For several years, ban the box policies have been gathering steam at the local and state government levels. Now, they are becoming more common at colleges and universities, bolstered by bills like the one signed into law by Louisiana Governor John Bell Edwards. Per a report from The Washington Free Beacon, Edwards has signed legislation that will generally make it illegal for public colleges and universities in the state to inquire about their applicants’ criminal history.
Under the new law, Louisiana colleges and universities that receive public funding won’t be able to ask blank questions about criminal history on their college applications. However, the Free Beacon report notes the ban is not absolute: in the stated interest of college campus safety, colleges and universities will still be allowed to ask students if they have certain convictions deemed serious, including those for rape, sexual battery, and stalking. The bill included these exceptions specifically because university presidents asked for them, coverage notes.
The ban the box policy only applies to college applications. Once schools have admitted students, they are still legally permitted to ask questions about criminal history for matters of housing and financial aid, reports clarify.
When Edwards signed the legislation, he made Louisiana the first state in the country to ban the box statewide for public college applications, reports note. Washington would have been the first state to pass such legislation, as a similar bill made it to the desk of Governor Larry Hogan in late May. Hogan vetoed the bill, stating that he thought it might put students at risk.
In Louisiana, the proposal received support before Governor Edwards rendered it law, coverage claims. The State Senate reportedly gave the legislation a unanimous 90-0 approval vote, showing clear bipartisan support. The bill is not the first ban the box legislation to gain traction in Louisiana. There is currently a law on the books that bans the box for public employers at the state level. New Orleans and Baton Rouge have also passed similar policies.
The ban the box law for Louisiana college applications will go into effect on August 1st of this year, shortly before the 2017/18 school year begins. Any applicants applying for public colleges or universities for future terms will not have to answer blanket questions about criminal history.