On January 12, 2021, Governor Charlie Baker signed landmark legislation directly addressing sexual violence on college and university campuses in Massachusetts. In the past, these cases fell under the federal jurisdiction of Title IX. However, this new law will impose obligations on schools to regularly evaluate student safety and train staff on violence prevention. It also covers punishments for those found guilty of sexual assault on college and university campuses.
The new law signed by Governor Baker will serve as the state’s version of Title IX, with a focus on prevention, reporting, and responding to assault. Title IX is a federal law that protects students from discrimination and holds schools responsible for harassment and assault on their campuses.
The Campus Sexual Violence Act will require universities to survey the campus climate every four years. Schools will be mandated to inform students of their current policies regarding sexual violence on campus. Students will complete surveys on campus safety in addition to awareness of preventative policies. The purpose of these surveys is to evaluate the effectiveness of the school’s efforts to educate students about misconduct and discipline.
A task force authorized by the Act will be responsible for developing questions for the surveys. It will be co-chaired by the Commissioners of Higher Education and Public Health. Institutions will conduct their own surveys if they are in compliance with the Campus Sexual Violence Act.
The Campus Sexual Violence Act, along with Title IX and the Clery Act, provide policies and requirements for students and institutions. Both Title IX and the Clery Act are federal policies that require schools to report violence on campus and convict those accused of misconduct.
The new law in Massachusetts will require schools to follow rules on the education, prevention, and conviction of misconduct cases.
The policies include the following:
- Colleges and universities must inform students of emergency services through crisis centers and protection from law enforcement.
- A detailed written report of the alleged misconduct is required, and both parties involved have the right to legal representation and access to evidence.
- Those who report misconduct will receive amnesty from disciplinary actions unless they participated in the alleged assault.
- At least one resource provider will receive special training and provide students with contacts for medical assistance, crisis centers, etc.
For those accused of misconduct, these policies are strict. By encouraging victims to seek out police or legal action, the accused is more likely to be arrested or summoned to court, affecting their permanent record. The misconduct report is likely to remain in the school’s records and damage the accused student’s reputation and, potentially, future job opportunities.
Under the new law, students accused of misconduct have few options for redemption or fair treatment. However, these students can file appeals and potentially change the outcome of the case. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that having equal rights to an appeal also gives the alleged victims the chance to shift the outcome in their favor as well.
What Happens to Those Accused of Assault?
When there is an accusation of assault, the school must provide a detailed notice of the alleged misconduct. Students accused of misconduct will then be notified of the allegations against them. Both parties will have equal access to representation and evidence related to the alleged abuse. Students who report sexual abuse have amnesty unless they contributed to the assault. An outcome notice is then released within seven days after the school has taken disciplinary action.
While the Campus Sexual Violence Act adds more stringent policies regarding misconduct, there is hope for the accused. Students who’ve been accused have a right to legal representation, evidence on their case, and an appeal. Experienced attorneys can help those accused of assault fight for the justice they deserve.
Maintaining Your Future
An accusation of sexual violence, regardless of whether or not it’s confirmed, can destroy a student’s future opportunities and standing reputation. Students who have a case against them often feel hopeless. A seasoned lawyer can help students understand their rights and pursue justice.
If you have been accused of misconduct, contact Parisi, Coan & Saccocio, PLLC today.