Opinion: Get to know SC laws

South Carolina is one of the only states that still does not allow the promotion of homosexuality in a classroom setting, and while that isn’t something that is strongly enforced, it is definitely something I wish I knew about before coming to USC.

Students coming from out of state to South Carolina are vulnerable to laws that change across state borders. It's important that students are aware of these laws before attending USC.

There are South Carolina-specific rules and regulations that have to do with human rights, underage drinking, marijuana and more, and the punishment for certain crimes change with them. For almost all of the U.S., staying silent when faced with a crime is completely and legally protected, however under the use of alcohol crimes there is an “implied consent law.” This dictates refusing to take an alcohol test will result in an automatic six-month suspension of a driver’s license on top of the other charges you could get. While alcohol comes with the party culture that surrounds USC, if you're underage or plan on driving, the penalties can be life altering, so stay away. 

Recently there was a bill introduced to decriminalize the possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana or 10 grams or less of hashish, but as of right now it is still highly illegal. While it has been legalized in some of the states students may be coming from, South Carolina still follows the federal laws when it comes to marijuana, so the possession, sale or trafficking of even small amounts is a punishable offense

Human rights laws change across states as well. Specifically, the lack of LGBTQ+ and race specific laws. There are no laws saying landlords and employers cannot discriminate based on sexuality and gender expression. On top of that, there are no policies for hate crimes or bullying based on LGBTQ+ identity, and the "state has no restrictions on so-called 'conversion therapy'." Not only that, but as of July 2019, the third transgender black woman has been killed in the state of South Carolina since 2018. This promptly reminded everyone that SC is one of only five states that does not have hate crime laws. This means that our university’s state does not support housing, employment, public accommodations and education laws that do not allow hate crime bias.   

On top of the laws that are or are not already in place in South Carolina, more bills are being introduced that could impact students greatly. This year, state lawmakers introduced a bill “that requires colleges to not interfere with students’ freedom of speech.” The bill, mainly endorsed by conservatives, would allow for hate speech to basically be unpunishable in the eyes of the law and the university. On top of that, similar to Alabama and Georgia’s most recent abortion bill, a fetal heartbeat bill has been introduced in the state legislation. 

While a lot of these laws could not affect everyone and may not even be in place yet, many of them change the way campus life operates. They're not always at the forefront of everyone’s mind, but they are something that everyone should at least be aware of. Laws are changing and evolving everyday, but knowing and understanding some of the laws in the state you live in should make it easier to stay on the good side of the law, or at least make sure you know what you are getting yourself into.

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