Legislature passes stronger campus safety bill

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) Sixteen years after the disappearance of a University at Albany student, lawmakers have passed a measure requiring New York colleges and universities to inform local law enforcement of a missing student or a violent felony within 24 hours.

Suzanne Lyall’s disappearance in 1998 prompted the Legislature to pass the College Safety Act in 1999. It requires colleges and universities to have plans for notifying local law enforcement of any violent felony offense or missing person on campus. But it didn’t require the schools to actually report the incident to outside authorities.

On Wednesday the Republican-led Senate unanimously passed the updated College Safety Act. The Democratic-led Assembly passed the measure last month.

Lyall’s parents, Doug and Mary Lyall, said that the state police didn’t get involved with their daughter’s disappearance until three days after she went missing.

“This is a long time coming,” Doug Lyall said after watching the bill’s passage. “This should have been part of the original law, but it wasn’t. It’s a no brainer.”

Mary Lyall says before state police were involved, university police patrolled classrooms in the hope of finding Suzanne.

“There was definitely a delay,” Doug Lyall told the Associated Press. “The college was investigating it on their own. It didn’t hit the news until that Wednesday when the police got involved. So really nobody knew about it.”

UAlbany has their own police force on campus that investigates violent felonies.

The measure also extends to violent felonies, such as rape. Sen. Kathleen Marchione, a Republican from the Albany area and sponsor of the bill, says that her legislation will not interfere with the Federal Campus Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights, which gives the victim of a sexual offense the ability to choose whether or not to report the offense to the police.

The legislation comes on the heels of the U.S. Department of Education investigating four New York colleges— Sarah Lawrence College, Binghamton University, Hobart and William Smith Colleges and Hunter College_for possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints.

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