HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Wolf joined legislators, advocates and students on Wednesday to announce the upcoming introduction of a package of six bills as part of his “It’s On Us PA” campaign to combat sexual violence in K-12 schools and on college and university campuses.
“This legislation is the result of students, parents, advocates, education leaders and people across the commonwealth working together to improve reporting and response standards for sexual assault,” said Wolf.
“We are making progress to combat sexual violence, and these proposals will ensure that all Pennsylvania students have the information, resources and supports they need.”
“It’s On Us PA” launched last year as the first statewide campaign to address sexual assault in schools and on college campuses and builds on the national “It’s On Us” movement.
Thousands of Pennsylvanians, including superintendents and university and college presidents signed the “It’s On Us” Pledge, which encourages everyone to help end sexual assault.
Since the campaign began in January of 2016, the Governor and members of his administration have engaged hundreds of students, educators, administrators, advocates, healthcare personnel, researchers, campus safety and law enforcement officials and policymakers to identify opportunities for improving systems to address and prevent sexual violence in schools and on campuses in Pennsylvania.
This legislative package is the result of those conversations.
The six bills would:
- Expand the scope, authority and capacity of the Office for Safe Schoolswithin the Department of Education to support both K-12 and post-secondary institutions, as well as monitor compliance with existing federal and state requirements related to sexual violence prevention and response. (HB1752 sponsored by Rep. Karen Boback and SB870 sponsored by Sen. Vincent Hughes)
- Publish anannual report card on sexual violence and harassment in K-12 and post-secondary institutions using existing data reported to the Department and or other publicly reported data. (HB1753 sponsored by Rep. Brian Sims and SB871)
- Create a consolidated, comprehensive anti-violence and anti-harassment policy for K-12 schoolsthat aligns requirements related to bullying, hazing, sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating violence and other issues. (HB1754 sponsored by Rep. Dan Miller and SB872)
- Require post-secondary institutions adopt affirmative consent standardsfor responding to allegations of sexual violence, and expand K-12 health education standards to explicitly address areas of consent and healthy relationships in middle and high school. (HB1755 sponsored by Rep. Mary Jo Daley and SB873 sponsored by Sen. Anthony Williams)
- Require that post-secondary institutions offer online, anonymous reporting optionsfor students as part of their required reporting and response systems under federal and state law. (HB1756 sponsored by Rep. Dan Frankel and SB874 sponsored by Sen. Lisa Baker)
- Establish amnesty policies protecting students who report sexual assault to post-secondary institutionsfrom being disciplined for other policy violations, such as drug and alcohol use. (HB1757 sponsored by Rep. Madeleine Dean and SB875 sponsored by Sen. Judy Schwank)
Co-sponsorship memos for these bills have been circulated in the House and the Senate, and Wolf encourages members in both chambers to sign on and support these important measures.
“Students at colleges and universities throughout Pennsylvania are starting a new year, and that’s why it’s important we reaffirm our pledge to combat sexual violence through the It’s On Us campaign,” said Sen. Judy Schwank.
“Sexual violence is never OK and we must work together as individuals and communities to end it.”
“Pennsylvania’s students deserve to learn in spaces free from violence,” said Rep. Karen Boback. “These initiatives will ensure our educational institutions have the necessary tools to enforce state and federal guidelines relating to sexual violence prevention and response.”
“Sadly, most instances of sexual violence go unreported to campus officials or to the police,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean.
“Providing amnesty for incidental infractions-like drinking-to those who come forward will help survivors and bystanders give voice to this scourge. Ensuring a safe environment is a vital part of providing a good education.”
“Since the launch of ‘It’s On Us PA’ in 2016, it has been heartening to see schools across Pennsylvania step up and take the pledge to fight sexual assault on campus and support survivors,” said Randi Teplitz, chair of the Pennsylvania Commission for Women.
“We are proud to stand with Governor Wolf, as he announces the next steps for his ‘It’s On Us’ legislative package, which will ensure students are provided the highest levels of protection from sexual violence.”
In addition to these legislative initiatives, the governor secured $1 million in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 budgets for evidence-based prevention, reporting, and response systems to address campus sexual assault.
This past year, 36 postsecondary institutions across Pennsylvania were awarded grants, reaching more than 87,000 students and 16,000 professional staff through awareness and training programs, improved reporting systems, and other critical supports for survivors and campus community members.