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Utah Universities Vary In Lauren’s Law Implementation

Oct 22, 2019, 7:06 PM

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Lauren’s Law, also known as SB 134, was passed in the 2019 General Session of the Utah Legislature following the tragic death of University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey.

Lauren’s Law

The law, penned by state Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay, gives Utah schools and technical colleges requirements to improve safety on campus. These include:

  • Creation of a campus safety plan, to include:
    • Where people can find the policies and procedures related to covered offenses
    • School and community resources for victims
    • Victim rights, including measures the school takes to ensure victim confidentiality through all steps of an investigation
    • How the school informs its campus community of a crime that presents a threat
    • Availability and accessibility of campus police
    • How to call campus police and report off-campus offenses
    • School efforts to increase campus safety
      • Changes made in the last 18 months
      • Changes coming in the next 24 months
    • Safety plan posted on the website and around campus
  • Train students and faculty on:
    • Bystander intervention
    • Sexual consent
    • Awareness and prevention of covered offenses
Utah Sen. Jani Iwamoto, 4th District, discusses SB 134.

Utah Sen. Jani Iwamoto, 4th District, discusses SB 134.

Each university must report to the Utah Legislature every November on the implementation of these requirements and their plans going forward to address campus safety.

Iwamoto said her priority with this bill was not only providing information but making sure students can find it when they need it most.

“One of the victim’s advocates said it’s hard to navigate on a regular day, and if you’re in crisis, it’s almost impossible,” she said.

University Implementation

All these measures were to be implemented by schools by July 2019.

KSL Investigators wanted to know: How are schools implementing the changes? And are they easy to access for possible crime victims?

We looked at the eight state universities: University of Utah, Utah State University, Weber State University, Utah Valley University, Southern Utah University, Salt Lake Community College, Snow College and Dixie State University.

First, we tried to find the Campus Safety Plan. Six of the eight universities have rolled this into the federally required Clery Act report, an annual report aimed at providing transparency around campus crime policies and statistics.

SUU and Snow College created a separate document that outlined the new law’s requirements step by step.

Next, we looked at the availability of required classes. Most campuses have already implemented the required course offerings. Only Snow College had not finished this piece, but its website indicated it would be launching the classes within the next 24 months.

Changing Campus Culture

While the U has been under intense scrutiny after McCluskey’s murder, other Utah universities deal with on-campus sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.

We looked at campus crime statistics for those same universities and found that between 2016 and 2018, there were 117 rape complaints, 85 cases of domestic violence, and 171 reports of stalking.

Campus crime statistics for all universities in Utah from 2016 - 2018.

Campus crime statistics for all universities in Utah from 2016 – 2018.

Utah State University has had some high-profile sexual assault cases in the spotlight in recent years, including the conviction of Torrey Green, who raped six women.

USU began surveying students on campus sexual misconduct in 2017 following Green’s arrest. Participants were asked multiple questions, including about their experiences with sexual harassment and their attitudes toward sexual misconduct.

Amanda DeRito, USU’s Director of Crisis Communications and Issues Management, told KSL Investigators they’ve pushed several campaigns to positively change campus culture. New survey results from 2019 show their efforts are working.

“We did a lot of education,” said DeRito. “More students knew how to report sexual misconduct and a lot more knew how to seek services and find confidential help as well. We also realize that just between the two years that we did our surveys, we were able to move the dial on students who expected others in their peer groups to exhibit good bystander behavior.”

Reports Due in November

All of these universities will have to answer to the state legislature on Nov. 20, both to the Education Interim Committee and the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee. They are required to report annually on what changes have been made in the past year and what changes they anticipate making in the coming year.

Iwamoto said she hopes the universities will send representatives in person to discuss these reports, so legislators can ask questions and work out the best ways forward in campus safety.

“It’s not like you have this checklist, you’ve done it, it’s over,” she said. “It’s always looking ahead.”

Campus Safety Plans

To view each university’s campus safety plan, as required by SB134, click on the links below:

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Utah Universities Vary In Lauren’s Law Implementation