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Relating to a reporting requirement for certain incidents of sexual harassment, sexual assault, family violence, or stalking at public institutions of higher education; creating a criminal offense.
This bill, if enacted, would create a legal obligation to report allegations of certain crimes to the Title IX office of a public or private institution of higher education.
If employees or officers of student organizations at higher education institutions become aware of alleged incidences of sexual harassment, sexual assault, family violence, or stalking to have been committed by or against a student enrolled the institution, they would be required to report these allegations to the institution's Title IX office within 48 hours. Failure to report within the allotted 48 hours would be punishable as a Class B misdemeanor, or as a Class A misdemeanor if it is proven in court that the information was knowingly concealed by the defendant.
An institution would be required to fire an employee with a duty to report who fails to do so or makes a false report, or suspend a student with a duty to report who fails to do so or makes a false report.
The institution's Title IX office and chief executive officer would have various regularly scheduled duties to report on alleged incidents and what if anything was done about them.
This legislation also allows a $2 Million penalty to be assessed on an institution found not to be substantially in compliance with the provisions of this bill.
There are several liberty-infringing aspects to this otherwise well-intended legislation.
SB 576 would add new regulations on private institutions of higher education which clearly represents a growth of government.
The duty to report that this legislation creates is overly broad in that people who have a duty to report would be required to report on any rumor that they hear about with respect to the specific enumerated offenses. This will have the foreseeable effect of over reporting out of an abundance of caution by people who want to make sure they do not find themselves facing a misdemeanor charge. Universities will have a difficult time keeping up with and investigating the reports and distinguishing fact from rumor.
Additionally, this legislation sets up a scenario that is ripe for abuse. A person can make up an allegation and tell it to a person with a duty to report. The person making the report will do so in good faith with no basis to know whether the allegations are or are not credible. This has the foreseeable consequence of causing Title IX investigations based on malicious rumors.
Finally, we note that university Title IX offices are not the correct place to report and investigate crimes in the first place. This legislation is addressing serious crimes such as sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking which should be reported to and investigated by proper law enforcement authorities who have the training and investigative tools to conduct an investigation and determine if charges should be filed. These issues should not be handled extra-judicially by university administrators.
We understand this legislation is in direct response to the abominable situation at Baylor University. That tragic situation should be investigated by law enforcement and people who broke the law should be vigorously prosecuted. This legislative response will not fix the problems at Baylor, will not forestall future similar problems at other institutions, and will unfortunately result in foreseeable deficiencies in investigating and prosecuting real crimes committed on campus at universities or by university students. For these reasons we oppose SB 576.