Sexual assault has been a major problem on college campuses, and House Bill 308 aims to prevent it. (Photo by motortion/Adobe Stock)

College sexual assault prevention training could be required

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Government

Sexual assault has been a major problem on college campuses, and House Bill 308 aims to prevent it. (Photo by motortion/Adobe Stock)

Sexual assault has been a major problem on college campuses, and House Bill 308 aims to prevent it. (Photo by motortion/Adobe Stock)

A bill aimed at reducing the widespread problem of sexual assault on college campuses soared through the House Education Committee Wednesday.

House Bill 308, sponsored by Rep. Kim Williams, D-Marshallton and committee chair, mandates that employees of institutions of higher education and students receive training in sexual assault prevention. 

Although the current law makes training available, it has not been required. Refresher training would be required for employees at least every two years.

HB 308 also changes the reporting period in which academic institutions must report information on campus sexual assaults from the calendar year to the academic year. 

Rep. Sean Lynn, D-Dover didn’t understand the change.

“When you do the training during academic years, you can actually see it,” she said. “When it’s done by calendar year it’s split up so it’s hard to see if they’re actually 100% or only 50%, and this will make that more clear.”

Under the bill, the Department of Justice must  post the annual reports from the previous five years on its website and to include the aggregate data from the previous five years in each report so that data trends are easily identified.

Becca Cotto, director of racial and social justice and advocacy at YCWA Delaware, a social change advocacy group, gave several statistics about the prevalence of sexual assaults and violence on college campuses:

  • College-aged women are four times as likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the general population.
  • Among U.S. undergraduates, 23% of women and 5% of men experience rape or sexual assault, and the majority know their attacker.
  • More than 90% of campus sexual assaults go unreported.

“Sexual violence is a serious public health problem that affects millions of people each year,” Cotto said. “Prevention could help.”

Leadership at Delaware State University was under heat in their Joint Finance Committee hearing in 2023.

After asking for millions in state funding for fiscal year 2024, several students testified that there are major safety concerns on campus including sharing horrific stories of sexual assault. 

One mother said her daughter went to DSU as a virgin, and was raped her first day at school. 

Students called for more police officers, training in trauma, resources for victims and more.

RELATED: College budget hearings bring up safety, salary concerns

In DSU’s Joint Finance Committee hearing this year, no students testified about safety concerns, and President Tony Allen said there have been more measures put into place to prevent these incidents.

Teacher pathways

A pair of bills from Williams, aim to help support students on their journey to becoming an educator in Delaware, hopefully negating the ongoing national teacher shortage.

House Bill 331 creates a scholarship for students who have completed a Delaware Teacher Academy and are enrolled in a Delaware Educator Preparation Program. 

The scholarship supplements the Educator Support Scholarship and is intended to fill a $2,500 funding gap for aspiring educators who are in their first year at an Educator Preparation Program.

That program helps people gain teaching certifications needed to work in Delaware schools. 

To date, about 930 senior high school students are enrolled in a Delaware Teacher Academy, which contains concentrated coursework that can lead to student-teaching opportunities, certifications and college credits.

The bill comes with a fiscal note reflecting a state cost of about $590,000 to $1.78 million annually. 

Costs are estimated to show 25-75% participation of Delaware Teacher Academy students continuing their education through a Delaware Educator Preparation Program. 

The maximum projection if all Delaware Teacher Academy Students enroll is estimated to be $2.3 million.

​​The scholarship award is limited to one year.

House Bill 332 codifies the teacher academy pathways program that prepares students for careers in elementary and secondary education. 

It requires the Department of Education to update and revise statewide standards and guidelines for teacher academies and provide technical assistance to local education agencies to meet those standards and guidelines. 

It also requires that teacher academies offer:

  • Value-added credits to students who have completed the credits required by the initial program of study
  • Work-based immersion options. 

The bill also requires the education department to publish an annual report summarizing each teacher academy program in the state, including the number of participants in the program and the number of participants who successfully transition to a program or institute of higher learning in the field of education.

It will cost the state $25,000 a year, plus a one-time allocation of $75,000 in its first year of implementation.

All three bills passed unanimously and head to the full House for consideration. 

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