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According to the Legislative Budget Board, no significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.
SB 212 would require employees to report allegations of certain crimes to the Title IX office of a public or private institution of higher education, creating a crime if they fail to do so. If employees become aware of alleged incidences of sexual harassment, sexual assault, family violence, or stalking committed by or against a student, they would be required to report these allegations. Failure to report promptly would result in termination of employment.
If the employee fails to report without good cause, SB 212 would create a Class B misdemeanor, or a Class A misdemeanor if it is shown that the actor intended to conceal the unreported incident.
Additionally, SB 212 would impose certain reporting requirements for the chief executive officer and the Title IX coordinator of a post-secondary educational institution. Failure to comply with this subchapter may result in an administrative penalty up to $2 million.
Texas Action recommends opposing SB 212 because it violates our principles of limited government and individual liberty. This bill would apply to all post-secondary schools in Texas, including private institutions, which clearly represents a growth of government.
First, the duty to report is overly broad because employees would be required to report on any rumor that they hear with respect to the enumerated offenses. This may lead to over-reporting out of an abundance of caution by people who want to ensure that they do not face criminal charges. Universities would find it difficult to manage and investigate reports, as well as distinguish fact from rumor.
Second, this bill sets up a scenario that is ripe for abuse. A person could fabricate an allegation and relay it to an employee with a duty to report. The person making the report would do so in good faith with no basis of knowing whether the allegations were 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 appropriate place to report and investigate crimes in the first place. This legislation addresses serious crimes such as sexual assault, family violence, and stalking, which should be reported to and investigated by proper law enforcement authorities who have the training and resources to conduct an investigation and determine if charges should be filed. These issues should not be handled extra-judicially by university administrators.
Although this legislation intends to address a serious problem, such as the tragic Baylor University sexual assault scandal, this particular response is likely to result in foreseeable deficiencies in investigating and prosecuting sexual assault-related crimes at universities.