An official with the Arkansas Department of Higher Education told lawmakers Thursday the department is moving ahead with forming procedures to try to address sexual assault on college campuses.
The Department is approaching a November 3 deadline to create a plan for preventing sexual assault and for providing more comprehensive education on how sexual assault is legally defined.
The requirements were put in place after the passage of House Bill 1518 by Rep. James Sturch (R-Batesville), who noted colleges and universities in Arkansas currently don't share details on what measures they are taking to prevent sexual assault.
"I want to make sure we are being proactive instead of reactive," Sturch said.
Ann Clemmer with the Department of Higher Education said there is indeed a lack of communication between the schools and the Department that needs to be remedied. Colleges and universities receiving federal funding must submit information to the federal government regarding sexual violence and the prevention of sexual assault, but those federal reports are never shared with the state.
"We don't know what [the schools] are doing to prevent [sexual assault]. They don't report to us their compliance with federal requirements, so we're not in that information loop," said Clemmer.
"My goal is to make sure that, as a state legislature, we're on top of things. [That we're] making sure that it is being addressed on our college campuses," said Rep. Sturch.
Clemmer said she thinks there is widespread misinformation about sexual assault, and she doesn't think students are the only ones who need to be educated. The 59-year-old said administrators might not even understand how sexual assault is defined.
"Even it may be administrators of my era that don't assume assault is the definition of assault. Or they think 'that's just people horsing around.' Or, 'she passed out, what was she thinking?'."
Clemmer said she'll be looking for information from schools to show they're going beyond a basic pamphlet or easily-dismissed video when providing education.