Georgia Senate Committee Kills Campus Rape Bill… for Now

HB 51 would have changed how rapes would have been investigated and was opposed by sexual assault survivors and advocates.
Published: March 24, 2017

A highly controversial campus sexual assault bill has been shelved for this year by the Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 51, which was introduced in January, would have changed how sexual assaults on campus would have been investigated. It would have required certain school employees to report possible felonies, such as rape, to police, reports CNN. The bill would only allow a campus Title IX disciplinary hearing to occur as well as interim disciplinary measures to be implemented if a criminal investigation was underway. Such an approach would have been in conflict with state and federal laws, as well as with best practices recommended by sexual assault recovery experts.

RELATED: How to Investigate Campus Sexual Assaults

State Senators Greg Kirk, R-Americus, and Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta said the issue of campus rape is complicated and that the committee and senate were not ready to move forward with the bill, reports myAJC.com.

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The bill was proposed in response to the growing number of lawsuits against schools regarding their handling of sexual assault cases. Some defense attorneys claim that the guidance in the Obama administration’s 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter hinders the due process rights of respondents in sexual assault cases.

The letter outlined college and K-12 schools’ duties under Title IX, a federal civil rights law that bans sexual discrimination, harassment and violence. Among the guidelines, schools were warned that waiting to start an inquiry into sexual crime allegations until after a police investigation has been concluded was unacceptable.

The author of HB 51, state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, claims he can cite about 30 cases of male students who have been falsely accused and have had “their lives turned upside down.” He has vowed to continue to fight for passage of the law next year. In fact, he told the Marietta Daily Journal that he now hopes to attach it to another bill to be considered this week.

The move to shelve the proposed law was applauded by sexual assault survivors and their advocates who had been fighting the bill since its introduction.

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