Bipartisan Senate Legislation Introduced To Address Campus Sexual Assaults

by Ballard Spahr LLP
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Yesterday, eight U.S. senators introduced the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, a bill that proposes to amend the Higher Education Act and the Clery Act to include new requirements for addressing sexual violence on campus, as well as financial penalties for noncompliance. This bill represents the latest attempt by the government to impose new mandates on educational institutions and heightens the scrutiny that schools face regarding the response to sexual violence on campus.

The legislation proposes to impose on colleges and universities penalties of up to $150,000 per violation or one percent of an institution’s operating budget for failure to comply. The bill would also give the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) the authority to issue subpoenas and require OCR to publish the names of schools under investigation and with pending resolution agreements.

The Campus Accountability and Safety Act would require colleges and universities to take a number of actions, such as:

  • Conduct annual climate surveys of students regarding their experiences with sexual harassment and sexual violence
  • Enter into memoranda of understanding with local law enforcement to clarify investigative responsibilities and parameters of information sharing
  • Designate one or more trained, confidential advisers to whom individuals who experience sexual violence can make confidential reports
  • Include in policies the name and location of the nearest place where rape kits may be obtained and an amnesty clause for complainants who engage in conduct violations such as underage drinking
  • Ensure that responsible employees, investigators, and other campus personnel meet minimum training requirements
  • Make an annual report to OCR and the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the identity and role of the Title IX coordinator

While it is unclear whether this bill will be successful, Ballard Spahr will be monitoring any developments related to the legislation. Colleges and universities are advised to review carefully the compliance of their Title IX policies and programs, particularly in the areas of training, coordination with law enforcement, climate assessments, and resources for complainants.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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