RADNOR — U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, R-7, of Upper Darby, discussed legislation Tuesday that would reform and strengthen safety protections on college campuses.
Meehan said House Resolution 5844, known as The Protecting Victims on Campus Act of 2012, would strengthen the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Reporting Statistics Act.
The Clery Act of 1990 was named after a Lehigh University student who was raped and murdered in her dorm room in 1986.
Meehan said the Department of Justice estimates 95 percent of assaults go unreported on college campuses.
“Clearly, we have a tremendous issue,” Meehan said during a roundtable discussion about his legislation at Cabrini College on Tuesday. “I would call it a national crisis.”
Meehan said his bill would correct the vagueness of reporting requirements under the Clery Act. He said it would seek clarity about individuals who are responsible for oversight of the Clery Act.
The bill would protect the identity of victims and whistleblowers.
The bill also would require schools to report crimes that involve minors, which is especially important following the Penn State University scandal, Meehan said.
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was charged late last year for alleged sexual abuse of 10 boys between 1994 and 2008. He has denied the charges.
Meehan was joined by a group of about 25 people at the roundtable discussion, including campus safety advocates, local law enforcement officials and victims services organizations from Delaware, Chester and Montgomery counties.
Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan stressed the importance of involving law enforcement officials at the beginning of internal campus investigations involving sexual assault. His comments were echoed by Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Samantha Cauffman.
Abigail Boyer, a spokeswoman for Security on Campus Inc., stressed the importance of education about sexual assault on college campuses. In particular, she said students need to know how to report these incidents. Security on Campus Inc. was founded by Jeanne Clery’s parents, Connie and Howard Clery.
Peggy Gusz, executive director of the Crime Victims Center of Chester County, agreed with Boyer’s comments. She said it’s important for bystanders to know how to help the victims.
“There are a lot of different ways the bystanders can get involved and change the climate,” said Boyer.
Meehan introduced the bill on May 18 and it was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. The bill currently has five co-sponsors, including U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, D-1, of Philadelphia.
Meehan, a former Delaware County district attorney and U.S. attorney, voted against House Resolution 4970, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2012, last week.
He said he voted against the bill because it did not adequately address crime on college campuses.