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Bills would let schools keep sexual predators out

Cheyna Roth
Michigan Radio

A high school freshman came to the state Capitol today to advocate on behalf of sexual assault legislation.

Gianna Duva goes to Brighton High School. She was sexually assaulted by a fellow student off school grounds. Duva and her mother unsuccessfully petitioned the school board when they found out her assailant would be allowed to return to school with her after he finished his sentence. So they went to the Legislature. 

Now a bill would prevent someone who commits a form of criminal sexual conduct against another student from returning to school in the same building as the victim. The assailant could transfer to a different school or go to an online school.

Duva said she’s trying to help other students. 

“I want to make it easier for them, I want to tell them that it’s not going to be – I want to make it so they don’t have to go through what we had to go through,” she said.

Duva’s assailant did not return to their high school.

The bill's sponsor, state Rep. Lana Theis, R-Brighton, said there’s a gap in the law. She said officials aren’t able to kick a student out of school unless the sexual assault happens on school grounds. 

“When we mandate that our children need to be educated, we need to make sure that we’re creating an environment for them where they are absolutely protected,” she said.

But opponents say there are too many actions that are considered some form of criminal sexual conduct.

“If we really want to look at a criminal justice system as a process by which people can, yes, be punished if they committed a crime, but also be rehabilitated, then we have to look at everything on a case-by-case basis,” said Shelli Weisberg, political director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.

Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, was acting chair at the hearing. He said they’ll likely vote on the bills next week.

You can find out more information about HB 5530, HB 5531 and HB 5532 on the Legislature’s website.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R