In June 2019, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf furthered his “It’s On Us” campaign by signing House Bill 1615 into law, which requires colleges and universities to review and adopt policy on sexual harassment and violence as well as implement an online reporting system within a year.
"The reluctance of assault victims to report these acts to authorities blocks their changes for justice and helps understate the scope and severity of the problem," said Senator Baker. This new legislation is being championed in the hopes that it will provide additional resources for student victims who don't report sexual violence because they are afraid to reveal their identity.
With this new legislation, Pennsylvania lawmakers are hoping that this will make campus in their state even safer.
These new requirements must be in place by June 28, 2020.
What Every Institution Should Know
If your institution is located within Pennsylvania and accepting financial aid from the government, this legislation requires you to comply with the following:
- Adopt a written policy on sexual harassment and violence that informs a victim of their rights.
- Specify in the policy that whoever reports an incident shall not be sanctioned for admitting in the report a violation of the institution’s student conduct policy.
- Establish and maintain online reporting systems to receive complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence from students and employees. (Access to the data collected must be restricted.)
- Institutions cannot fail to or refuse to investigate an anonymous report because it is anonymous.
- Provide information regarding the online reporting system to students and employees, and about organizations representing victims.
Above is an overview of PA HB 1615, please ensure you are compliant by reading the full legislation.
What's Required of the System?
By June 2020, institutions are required to establish an "online reporting system." The purpose of this system is to receive complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence from both students and employees.
The following is required of the online reporting system:
- The system shall permit anonymous reports.
- The system shall provide students and employees submitting complaints the following:
- Information regarding who will receive the complaint as well as access to the complaint.
- How the information gathered through the system will be used.
- Contact information of on-campus and off-campus organizations that serve victims of sexual harassment and violence.
- The system shall prominently post the online system's policy regarding reports and investigations. It should also encourage students and employees to review the policy.
- The system should only allow individuals with explicit authorization to enter, update, share, or disseminate data related to a complaint.
- The system should have role-based access features that limits the access to the actions listed above.
- The system should track actions after a complaint is filed via a data audit trail.
If a complaint is submitted, the university officials that are responsible must follow the process establish through the required sexual harassment and violence policy. And, an institution may not refuse to investigate an anonymous report because it is anonymous.
How SafeColleges Alert Can Help
Students and faculty often know what's happening on campus before you do, making each a crucial resource to your administration. The SafeColleges Alert Tip Reporting System will keep you connected to your campus 24/7; 365.
- Anonymous Submissions – Provide your students, staff, and faculty with the trust and privacy they need in a tip reporting system, so they feel safe to report sexual assault, harassment, or violence on campus.
- Instant Reporting – Administrators are immediately notified of every tip submitted, so you can take appropriate action. Two-way communication between administrators and tipsters facilitates follow-up and resolution.
- User Management and Automated Delegation – Administrators can set up user privileges in the administrative dashboard, so you can ensure that data collected is secure and only seen by those who have access. And, workflows automate many of the labor-intensive steps involved in tip resolution, and administrators can even delegate tips to colleagues and have virtual conversations within the system.
- Administrative Reports & Comprehensive Analytics – A variety of administrative reports let you monitor safety trends by victim, offender, building, and incident type, so you can be even more proactive in your prevention efforts. Data collected can help compile annual Clery Reports.
In addition, SafeColleges Alert provides institutions with free customizable fliers, posters, campus announcements, and handbook copy that help you communicate this valuable resource campus-wide with your specific tip reporting instructions.
Comply with PA HB 1615
SafeColleges Alert can help you comply with HB 1615 and provide a safe way for sexual violence victims, or those of any type of campus violence, to report it anonymously to your administration.