Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has signed into law an unprecedented law that requires colleges in the state to set up anonymous reporting sites online for allegations of sexual misconduct by students or college faculty and staffers. For many of the colleges in Pennsylvania – especially the major institutions like Penn State and Temple University – the law means little. However, details in the bill can set a trend that cuts against due process concerns for accused students, nationwide.
Pennsylvania Governor Signs Sweeping Sexual Misconduct Reporting Law
According to Governor Tom Wolf, the law is the first of its kind in the United States. It requires state universities in Pennsylvania to create and maintain an online reporting system that allows students and university employees to anonymously report sexual misconduct, harassment, discrimination, or other Title IX violations.
The goal is to allow students to make Title IX reports without the awkwardness of facing a real person.
The law is set to go into effect in one year, giving colleges in Pennsylvania time to create the online reporting portal.
In addition to the reporting requirement for schools, the law also pardons people who report sexual misconduct from associated drug or alcohol violations, regardless of whether they claim to be a victim or merely a witness.
The Title IX provisions were included in a broader education bill that Governor Wolf signed in late June.
What this Means for Colleges in Pennsylvania
Many colleges in Pennsylvania already have anonymous and online reporting tools for Title IX allegations, including the largest institutions in the state like Temple and Penn State. For these schools, the law changes very little.
For schools that do not already have online and anonymous reporting, they will have a year to set them up and forward complaints to the school's Title IX office.
What this Means for Colleges Nationwide
Directly, the impact of Pennsylvania's new law ends at the state's borders. However, lawmakers in other states are bound to be monitoring the results of Governor Wolf's new law. If they think the results are good or they see a potential political win, copies of Pennsylvania's law are likely going to appear in statehouses across the country.
The Potential for More Innocent Students to Face Groundless Accusations
Perhaps the most disturbing part of Governor Wolf's new law is that it pardons drug or alcohol violations for people who report sexual misconduct. This basically incentivizes students who could face disciplinary action to claim they saw a sexual assault, getting someone else into trouble so the student making the report can save their own skin and avoid their own violation.
Title IX and Sexual Misconduct Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento
Joseph D. Lento is a defense lawyer who represents students, faculty members, and university staffers who have been accused of a Title IX violation or other sexual misconduct. While the new law in Pennsylvania aims to solve a problem – many legitimate sexual misconduct violations are never reported – the details in Pennsylvania's laws may, once again, tilt the playing field against those who have been accused.
Contact him online or call his law office at (888) 535-3686 for help.