Bill would require college leaders to review probes into claims of sexual abuse involving employees

by Jeremy

Dive Brief:

  • A bill reintroduced in Congress last week would hold higher education institutions more accountable for addressing allegations of sexual abuse carried out by employees.
  • Under the Accountability of Leaders in Education to Report Title IX Investigations Act, colleges that receive federal funding would need to certify to the U.S. Department of Education annually that top leaders reviewed all employee-related sexual abuse investigations reported to the Title IX coordinator.
  • The bill comes as several colleges and officials face the consequences of ignoring years of complaints about sexual abuse by employees.
  • college

Dive Insight:

The ALERT Act would require college officials to confirm that the school’s president or a person of equal status, and at least one other member of its board, have reviewed all sexual abuse investigations reported to the Title IX coordinator that involves an employee.  According to a release announcing the bill, school officials would also need to certify that the individuals scanning the probes had not “interfered with or inappropriately influenced” an active investigation.  It is being brought forward by a bipartisan group of Michigan lawmakers, with additional support from Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill. The bill was previously introduced in Congress in 2018 and 2019. Scrutiny of college and university oversight of sexual abuse complaints has not let up since the last time lawmakers considered the proposal.

Louisiana State University is under fire for how officials handled allegations of sexual harassment by former head football coach Les Miles with female student workers. Former Louisiana State President F. King Alexander resigned from his role at the helm of Oregon State University in response to backlash over the behavior, which he and other school officials were aware of. The Education Department also examines how Louisiana State handled a wide swath of sexual misconduct complaints on campus over several years. Meanwhile, the University of Southern California agreed to pay more than $1.1 billion as of March to settle complaints of sexual abuse by former campus gynecologist George Tyndall. Although university officials received complaints about Tyndall starting in the 1990s, he remained employed until mid-2017, the Los Angeles Times reported.

USC’s massive settlement dwarfs the $500 million Michigan State University agreed to pay to survivors of sexual abuse by former campus sports doctor Larry Nassar. As with USC, officials at Michigan State were aware of abuses by Nassar for years before they were made public. The Education Department has since fined the university and required changes in how it oversees Title IX investigations. Lawmakers cited the scandal at Michigan State and sexual abuse by former Penn State University football coach Jerry Sandusky when they first proposed the legislation in 2018.

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