Campus Sexual Assault Bill Moves Forward in the Senate | WABE 90.1 FM

Campus Sexual Assault Bill Moves Forward in the Senate

Mar 22, 2017

A bill that would require Georgia colleges to report sexual assaults to police is advancing in the Senate. That mandate is controversial.

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Currently, victims can report assaults to law enforcement, but they aren't required to. A federal law, called Title IX, also lets them file a complaint on campus that’s handled by the school. Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, is the bill’s sponsor. He said colleges aren’t equipped to manage such serious cases.

“I’ve sat with my last destroyed family, mostly moms and their young sons, who have been absolutely, unequivocally had their lives destroyed by these Title IX courts,” Ehrhart told a Senate subcommittee Tuesday.

Ehrhart said his bill would ensure due process for both parties. He referred to campus Title IX hearings as “Kangaroo Courts.”

Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, says HB 51 guarantees due process for both parties involved in sexual assault cases on college campuses.
Credit Martha Dalton

But Barb Bruggemann, a former college dean, disagreed with that characterization.

“There are trained professionals who are unbiased, who take great care, as I did, and took my duty to the safety of my students, both the alleged perpetrator and the alleged victim,” she said. “And there is due process. I’ve heard the reference to ‘kangaroo court.’ Nothing of the kind has happened in my direct experience.”

Victims' rights advocates said the mandatory reporting requirement would discourage survivors from coming forward.

Kenneth Starling testified there's no guarantee that police would do a better job investigating than schools.

"I have a daughter who was raped, reported the crime to the school, to the police, then endured a two-and-a-half year criminal investigation that resulted in very little,” he said.

A Senate subcommittee took no action. The bill will move to the full Judiciary committee Thursday.