Subscribe to receive our Floor Reports covering all the action on the Texas House and Senate floor!
Relating to sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking at public and private postsecondary educational institutions; providing an administrative penalty.
No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.
HB 1735 would require all public and private post-secondary educational institutions to adopt a policy on sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking applicable to all students and employees of the institutions. Policies would be required to include definitions of prohibited behavior, sanctions for violations, the protocol for reporting and responding to reports, measures to protect victims, and a statement regarding the importance of sexual violence and the rights of victims. The policy would be required to be made available to students and faculty by putting the policies in the student and personnel handbooks as well as online. Institutions would be required to have orientations for incoming freshmen students and transfer students with the option for the orientation to be online.
HB 1735 would also require each institution to develop a prevention and outreach program for sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. These programs would need to cover a range of prevention measures for these crimes, a public awareness campaign, bystander intervention, risk reduction, and information on how to report these crimes.
A victim could request that the institution not investigate, however the institution could choose to carry out an investigation if the investigation complies with confidentiality standards set in this bill. Unless otherwise waived by the victim or reporting student, an institution would be prohibited from publicly revealing the identity of the victim or student in question and could only be disclosed to the institution, a peace officer, and a health care provider.
An institution enforcing disciplinary actions against a student would be required to provide the student and the alleged victim an opportunity to provide witnesses and evidence, ensure that both the student and victim had access to evidence and statements made by witnesses, and protect the student and victim from possible retaliation or harassment during the process. If the student decides to leave the institution or transfer, the institution would be able to prohibit the student from receiving their transcript. Leaving the institution would also not end an investigation or disciplinary process and would allow the institution to expedite the process.
Texas Action recommends opposing HB 1735 because it violates our principles of limited government and individual liberty.
The proper authority to investigate allegations of sexual crimes and stalking is not the Title IX office of an institution of higher education. Such investigations should be conducted by law enforcement and, if the evidence warrants, adjudicated in a court of law.
Title IX offices are notoriously biased against defendants in these cases, and although this bill does provide some rights to defendants such as access to evidence, it fails to provide adequate basic due process protections. Among other things, this bill fails to require that the accused has a right to be represented by an attorney and fails to set a sufficient standard of evidence to determine guilt.
We encourage the legislature to reject HB 1735.