Legislators have introduced a new bill that would require presidents of colleges and universities to certify every year that they reviewed all reported incidents of sexual misconduct, and further did not interfere with the investigations. The bill, called the Accountability of Leaders in Education to Report Title IX Investigations Act (Alert Act), has garnered bipartisan support.
The Democrat and Republican Senators who introduced the bill have stated that it was developed in response to two recent high-profile cases.
One unfolded in the state of Michigan. Allegations against Larry Nassar at Michigan State University have resulted in many criticizing Michigan State’s handling of the allegations against him. Nassar was found to have subjected a large number of females to sexual abuse.
The other tragic situation behind this bill involves Jerry Sandusky, who is in prison for abusing numerous boys at Pennsylvania State University.
The media has widely reported that in these two cases, university presidents claimed to be wholly unaware of reports of sexual abuse. Many are troubled by the fact that the presidents of these schools could claim to be unaware of the situation, despite the fact that investigations had been conducted.
According to the United States Department of Education, Title IX protects all people from sexual discrimination or harassment in educational programs that receive Federal financial assistance. Schools that fail to comply with the directives under Title IX may be ineligible for federal funding. Sexual violence and sexual harassment interfere with a students’ right to receive an education, free from discrimination or sexual assault, which is a crime.
The Office of Civil Rights (OCR), part of the United States Department of Education, is charged with enforcing Title IX. OCR evaluates and investigates complaints involving sexual discrimination, although the schools also have affirmative duties under Title XI.
The Alert Act, as proposed, would require a designated leader of the school (president or chancellor) to certify annually to the secretary of the federal Department of Education that any allegations have been investigated and reviewed, and that they did not exert “inappropriate” influence on any of the investigations.
According to one of the Senators who sponsored the bill, it is a simple step that the legislature can take that will have a big payoff. The bill will help to ensure that universities take allegations of sexual abuse seriously.
By holding officials accountable, the Senator hopes that it will encourage them to actively and thoroughly review all allegations of abuse and misconduct.
Title IX is a complicated and important piece of legislation that protects victims of sexual abuse at colleges and universities across the country. If you were subject to sexual abuse or misconduct while attending an education institution, regardless of your gender, you have rights. The experienced Philadelphia civil rights lawyers at Williams Cedar are prepared to discuss your case and answer your questions. Call us at 215-557-0099 or 856-874-7500, or contact us online to schedule a consultation today. Our offices are conveniently located in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey and we serve clients throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide.