Task force examines handling of sexual abuse cases on campus

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COLCHESTER, Vt. (WCAX) Colleges in Vermont and across the country continue to grapple with how to handle cases of sexual abuse. Now, a new task force made up of lawmakers, educators and advocates is looking to come up with solutions.

State officials last year created a task force on campus sexual harm to break down the issues surrounding sexual assaults, violence and stalking on college campuses in Vermont. They hope to come up with policies in which both victims and those accused are treated fairly and responsibly.

One of the initiatives they focused on during a meeting at St. Michael's College Wednesday is transcript notations. That's when colleges add notations to transcripts for students found in violation of sexual misconduct and who then transfer to other schools while their investigations are ongoing.

The policy has been introduced in states including Virginia and New York. Officials from William & Mary told task force members that while the policy at that Virginia college holds students charged with sexual abuse accountable, it also can deter victims from reporting.

The practice of adding notations has gotten mixed reactions. Many have said that it changes the fundamental purpose of a transcript. William & Mary officials said that they haven't been able to measure if the new policy has prevented sexual harm from happening or has reduced recidivism. Additionally, many say that the requirement for transcript notation has the potential to turn disciplinary proceedings into legal cases.