Will Others Follow? Virginia Requiring Transcript Notations for Sexual Violence
Starting this month, certain Virginia institutions of higher education are required, by statute, to prominently note on a student’s transcript if the student is suspended for, has been dismissed for, or withdraws from the institution while under investigation for an offense involving sexual violence. The statute defines “sexual violence” as physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or against a person incapable of giving consent, and requires that the notation is made in the following form: “[Suspended, Dismissed, or Withdrew while under investigation] of [insert name of institution’s code, rules, or set of standards].” The New York State Assembly followed suit, passing a similar law last month which requires institutions of higher education to include a notation on a student’s transcript if the student is suspended or expelled based upon a finding that the student committed an act of sexual violence. The California State Legislature has also introduced a similar bill that would require institutions of higher education to indicate on a student’s transcript when the student is ineligible to reenroll due to suspension or expulsion during the period of time the student is ineligible to reenroll. This bill has been re-referred to the California Senate Appropriations Committee.
One of the primary purposes of these statutes is to restrict a student’s ability to transfer to a new institution following discipline for or during investigation into sexual misconduct. This issue has been gaining traction, but has also been met with some resistance. A similar proposal in Maryland was halted after advocacy groups such as the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault opposed the bill based on concerns that the requirement would turn disciplinary proceedings into fully litigated trials.
Even in the absence of a statutory requirement, institutional policies often mandate transcript notations in the event of misconduct. As set forth in the pending California bill, however, existing institutional policies often have “significant inconsistencies” as they vary greatly from institution to institution.
As these statutes continue to gain attention, it will be interesting to see if and how other states choose to address the issue.