Louisiana state senators today started moving legislation prompted by the sexual misconduct scandals at LSU, measures aimed at tightening rules for how colleges must handle allegations of sexual assault, harassment and dating violence.
The proposals, advanced without objection by the Senate Education Committee, grew out of repeated hearings held by female lawmakers after a blistering independent report detailed years of widespread mishandling of misconduct claims at LSU.
“I think we are sending a clear and resounding message to the students” that lawmakers are responding to the controversy, says Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, who led those hearings.
The primary bill led by Franklinton Sen. Beth Mizell, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican, would spell out the expected coordination between law enforcement and campuses, add new training requirements and detail when employees must report complaints or incidents they witness.
The proposal, which moves next to the full Senate for debate, would prohibit retaliation against people who report allegations and limit their liability from lawsuits. It also would require colleges to fire employees who don’t report allegations or who make reports that are knowingly false.
Mizell, joined by several female lawmakers pushing the bill, says the measure would close loopholes found in prior college campus safety laws.
“We have to put a value on the security of our students,” Mizell says.
Campuses would have to submit reports on how they handle sexual misconduct, harassment and discrimination complaints under federal Title IX laws and publish those reports online. The state’s top higher education policymaking board, the Board of Regents, would have to compile an annual report with the information and submit that to the governor and lawmakers.
The proposal also would clearly spell out that people who allege misconduct would be able to obtain copies of their police reports, in response to an instance where one LSU student was denied access to the report filed about her allegations against a football player.
LSU interim system president Tom Galligan, who wasn’t in charge at the time of the allegations in the report, supports the bill.
“We think it helps us to provide an absolutely safe campus,” he told senators.
Commissioner of Higher Education Kim Hunter Reed says the proposed legislation “is vital in the continuous steps we must take to address systemic failure.”
The Senate committee also advanced a companion proposal from Barrow that would create a 15-member advisory panel to regularly evaluate laws and policies involving the reporting, investigation and response to allegations of sexual misconduct and violence by or against college students. That bill also heads to the Senate floor for consideration. See the full story from The Associated Press.