N.C. Bill Would Add Protections For College Students Accused Of Sexual Assault

N.C. Bill Would Add Protections For College Students Accused Of Sexual Assault

11:27am Mar 16, 2021
The Old Well on campus at The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C. Proposed legislation addresses sexual assault investigative procedures at schools throughout the UNC System. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

North Carolina lawmakers have introduced legislation that would add protections for college students accused of sexual assault. But victim’s rights advocates are concerned. 

Senate Bill 117 was introduced by Republican Representatives Joyce Krawiec, Deanna Ballard, and Vickie Sawyer.

The proposal raises the burden of proof for UNC System schools to find students responsible for sexual assault. It guarantees accused students the right to legal counsel during the investigative and disciplinary process and opens the door to witness cross-examination.

Krawiec says the current system is unfair to students who may have been falsely accused of sexual assault, and that the legislation ensures due process rights. 

Critics of the bill say it puts too much burden of proof on the alleged victims.

Catherine Johnson is the director of the Guilford County Family Justice Center. She tells The News & Observer that the bill would create “more systemic barriers that survivors have to navigate” in an already arduous process.

A nearly identical bill failed to pass in 2019. If this version wins approval, it would take effect in the fall.

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