House Bill 821, intended to help colleges and universities prevent and address sexual assaults, was signed into law by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner on August 21, 2015. The new law, which goes into effect August 1, 2016, mandates that every Illinois higher education institution develop a clear, comprehensive campus sexual violence policy, including detailed incident reporting options and university response guidelines, and provide a confidential adviser to victims to help them understand their options to report the crime and seek medical and legal assistance.

Specifically, the law mandates that each school do the following:

  1. Either establish its own campus-wide task force or participate in a regional task force for the purpose of coordinating with community leaders and service providers to prevent sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking assaults, and to ensure a coordinated response, in terms of both law enforcement and victim services. The task force must meet at least two times per year.
  2. On or before November 1, 2017, and every year thereafter, provide an annual report to the Department of Human Rights and the Office of the Attorney General with the following components:
    1. A copy of the higher education institution’s most recent comprehensive policy;
    2. A copy of the higher education institution’s most recent concise, written notification of a survivor’s rights and options under its comprehensive policy;
    3. The number, type, and number of people in attendance, if applicable, of primary prevention and awareness programs at the higher education institution;
    4. The number of incidents of sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking reported to the Title IX coordinator or other responsible employee;
    5. The number of confidential and anonymous reports to the higher education institution of sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking;
    6. The number of allegations in which the survivor requested not to proceed with the higher education institution’s complaint resolution procedure;
    7. The number of allegations of sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking that the higher education institution investigated;
    8. The number of allegations of sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking that were referred to local or state law enforcement;
    9. The number of allegations of sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking that the higher education institution reviewed through its complaint resolution procedure;
    10. With respect to all allegations of sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking reviewed under the higher education institution’s complaint resolution procedure, an aggregate list of the number of students who were (i) dismissed or expelled, (ii) suspended, (iii) otherwise disciplined, or (iv) found not responsible for violation of the comprehensive policy through the complaint resolution procedure during the reporting period.
  3. The Office of the Attorney General shall maintain on its website a list of all higher education institutions that fail to comply with the annual reporting requirements.
  4. Provide a confidential advisor where all communications between a confidential advisor and a survivor pertaining to an incident of sexual violence shall remain confidential, unless the survivor consents to the disclosure of the communication in writing, the disclosure falls within one of the exceptions, or failure to disclose the communication would violate state or federal law. The confidential advisor shall have no obligation to report crimes to the higher education institution or law enforcement, except to report to the Title IX coordinator on a monthly basis the number and type of incidents of sexual violence reported exclusively to the confidential advisor in accordance with the higher education institution’s reporting requirements.

These new requirements make it clear that, in addition to the federal government’s recent focus on schools’ responsibilities regarding sexual assault, states like Illinois are directing schools to spend time and resources on this issue. Thus, it is critical that colleges and universities know their new obligations under this new Illinois law as well as their Title IX obligations, have effective and comprehensive policies and procedures in place that comply with those obligations, and act in accordance with those obligations when an incident of sexual violence, or any form of sexual harassment, occurs.

For more information about this law or related issues, such as the handling of sexual misconduct allegations, Title IX or Clery Act compliance, or the handling of accommodation requests from transgender students and employees, please contact a member of the McGuireWoods Title IX team.

The Title IX team is part of the firm’s education team, which helps higher education institutions, K-12 schools, school boards, foundations and endowments address virtually every type of legal issue they may face.