EL PASO, Texas -- A new state law aims to hold faculty and staff on Texas college campuses accountable, if they don’t report certain forms of harassment or misconduct against students. Texas Senate Bill 212 took effect this week.
SB212 includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. Things that some students say are tough to talk about.
“It happens all the time,” said Victoria Hernandez, a student at the University of Texas at El Paso. “It happens to everybody, not just females but also males.”
“A lot of things do happen on campus sometimes and sometimes it doesn't get dealt with in the right way or students feel unsure of whether they should report it or not,” said student Jessica Hernandez.
Employees who fail to report these cases can lose their jobs or face criminal charges, including Class A or Class B misdemeanors, which can include jail time and fines.
The law exempts students who are employed by the university and university employees who have experienced sexual misconduct themselves. Certain employees with designated confidentiality will also be exempt, such as those in positions of counseling and healthcare, who will only have to report the type of incident.
UTEP’s Dean of Students and Associate Vice President, Catie McCorry-Andalis, says the university has been preparing faculty for months. She says more than 1,000 members of the university’s faculty and staff have been trained.
“It involves both information about the law specifically at the federal and state level,” McCorry-Andalis said, “but it also gives scenarios. What if you're confronted about this situation, how should you manage it how should you handle it?”
Texas state Rep. Mary González says the law is necessary in ensuring students feel safe on campus.
“What this does is makes the state an equal partner in creating a culture that says that we will not have campuses that are unsafe for students,” González said.
For some UTEP students, it does just that.
“Now we have this law that’s saying it’s ok to come out and say that you were hurt, it happens you know?” said student Victoria Hernandez.
The law is a step that some say puts Texas in a leading role in the national conversation about reporting requirements.
You can read SB 212’s full text here.