Legislation To Prevent Sexual Misconduct In New Mexico Schools Unanimously Advances In State Senate

Rep. Liz Thomson

House Democrats News:

…Establishes ‘affirmative consent’ as standard for sexual activity, creates task force on sexual misconduct

SANTA FE – Legislation updating the policies in New Mexico schools to proactively prevent sexual assault and harassment and to establish a clear standard for affirmative consent passed its first Senate committee today with a unanimous 6-0 vote.

The legislation passed out of the House last week with a bipartisan 58-7 vote. 

House Bill 142, sponsored by Rep. Liz Thomson (D-Albuquerque), creates a task force on sexual misconduct, and requires public schools and all post-secondary educational institutions to adopt policies and procedures addressing affirmative consent, the prevention of sexual assault, dating violence, harassment and sexual misconduct, as well as procedures for investigating reports of sexual misconduct. The bill establishes affirmative consent as the standard for sexual activity in the public school code. 

“If young adults understand early in life that affirmative consent is a must, and learn how to recognize and stop dangerous sexual behavior, they will have safer and more positive relationships for life,” Rep. Thomson said. “We need to ensure that our schools’ policies establish affirmative consent as the standard and that they are proactively informing students about these issues. We can stop many instances of assault and non-consensual activity before they ever happen. When violations do occur, our schools have to deal with them appropriately.” 

“Affirmative consent” refers to the knowing, voluntary, and mutual decision among participants to engage in sexual activity, with clear permission provided.

Sexual assault continues to be a widespread issue on college campuses. Among undergraduate students, 26.4% of females and 6.8% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.¹ Putting school policies in place that make clear that affirmative consent is a requirement for sexual activity and ensuring that all schools are working to proactively prevent assault and misconduct is a necessary prerequisite to addressing these issues. Under HB 142, post-secondary educational institutions would work with the Department of Higher Education to monitor and report on instances of sexual misconduct, providing New Mexico with an ongoing understanding of continuing problems. 

Members of the public can track legislation on the New Mexico Legislature website, access committee meetings and House floor sessions via the Webcasts tab, or participate by Zoom to provide public comment on committee hearings. During the 2021 Legislative Session, the House of Representatives is focused on passing critical legislation while protecting the health and safety of the public, the staff, and the legislators.

¹. David Cantor, Bonnie Fisher, Susan Chibnall, Reanna Townsend, et. al. Association of American Universities (AAU), Report on the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct (Jan. 17, 2020).

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