By: Maisha Imam
Session has started, and there are a multitude of bills that have become the focus of attention for Georgians. One piece of legislation that has been in the public eye centers upon campus sexual assault and rape. This has continued to be a controversial topic for some time.
Last year’s House Bill 51, written by Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) and co-sponsored by former Athens representative Regina Quick of the 117th district, is now Senate Bill 71. It aims to enforce changes in how Georgia institutions deal with students accused of felonies. As of right now, colleges can freely investigate and discipline students as deemed necessary.
The proposed bill, on the other hand, requires mandatory reporting to law enforcement. Additionally, it would then be up to the discretion of law enforcement, not the college, to instigate and report to the prosecutor’s office. Only campus law enforcement may be able to pursue investigation. The person accused may face changes to living and scheduling but must be allowed due process protections before facing more severe punishments like suspension or expulsion.
It is a fight between “innocent until proven guilty” and “guilty until proven innocent”, as supporters of the bill yearn to protect the falsely accused whereas challengers claim that institutions are unfairly protecting the accused, and in turn, victims are left with no choice but to report to the authorities instead of undergoing investigation through their school. However, this bill is likely to be put on hold in the legislature of our state, according to Senator Fran Millar (D-Dunwoody). In October of 2017, Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, reversed policies for campus sexual misconduct procedures from Obama’s presidency. The former policies allowed for a “preponderance of evidence” and the use of the lowest standard of proof. Now we wait for the federal government to deliver new policies and requirements pertaining to sexual assault and rape investigations. There is no doubt that these changes will greatly impact college students of our generation. For more information, refer to: http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20172018/SB/71