HARRISBURG – Sen. Lisa Baker, R-20th, was among a group of legislators, advocates, and college students who gathered in the Capitol Rotunda today to join Gov. Tom Wolf in announcing a series of legislative efforts to address sexual violence on college campuses and in K-12 schools.
A package of six bills was announced as part of the “It’s On Us PA” initiative to combat sexual assaults, and to offer better protections for students and improved reporting and response protocols.
Senate Bill 874, set to be introduced by Baker, would require Pennsylvania institutions of higher education to offer online and anonymous options to report sexual misconduct. It would allow victims and witnesses to give school authorities valuable information, while helping to address any perceived stigma or privacy concerns.
Baker told those gathered that online and anonymous reporting would offer “a substantial remedy” to current policies.
“Existing mechanisms are regarded as less than victim accessible for several significant reasons, including stigma and privacy concerns,” Baker said.
Hundreds of superintendents and university presidents have signed the “It’s On Us” pledge, including students and staff from Misericordia and Wilkes universities, who were also part of today’s event.
Baker’s legislation would allow each higher education institution to select the type of tool that best fits its needs (apps, websites, paper form) and determine what sort of data would be collected in the anonymous report.
“Online and anonymous reporting gives students and the rest of the campus community another option to provide information on alleged incidents of sexual misconduct,” she noted. “But this measure is a first step. More reports will not mean a great deal without a commitment by administrators to give allegations a fair and full review. The best deterrent is certainty that such crimes will be reported, investigated, and punished consistent with what the evidence warrants.”
Other bills that will be introduced by legislators as part of the “It’s On Us PA” package include those that: establish amnesty policies protecting students who report assaults at post-secondary institutions from being disciplined for other policy violations such as drug or alcohol use; call for the publishing of an annual report card on sexual violence and harassment in K-12 schools and colleges using several data sources; and expand K-12 health education standards to explicitly address areas of consent and healthy relationships in middle and high school.
For more information, see Gov. Wolf’s press release here: Listen
To hear Sen. Baker’s remarks: Listen