Students found responsible for sexually assaulting a classmate would no longer be allowed to remain at the victim’s school, under a bill drafted by state Sen. Scott Martin that Gov. Tom Wolf is expected to sign.
The House unanimously passed the bill Wednesday; the Senate unanimously passed it last month.
“Victims of sexual assault face unimaginable psychological pain that could be compounded by the possibility of being forced to regularly interact with the person who sexually assaulted or raped them,” Martin (R-Martic Township) said in a release upon the House’s vote. “We cannot allow that kind of situation to jeopardize the physical and emotional well-being of the victims of these reprehensible crimes.”
Martin wrote the bill after he was contacted by the mother of a girl in his district who had been raped by a classmate at an afterschool event. The attacker was adjudicated delinquent in juvenile court — which is the equivalent of a conviction in adult court — and was allowed to return to school.
“I was blown away when I found this out,” Martin said. While he did not have numbers, he said the issue happens more often than he would have thought, based on what school organizations told him.
And what had been happening, he said, is that victims would often end up leaving their school to avoid their attackers.
“To me, that was just unacceptable,” he said.
Under Martin’s bill, if a student is convicted or adjudicated delinquent, the school district must expel them, transfer them to an alternative education program or reassign them to a school or educational program within the district where they would not be in contact with the victim.
The measure would not apply to private schools, which have more leeway to punish students, Martin said.
The attacker and victim cannot be educated in the same school building, be transported together or participate in the same school-sponsored activities, according to the legislation.
Crimes covered include rape, sexual assault and indecent assault.