At a roundtable discussion on campus safety held today at Cabrini College, U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan (PA-07) unveiled his newly introduced legislation, H.R. 5844, the Protecting Victims on Campus Act of 2012. Meehan's bipartisan legislation seeks to reform and strengthen safety protections on college campuses.
"As a former prosecutor, I saw firsthand the growing need for action to combat violent crime on college campuses," said Meehan, a former District Attorney and U.S. Attorney. "The Department of Justice estimates that 95% of assaults on campus go unreported. Although the Clery Act has helped us make tremendous strides in student safety, reforms to strengthen the law are needed now more than ever. Over the last year, we have seen terrifying examples of what happens when crimes on campus go unreported."
At today's discussion, Meehan was joined by campus safety advocates, local law enforcement officials, and victims services organizations including Security on Campus, Inc., the Delaware County Domestic Abuse Project, Crime Victims Center of Chester County, and the Delaware County Women Against Rape. Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan also joined the discussion.
The Protecting Victims on Campus Act of 2012 seeks to strengthen a 1990 law, the Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Reporting Statistics Act (The Clery Act). Named after a Lehigh University student who was raped and murdered in her dorm room, the law was written to ensure parents, students, and employees are fully informed of any criminal activity occurring on campus. The Clery Act was a landmark measure for transparency and student safety, yet reforms to update the law are necessary. College administrators have found it difficult to uphold certain aspects of the law because of vagueness of key terms and uncertain guidance from the Department of Education. As a result there is concern that crimes are being underreported on American college campuses.The law must also be strengthened to ensure swift action for crimes where immediate action is necessary for campus safety.
The Protecting Victims on Campus Act of 2012 will address several key areas:
· Provide clarity for what is required of schools for compliance with the Clery Act
· Ensure that schools are identifying Campus Security Authorities
· Require schools to report crimes that involve minors
· Encourage greater disclosure by shoring up reporting requirements
· Expedite response to danger
· Solicit information regarding crimes
· Provide training for compliance with the law
· End institutional cover-ups
· Expedite investigations
· Protect whistleblowers
· Protect the identities of victims
H.R. 5844 is cosponsored by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Todd Platts (R-PA), Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), John Carney (D-DE) and Bob Brady (D-PA).
At today's discussion, the group also discussed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which passed the House last week without Meehan's support due to the lack of campus safety protections. Meehan is a longtime VAWA advocate and recently held two forums in the 7th district about the need to reauthorize VAWA. Regarding his vote, Meehan said, "From my years as a district attorney who prosecuted abusers, I know first-hand how important it is to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. But this bill missed a critical opportunity to strengthen protections for women on campus."