General Assembly Passes Campus Sexual Assault Bill

LR-college-campus_med_rgbOn April 29, 2014, the State Senate unanimously passed House Bill 5029, An Act Concerning Sexual Assault, Stalking and Intimate Partner Violence on Campus. Two weeks earlier the House of Representatives passed the same version of the bill, so the bill now awaits Governor Malloy’s signature. (To date, Governor Malloy has not indicated whether or not he will sign the bill.

The bill significantly expands an existing state law, Connecticut General Statute § 10-55m, that requires institutions of higher education to adopt and disclose sexual assault policies. Under the provisions of the new bill, Connecticut colleges, universities and for-profit higher education institutions will be responsible as of July 1, 2014, for the following tasks, amongst others:

  • Reporting stalking and family violence crimes as part of the school’s annual campus crime report;
  • Developing new policies or amending existing policies to address:
  1. Stalking;
  2. Employee reporting of sexual assault, stalking or intimate partner violence;
  3. Off-campus sexual assault;
  4. Summary information with respect to student and employee disciplinary procedures in response to sexual assault, stalking or violence;
  • Providing annual sexual assault, stalking and intimate partner violence prevention and awareness programming to all students and employees regardless of budgetary constraints;
  • Providing a plain-English, victim’s rights notice to each student and employee who has been the victim of sexual assault, stalking or violence;
  • Establishing a campus resource team responsible for reviewing sexual assault, stalking and intimate partner violence policies and recommending appropriate policy protocols;
  • Entering into and maintaining memoranda of understanding with sexual assault crisis and domestic violence agencies for the provision of treatment services for students and employees (this requirement takes effect January 1, 2015);
  • Ensuring that Title IX coordinators and campus police or campus security personnel are educated in the awareness and prevention of sexual assault, stalking and intimate partner violence, and trauma informed response.

By October 1, 2015, each institution of higher education in the state will have to report to the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee of the General Assembly on their applicable sexual assault policies, notices and statistics.

It is imperative that all Connecticut colleges, universities and for-profit higher education institutions familiarize themselves with the provisions of this bill and ensure that they are in compliance with it, if and when it becomes law, in order to protect themselves from possible civil tort liability. That is because some might argue that House Bill 5029 creates what lawyers refer to as a “standard of care” for students and employees who are the victims of sexual assault, stalking or intimate partner violence, as well as for students and employees whom report such incidents to appropriate higher education officials. In civil lawsuits alleging negligence, liability is typically predicated upon an individual’s or an entity’s failure to comply with a recognized standard of care. Thus, were a college to inadvertently fail to train designated staff on intimate partner violence awareness, or fail to provide a victim’s rights notice to an employee who reports that she was the victim of a stalking incident, a subsequent incident could potentially expose it to civil damages.