SGA senator looks into mandatory reporting

courtesy photo

courtesy photo

During a public forum at the SGA Senate, a senior political science major and SGA senator Aaliyah Elbert brought up her intentions to create legislation to make mandatory reporting more visible to students.

“I want to get Title IX’s message out there about mandatory reporting, making people aware of what Title IX’s vision is,” Elbert said.

Mandatory reporting is the law in Mississippi. According to MS Code 97-5-51, a mandatory reporter is any individual performing their duties and must report any sexual crime. They must report the name and address of the victim and any other information known to the reporter.

“[My legislation] proposes that [a mandatory reporting notice] is on the syllabus,” Elbert said. “There is an actually a template for all syllabi, and that is an optional requirement, so I am hoping to make it mandatory.”

Elbert said she saw an instance of a student telling a teacher about their sexual assault experience and not knowing that the teaching was legally required to report it.

“The professor had to make a choice on reporting it, and she ended up having to report it. It was just very uncomfortable because it happened in a classroom setting,” Elbert said. “I know the girl personally, so I know that while she was fine with having people know it happened to her, I know she didn’t want to go through it all over again.”

Professor of English Jameela Lares, Ph.D., although she does not put the notice on her syllabus, she tells students about it on the first day of class and has the notice posted on canvas.

“I put it on [Canvas] and tell the students about it, so I do make notice of it,” Lares said. “My feelings [towards mandatory reporting] is that it is the law. I have to keep the law other than that I don’t think I have any feelings.” Lares said she has not experienced an instance where she had to report.

Senior communication studies major and SGA president McKenna Stone said she was aware of Elbert’s research into mandatory reporting.

“From my understanding, she aims to better educate students about USM’s policy on mandatory reporting as well as safety and wellness resources on campus,” Stone said via email. “It is vital for our student body to be aware of the various resources offered at our university.”

Another issue both Elbert and Stone mention is the knowledge of who is and is not a mandatory reporter.

“Additionally, students need to understand who qualifies as a mandatory reporter, because not all information can legally be considered confidential,” Stone said.

According to MS code 97-5-51 (b), those who work as health care practitioners, clergy members, teachers, child care providers, law enforcers or commercial image processors are mandated to report sexual crimes. On Title IX’s website, it said that unless designated as a confidential resource, all University employees

Stone said she supports the work that Elbert is doing because the information needs to be visible to all students.

“I support Senator Elbert’s efforts to better educate students about these important pieces of information,“ Stone said.