NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -Allegations about sexual misconduct at LSU and the controversy over how the university handled some complaints have state lawmakers saying, enough and demanding stronger laws.
On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee advanced two related bills to the Senate floor for consideration.
Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, and Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, authored Senate Bill 230 which aims to tighten state laws and close any loopholes.
“This is not a woman’s issue, no, this is a humanity issue and until we put a weight on the way our students are treated and their comfort of walking across campus, all the programs in the world aren’t going to matter,” said Mizell.
The legislation spells out how public colleges and universities in Louisiana should respond to complaints the legislation refers to as “power-based violence”, a term that includes sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic violence, date violence, and stalking, according to the bills’ sponsors.
Barrow referenced a USA Today investigative report on allegations at LSU and how the university responded to them.
“While this report regarding LSU, what we do know is that this behavior is not only for LSU. While we can’t legislate hearts, what we can do is legislate behaviors and so we want to address the culture that has existed,” she said.
“There was no clear path delineated for students to report a complaint, there was no clear reporting process within the administration, there was no oversight on the reports that were received or in disciplinary process to students or employees,” Mizell stated.
LSU is facing lawsuits over some allegations. One suit specifically mentions the school’s failure to intervene after reports of sexual misconduct against students by then-head football coach Les Miles and the subsequent alleged retaliation.
Mizell says her bill speaks to the issue of retaliation.
“It clarifies both employees and students cannot be retaliated against, also it clarifies what constitutes retaliation,” she said.
Also, recently a 74-year-old woman testified before state lawmakers that a then LSU football player sexually harassed her as she worked at the Superdome several years ago.
The proposed new law requires all responsible employees of higher education institutions who receive information about power-based violations committed by, or against a student to promptly report the incident to the campus Title IX coordinator and the coordinator would have obligations too.
“An instant, it requires a Title IX coordinator to report quarterly to the chancellor,” said Mizell.
The Senate panel also waved through and advanced to the full Senate, SB 232 by Sen. Barrow which would establish the Louisiana Power-Based Review to monitor whether schools are properly reporting and investigating power-based violence.
Advocates for abuse victims applaud both pieces of the legislation.
Morgan Lamandre is with the organization STAR, which stands for Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response.
“We have to accept that people we know, people we love sometimes do bad things and all people need to be held accountable,” she said.
Dr. Thomas Galligan is the interim president at LSU.
“We put their safety first and we support this legislation. We think it helps us to provide an absolutely safe campus,” said Galligan.
Dr. Kim Hunter Reed, Louisiana’s Commissioner of Higher Education, addressed the senators on the legislation.
“We know that student safety is critical. We want parents and students and the broader community to know that we stand for student safety,” said Reed.
Dr. Jim Henderson, President of the University of Louisiana System echoed that.
“It’s vitally important that the boards that manage these institutions understand that they have a fiduciary responsibility, and this bill articulates that as clear as I’ve ever seen,” said Henderson.
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