Texas Legislature passes bills to combat college sexual assault

MacNeal Hall | Contributor

By Meredith Howard | Staff Writer

Two Texas laws regarding sexual assault on college campuses will take effect in September—House Bill 1735 and Senate Bill 212.

House Bill 1735 requires a college to provide a policy to its student body and faculty about sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking and dating violence.

The policy must include definitions of prohibited behavior, sanctions for violations, protocol for reporting and an explanation of an alleged victim’s rights, plus additional information outlined in the bill.

The law takes effect on Sept. 1 unless a vote passes that would speed up the integration process.

Laura Johnson, Baylor’s Title IX coordinator, said in an email to the Lariat that Baylor’s current policy “already meets many of the HB 1735 requirements and is consistent with existing federal policies that are very similar.”

Hoffman Estates, Ill., sophomore Zachary Tufenkjian is the co-president of It’s On Us BU, Baylor’s branch of a national organization against sexual assault on college campuses. Tufenkjian agreed with Johnson’s statement that Baylor’s policy requirements were already similar to those included in the new bill.

“As far as changes at Baylor go, I don’t think it would affect that much beyond reinforcing what we are already doing,” Tufenkjian said.

In addition, Senate Bill 212 also passed this June, and it designates college employees (not including student employees) as mandated reporters of sexual misconduct.

This means that any Baylor employee, including a professor, who is not sanctioned as a confidential person must report any knowledge of possible sexual misconduct to the Title IX coordinator or deputy coordinator. Confidential people may still make reports that provide limited information about the alleged victim under specific circumstances.

Almost all faculty and staff members were already required by Baylor policy to file reports about alleged sexual misconduct, but Senate Bill 212 provides distinct requirements regarding who is a mandated or confidential reporter and what information reports must contain.

Tufenkjian said it is important for students to be informed on who is classified as a confidential reporter. He went on to say that he also believes some faculty members should be mandated reporters.

“It’s a slippery slope because some people, especially at Baylor, trust their professors so much that it’s just tough,” Tufenkjian said.

The only Confidential Resources on Baylor’s campus are the counseling center, the health services center, the University Chaplain and the Employee Assistance Program.

Kerry Burkley, the children’s program director at the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children in Waco and a part-time Baylor faculty member, had concerns about Senate Bill 212 requiring certain faculty members to file reports.

“I’d have to really step lightly on responding to whether or not the mandated component of the law is ideal for making sure that students who are victims of sexual assault have a space to at least tell people about it without having the fear that, ‘If I tell you and I don’t want it to be known, you’re going to make this known,’” Burkley said.

For more information, both bills are available in full text online.