Utah Senate Passes Campus Safety Amendments Bill Inspired by Lauren McCluskey

University of Utah student and track athlete Lauren McCluskey was killed in a shooting on campus on Tuesday, Oct 22. Photo by Steve C. Wilson, courtesy of the University of Utah.

University of Utah student and track athlete Lauren McCluskey was killed in a shooting on campus on Tuesday, Oct 22. Photo by Steve C. Wilson, courtesy of the University of Utah.

By Mandi Johansen

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Lauren McCluskey is remembered fondly at the University of Utah and by everyone who knew her. McCluskey was a bright and kind student with a great future whose tragic death on Oct. 22, 2018 has caused several pushes for changes in Utah law as well as procedures at the U involving sexual assault and lockdown protocols. The U’s response includes implementing changes aimed at further addressing campus safety issues and increasing safety on campus for students and others.

The most recent change that has come as a response to McCluskey’s passing is a bill that passed unanimously in the Utah State Senate on Feb. 26, 2019. The bill, SB134, details how campus officers should respond to cases involving sexual assault and relationship violence. This Campus Safety Amendments bill was sponsored by Sen. Jani Iwamoto, a Democrat from District 4, and the Assistant Minority Whip. Iwamoto introduced the bill on Feb. 25 by first talking about what parents want for their children when they send them to college, which can include things like “independence” and “new lifelong relationships.” Iwamoto said, “Unfortunately, the unthinkable can happen and we need safeguards in place so our children can have a better chance at fulfilling those dreams.” The bill will allow schools to “respond to the unthinkable with streamlined plans of action and survivor-centered standards,” according to Iwamoto.

SB134 covers sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. Iwamoto said the bill would require “campus safety training developed by the institution,” while speaking on the Senate floor on Monday. The bill would also help victims be able to identify and use institutions in place to support them.

The bill requires the eight public universities in Utah, as well as technical colleges, to create a plan for campus safety that will specifically address relationship violence and sexual assault. This includes resources for victims to know where to turn for help, how the institutions they contact keep the information confidential, how the university gets word out to the community after a crime and how students can request a security escort.

Also included in the bill is a call for student-sponsored groups to receive training annually on campus safety and preventing sexual assault.

In Lauren McCluskey’s case, there were measures that could have been taken to ensure her safety by addressing the concerns that she brought to the University Police Department prior to her death. McCluskey contacted Salt Lake City police about her concerns but was referred back to the UPD. The measure also requires more coordination between campus offices and organizations, university police and city and state law enforcement. The bill allows “flexibility with each unique campus” and “facilitates state wide collaboration in sharing best practices,” Iwamoto said.

Iwamoto quoted Salt Lake Chief of Police Mike Brown by saying, “Every time we allow these crimes to occur the system has failed and we need to do better.”

After passing in the Senate, the Campus Safety Amendments bill will next move on to the House floor to be discussed and voted on by the full House.

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