South Dakota higher education officials won’t ask state lawmakers to do away with a requirement that schools automatically report sexual assaults to police.
Mike Rush, executive director of the South Dakota Board of Regents, said Thursday that too many questions arose from law enforcement groups in trying to put together a legislative proposal that would allow the state’s six colleges and two special schools to provide confidential sexual assault reporting. Currently, when student victims of sexual assault come forward, school officials must file a report with law enforcement.
South Dakota statute says anyone with knowledge of a felony who doesn’t disclose that to the proper authorities could face misdemeanor charges punishable with up to one year in jail, a $2,000 fine or both. So counselors or professors have had to steer victims toward law enforcement officers if they want to report the offense.
But Rush said reservations from law enforcement groups and the attorney general’s office were enough to slow the regents’ push to propose the measure in 2016.
“It became obvious to us that we just didn’t have enough time to do the right vetting of this legislation,” Rush said.
The regents took up the proposal earlier this year and sent a letter to various state officials suggesting that legislators consider draft legislation ahead of January.
But Rush said law enforcement groups wanted to consult with victims rights groups and others to ensure the legislation wouldn’t create unintended negative results.
“We’re not going to give up on it,” Rush said. “We just need another year.”
Chance Costello, executive director of the South Dakota student federation, at the board’s meeting Wednesday said in surveying students at each of the state’s six public colleges and universities he found reaction to the legislation was positive.
Opponents have said allowing for confidential reporting could lead to fewer prosecuted cases.