U.S. bill prohibits schools from concealing results of judicial hearings from campus crime victims

David Shick was a junior at Georgetown University in 2000 when he diedafter hitting his head during a parking lot brawl. His parents did not learnthe fate of his alleged assailant until a year later when they sued theschool.The student implicated in Shick’s death was not charged with a crime,but appeared before the university’s disciplinary board. School representativestold the Shicks they would have to sign a non-disclosure agreement. After theShicks won the information in an out-of-court settlement, they learned thestudent had been granted a suspension deferment and graduated without servingit.A bill reintroduced to the U.S. Congress in January would grant crimevictims and their families access to the results of school disciplinary hearingsconnected to their cases. The bill would make it unlawful for schools to concealthe information or to mandate that victims not reveal it to anyone else. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) reintroduced the David Shick Honesty inCampus Justice Act to the U.S. House of Representatives as H.R. 81 in Januarywith the hope that this will be the year for Congress to tackle higher educationissues.S. Daniel Carter, vice-president of Security on Campus, Inc., saidlegislators prefer to save bills and group them by topic rather than review arandom assortment each term. He said 1998 was the last year Congress heard aslew of higher education bills and thinks “this will be theyear.”Frelinghuysen first introduced the David Shick Honesty in CampusJustice Act in 2003 to amend the federal Family Educational Rights and PrivacyAct. FERPA determines when schools are allowed to release students’ educationrecords. It does not, however, prohibit schools from requiring non-disclosureagreements before releasing the results of an alleged perpetrator’s judicialhearing, even to the victim of the incident in question. H.R. 81 would allowvictims of “any crime of violence or a nonforcible sex offense” to learn oftheir alleged perpetrator’s punishment and do with that information whatever heor she sees fit. The affirmative notice requirement of the federal Clery Act,which mandates that schools publish annual campus crime statistics, alreadygrants sexual assault victims the right to access perpetrators’ disciplinaryhearing results. H.R. 81 would extend that right to victims of other violentcrimes and bolster the Clery Act’s disclosure mandate for sexual assaultvictims.”In addition to filing a complaint with the Department ofEducation’s Case Management Team, [a sexual assault victim seeking records]would also file a complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office,” whichenforces FERPA, Carter said. Carter said that in addition to providingvictims with emotional closure, the bill would increase general safety oncampus.”Anything that makes victims more comfortable with coming forward andparticipating in the disciplinary process, encourages reporting andparticipation in the process, makes campus safer,” he said. “[H.R. 81] gives[victims] the unfettered freedom that if they believe there is a threat that’sallowed to remain on campus to warn the rest of the campus. It’s not necessarilythe best thing to put the obligation on them but if they want to do it they havethe freedom to and the law shouldn’t tell them they can’t.”Julie GreenBataille, a spokeswoman for Georgetown University, said the school remainsneutral.”Georgetown has not taken a specific position on the legislation,”she said. “Obviously, if changes to the law were to occur, we would comply andseek guidance as necessary to implement them.” H.R. 81 was assigned to theCommittee on Education and the Workforce and moved to the 21st CenturyCompetitiveness subcommittee in early February. Rep. John Duncan, Jr. (R-Tenn.)signed on as a cosponsor in April.