Two teenage victims of rape and their mothers spoke to Michigan’s House Law and Justice Committee at the capitol on Tuesday. They were supporting new legislation regarding students convicted of sexual assault.
House Bills 5530, 5531, and 5532 stem from a case out of Livingston county last year involving a Brighton high school student who many believe didn’t receive a strong enough punishment. He was accused of 20 counts of sexual assault involving three middle school girls, but through a plead deal was only sentenced to 45 days in a juvenile facility. The convicted teenager of sexual crimes was then given permission to go back to the same school the victims were attending after his sentence was served. This devastated his three victims and their parents.
“The sentence was crushing, it made me feel like it wasn’t worth all the pain,” says 14-year old victim Gianna Duva. “But what really crushed me is that he could possibly come back to the same school I go to.”
That was the crux of Tuesday’s testimony to lawmakers by Duva and fellow victim Mya Zaplitny, along with their mothers and House Representative Lana Theis out of Brighton, a co-sponsor of the three bills.
They addressed lawmakers to keep people convicted of sex crimes from ever being able to attend the same school as their victims.
“There’s no acceptable reason why a girl who has been accosted in the way that these girls were should have to sit on a bus with their assailant,” says Theis. “That should never happen.”
Right now, schools must remove people convicted of sex crimes that happen on school grounds, but this set of bills would force schools to expel students who are convicted of sex crimes against other students no matter where the attack took place. In the Brighton case, the sexual assaults took place off campus.
Ashley Duva, Gianna’s mom says once she realized her daughter’s attacker could return to the same school she wrote an e-mail to Theis, that kick-started her to start legislation, leading to allowing their voices to finally be heard by those who can make a change.
“From day 1 we wanted to make this negative into a positive and help out others,” says Duva. “There were so many holes in the process along the way that we had to bring attention to them.”
*House Bill 5530 prohibits an individual convicted of criminal sexual assault to enroll in the same school their victim attends.
*House Bill 5531 expands the mandatory expulsion law to include those who commit criminal sexual assault against another student in the same district they are enrolled in.
*House Bill 5532 expands the states personal protection order laws to require school buildings be included in a PPO.
If the bills are approved by the committee they’ll head to the full house for consideration.
Right now, the teenage boy is not attending school and is currently on house arrest.