A State Board of Education member is questioning the number of sexual assaults reported on state college campuses.
“It’s just a string of zeroes,” she said of the column tallying forcible sexual assaults. “Initially, for maybe half a second, my brain could go ‘Wow, how wonderful there’s not a single rape at any of our campuses. That’s an incredible thing.’
But Fishman Lipsey said she doubts the news is that good. She asked the Florida Department of Education to look into the accuracy of the figures.
“Is there a massive amount of underreporting or something,” she asked, “that’s not enabling us to get a real picture? Because I can say without a shred of doubt that there’s no way that [with] 400-plus thousand students, there’s only seven forcible offenses in the entire state. That’s not realistic. “
Education Commissioner Pam Stewart noted most college system campuses are commuter schools. Sexual assaults are more likely to occur in college dorms.
“They may be more accurate than we recognize,” Stewart said, “because, remember, these are day schools – unlike universities.”
Fishman Lipsey also wants the state to look into new technology to improve campus safety. Most schools relied on a series of telephones – marked by blue lights – to connect students with campus police during emergencies. But Fishman Lipsey said there are now smart phone apps available to instantly connect students with police.
Polk State College president Eileen Holden said federal rules require accurate reporting and did not question the figures. She said college presidents would talk about the issue when they meet this summer.