Washington, DC – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo counties) today introduced legislation to require notation on the academic transcript of any student found by a college or university to have violated the school’s rules or policies with regards to sexual violence. Rep. Speier’s bill also clarifies that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allows such disclosures, while protecting the rights of the accused.
“Universities and colleges are perfectly willing to include academic infractions like plagiarism on students’ records, yet students who have committed sexual assault can walk away from campus with a clean academic bill of health. This is appalling and, whether intentional or not, shows that acts of sexual violence on campus are less serious than cheating,” Rep. Speier said. “My bill will ensure that students who try to transfer schools to avoid the consequences of their violent acts will, at a minimum, face the same consequences as students who transfer because they’ve cheated on an exam.”
Colleges and universities should know whether they are admitting someone that poses a threat to the students and staff on their campus. However, due to confusion surrounding existing federal privacy law, too many universities and colleges have said they have no way of knowing if an incoming transfer student has committed sexual assault.
The lack of information-sharing can have horrific consequences. In 2013, a woman at Vincennes University in Indiana was held for three days while being raped and beaten by fellow student Valdemar Castellano. After being expelled, Castellano went on to attend the University of Northern Ohio in Lima, where in 2014 he was arrested for unwanted sexual contact just months after arriving on campus. In 2015, Castellano enrolled in Rhodes State College in Ohio with absolutely no notification of his past violent behavior.
A similar case occurred in 2014 at the University of Virginia, where sophomore Hannah Graham was found dead more than a month after her abduction by Jesse Matthew Jr., who was living near campus. In 2002, as a student at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, Matthew was accused of sexual assault. He left the school the same month and transferred to Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia, in January 2003. He left Newport University nine months later, after he was again accused of sexual assault by a student.
The Safe Transfer Act would eliminate the ambiguity that has led to many of these egregious cases by:
- Requiring universities to include information related to campus sexual assault on the alleged perpetrator’s transcript;
- Clarifying that FERPA allows such disclosures;
- Making sure the disclosure requirement sunsets 5 years after the date that a school’s disciplinary proceeding was completed or 1 year after the initiation of such a proceeding if it is still pending;
- And requiring that the alleged perpetrator:
- be notified of the disclosure;
- be allowed to view a copy of the record of the disciplinary procedure (redacted to not include the name of any other student, such as a victim or witness);
- and be provided with an opportunity to write a statement to accompany the disclosure of the record.
The Safe Transfer Act has been endorsed by The National Organization for Women (NOW) and End Rape on Campus (EROC). The Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA) has also issued a position statement in favor of The Safe Transfer Act which you can view here. The text of the bill can be found here and a one page document explaining the bill can found here. The original co-sponsors are Reps. André Carson (D-IN), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), and Gwen Moore (D-WI).