TRENTON — New Jersey state senators have crafted two bills to put back in place the Obama-era campus sexual assault guidelines rescinded this fall by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
Last week, the state Senate Higher Education Committee unanimously approved two bills that target sexual assault on college campuses.
They now head to the full Senate for further consideration.
On Sept. 22, DeVos announced the U.S. Department of Education was withdrawing policy and guidance reflected in a “Dear Colleague Letter,” issued by the Office for Civil Rights under President Barack Obama, that she said compromised the rights of those accused of sexual harassment or violence.
The first of the bills, sponsored by state Sen. Sandra Bolden Cunningham and Senate President Steve Sweeney, requires institutions of higher education to use procedures in responding, reporting and investigation of allegations of sexual harassment that are consistent with federal guidelines issued in 2011 and 2014, instead of the newer guidelines.
This bill also requires each public and independent institution of higher education to annually report to the Secretary of Higher Education the total number of allegations of sexual assault in the institution, a summary of its efforts to respond to allegations, and any new or revised procedures in the prior year to address campus sexual as- sault.
“While the federal government may want to go backwards, New Jersey will continue to go forward on these issues. New Jersey intends to be a leader in the protection of our students and will continue to strengthen the process of justice for survivors of sexual assault. These bills fulfill that goal,” Sweeney said.
The second bill, sponsored by Cunningham and Sen. Tom Kean Jr., establishes a Campus Sexual Assault Commission comprised of 12 members to study and evaluate emerging issues, policies and practices concerning campus sexual assault, including at least one individual who is a campus sexual assault survivor.
This bill would codify some recommendations from the Task Force on Campus Sexual Assault created Dec. 2, 2015.