and assault are serious and widespread problems and what we say and do about them matters. It’s time to send a loud message to our state legislators. Urge them to support the bi-partisan package of bills presented by Gov. Wolf to help to create schools and campuses that protect our children and take seriously any reports of sexual misconduct.”
The governor urged passage of the following bipartisan bills:
- Amnesty for students who report domestic violence or sexual assault: requires postsecondary schools to have policies to protect the students from discipline for violating other school policies, such as drug and alcohol use. (HB1757 sponsored by Rep. Madeleine Dean and SB 871 sponsored by Senator Judy Schwank)
- Online, anonymous reporting of sexual misconduct: requires postsecondary schools to create the reporting option for students. (SB 874 sponsored by Sen. Lisa Baker and HB 1756 sponsored by Rep. Dan Frankel)
- Affirmative consent standards: requires postsecondary institutions adopt standards for responding to allegations of sexual violence and expand K-12 health education standards to explicitly address areas of consent and healthy relationships in middle and high school. (HB 1755 sponsored by Rep. Mary Jo Daley)
- Comprehensive anti-violence and anti-harassment policies: consolidate existing requirements for K-12 schools around bullying, harassment, and violence, requiring districts to implement anonymous reporting systems and report statistics to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. (SB 872 sponsored by Sen. Art Haywood and HB 1754 sponsored by Rep. Dan Miller)
- Expand the Office for Safe Schools: requires the office within PDE to provide resources and support to postsecondary as well as K-12 institutions. The Office will award grants, monitor and assist with compliance with federal laws, and offer training and resources to educational institutions. (SB 870 sponsored by Sen. Vincent Hughes and HB 1752 sponsored by Rep. Karen Boback)
- Annual report card on sexual violence and harassment: requires school entities and postsecondary institutions to submit information on sexual violence and harassment incidents that occur at the institution and requiring PDE to publish annual report cards. (HB 1753 sponsored by Rep. Brian Sims)
All of the bills remain in the House or Senate Education Committees.