NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A state lawmaker wants to make it crystal clear how higher education institutions should respond to complaints of sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating violence, and domestic violence.
Rep. Aimee Adatto Freeman, D-New Orleans, authored House Bill 409 which comes up for a vote in a House committee next Thursday.
“And making sure that we have a clear definition of power-based abuse and protecting our student population,” said Adatto Freeman. “To make sure that people know where to report, how to report, when to report, who’s responsible for any sexual assault, assault, misconduct, harassment.”
The legislation changes wording in current law from “sexually-oriented criminal offenses at public postsecondary education institutions” to “power-based violence.”
“And so I’m using the term power-based abuse so that you can cover all the different aspects of things that may happen within higher education,” said Adatto Freeman.
She was asked about other highlights of the bill. “It is a complicated bill, some of the highlights are a very clear definition of power-based abuse which would include everything from cyber-stalking to sexual harassment to sexual assault to assault,” said Adatto Freeman.
And she said the bill is in response to allegations involving LSU, the state’s flagship university.
LSU is facing lawsuits; one mentions the school’s alleged failure to intervene after reports of alleged sexual misconduct by then LSU head football coach Les Miles. And a 74-year-old grandmother recently testified before state lawmakers that she was sexually harassed by a now-former LSU football player as she worked at the Superdome.
“It would include that but it would also include student-on-student violence or faculty-on-faculty or staff issues with students, so it’s really to cover what we are now going to be defining as power-based abuse and a clear recording process so that whoever is responsible as the Title IX coordinator at the institution really understands their reporting requirements and making sure that goes to the chancellor and system president at the appropriate times,” said Adatto Freeman.
She said her bill requires termination of higher education employees who ignore reporting requirements.
“One piece that we’re adding that is quite different is the termination of employees who do not comply with reporting requirements. This is something that’s been done in Texas law and we started to look at can we do that here and I’ve added a specific piece about termination if you do not follow the law,” said Adatto Freeman.
Some other state lawmakers agree more needs to be done in terms of sexual misconduct complaints at colleges and universities and state law.
Rep. Royce Duplessis is a Democrat, who also represents New Orleans.
“It’s needed, it’s needed. We had, have laws on the books, but clearly, we have not been doing enough,” said Duplessis. “It is very much needed to ensure that the students are protected and that this type of behavior is never tolerated.”
Adatto Freeman said presidents of higher education institutions, Title IX coordinators, and students are expected at next week’s legislative hearing.
She said she is seeking even more input from students and welcomes comments sent to her legislative email account, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @Aimee4nola.
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