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House passes bill creating sex assault reporting guidelines for Utah universities

By Dennis Romboy, KSL | Posted - Feb 28th, 2018 @ 7:42am

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah House narrowly passed a bill late Tuesday aiming to balance confidentiality for college students who report sexual assaults to the school and administrators informing police to protect against potential campus predators.

HB254 would create guidelines for when universities may report incidents to local police if they see a clear and significant threat to the campus community.

"No woman, no man, no person should ever experience a brutal rape and find out that the school, in a position of authority, knew about five other victims …" said Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, the bill's sponsor.

The measure, which passed 40-33, also bars universities from sanctioning a student for code of conduct violations if they are victims or witnesses of sexual violence. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, argued that the bill would have a chilling effect on victims reporting sexual assaults.

"We’re going to take a step back with this bill," she said, noting that many victim advocates oppose the legislation.

But Rep. Tim Quinn, R-Heber City, said "how in the world" could there be a chilling effect when only one in 30 sexual assaults is reported.

"What we're doing now isn't working," he said.

Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, said universities must be free to override a victim's confidentiality and report the assault to police when campus safety is at risk. To do otherwise would be irresponsible, he said.

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