ST. PAUL –On Monday, the Minnesota House passed the Higher Education Omnibus Bill which includes a provision authored by Representative Marion O'Neill (R-Maple Lake) to address the serious and devastating issue of sexual assault on college campuses. The bill passed on a bipartisan vote 72-55.
"Every student deserves to feel safe on their college campus," said Rep. O'Neill. "This legislation will move our state in the right direction by protecting, educating and empowering survivors of sexual assault with the ultimate goal of preventing this serious crime from ever taking place. Working across the aisle, Rep. Debra Hilstrom and I collaborated with student groups, the University of Minnesota, MnSCU, private colleges and the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault to craft legislation that will make a real impact on the safety of Minnesota college students, and I am pleased it's advancing as part of the Higher Education Omnibus Bill."
This provision in the omnibus bill creates a uniform sexual assault policy for postsecondary institutions of Minnesota, protecting both students and employees. Victims’ rights are expanded in order to protect them during the reporting process, disciplinary proceedings, and after. It also creates the option for online reporting.
A key highlight of this legislation includes uniform amnesty which prevents a postsecondary institution from punishing a sexual assault victim who was in violation of the student conduct policy by using drugs and/or alcohol during the assault.
Additionally, the bill creates a memorandum of understanding between schools and their local law enforcement agencies to ensure all sides understand their responsibilities in the investigation, communication, evidence preservation and information sharing throughout the process. It also requires each institution to have a walk-in location staffed with trained confidential advocates. And if the institution has a health center, incidents of sexual assault will be included in their health screening.
Finally, the bill offers comprehensive training for security officers, administrators and other officials to whom a victim would report a sexual assault, along with training for students on how to protect themselves.
"I am very proud of the work we accomplished together, reaching across the aisle, working with the institutions and advocates alike to protect students and employees on college campuses," added Rep. O'Neill.