A new federal law that aims to crack down on sexual violence in schools is sparking debate among educators across the Gulf coast.
In addition to making it a felony to physically assault students, it would also require schools to have “zero tolerance” policies for sexual harassment and assault.
The legislation, dubbed the “Joint Law Enforcement Task Force,” has sparked outrage among educators and advocates across the country.
“It’s not about trying to make a distinction between what happens in a classroom and what happens outside of that classroom, but rather, it’s about making sure that people understand the consequences of their actions,” said Michelle Haney, a spokesperson for the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, which helped push for the legislation.
The bill would apply to any school district in the U.S., but it could have broader impact if enacted into law.
The law, called the Ensuring Access to Education Act, would require all school districts in the country to create an on-site sexual assault unit by March 1, 2020.
That unit would be a federally funded one-stop-shop for victims and their legal teams, according to a release.
The task force, which has received bipartisan support, is also proposing to expand sexual assault training for teachers and staff, to include sexual assault awareness classes and better training for schools to deal with sexual violence.
The task force also wants to establish a new “training academy” to teach the sexual violence problem.
It would also include additional resources for school districts to deal more effectively with sexual harassment, according the release.
The bill also calls for mandatory reporting of sexual assault and rape incidents to the Justice Department, as well as to provide funding to schools to develop training for students on how to handle sexual assault.
Critics of the bill say it will be difficult to implement because it will require a statewide approach, as states have been known to work with local authorities.
The legislation has been praised by victims and advocates, including a number of high-profile names who have been vocal about the issue.
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May wrote to the U