Va. Senate panel OKs mandatory campus sex assault reporting

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Legislation to mandate reporting of alleged campus sexual assaults to police is advancing in the General Assembly.

The Senate Education and Health Committee passed a bill Monday submitted by Republican Sen. Richard Black of Loudoun County that would require any employee of a state college or university who learns of such an allegation to report it to a local law-enforcement agency within 24 hours. Failure to do so would be a misdemeanor.

Black's measure is one of 10 bills advancing in the Senate that were prompted by several recent high-profile cases of alleged sexual assaults on Virginia campuses. Similar legislation has been introduced in the House of Delegates.

Clergy, attorneys and crisis counselors who obtain the information on a confidential basis would be exempted from the reporting requirement under Black's bill.

Republican Sen. John Cosgrove of Chesapeake, a member of the committee, said he believes those exemptions should alleviate concerns expressed last week by some students and victim advocates that mandatory reporting would discourage victims from coming forward.

Brandon Day, president of the student government at Virginia Commonwealth University, said Monday that he still fears the legislation will inhibit reporting of assaults.

The committee also advanced a bill requiring universities to establish a relationship with a local sexual-assault crisis center to which victims would be referred for counseling.

Another measure approved by the panel would require that a notation be included on a student's transcript when the student is suspended or dismissed for a violation of the school's code of conduct.

The bills now go to the Courts of Justice Committee.

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