House bill would force colleges to address sexual assaults on campus

House bill would force colleges to address sexual assaults on campus
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House Democrats want to end sexual assault on college campuses by holding educational institutions accountable when they dodge their legal responsibilities to respond to these crimes.

Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierEpstein death sparks questions for federal government Overnight Defense: Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi arms sales | Two US troops killed in Afghanistan | Senators tee up nominations, budget deal ahead of recess Democrats see window closing for impeachment MORE (D-Calif.) has introduced legislation that will require the Department of Education to fine colleges and universities that fail to comply with Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in education.

“We have had Title IX in the Higher Education Act for 40 years,” Speier said.

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“It is not just about women in sports,” she added. “The Department of Education currently has 123 sexual violence cases under investigations at 113 universities. The epidemic does not know class, race or U.S. World & News Report ratings of colleges.”

Title IX addresses sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination and sexual violence, which includes attempted or completed rape or sexual assault, as well as sexual harassment, stalking, voyeurism, exhibitionism, verbal or physical threats or abuse about sexuality, and intimate partner violence, according to KnowYourIX.org.

The Hold Accountable and Lend Transparency on Campus Sexual Violence Act unveiled Thursday would increase penalties for violating the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act from $35,000 to $100,000.

The law's namesake was raped and murdered in her residence hall room by a fellow student she did not know on April 5, 1986; it requires colleges and universities, public and private, participating in federal student aid programs to disclose campus safety information and imposes certain basic requirements for handling incidents of sexual violence and emergency situations.

Speier, who is touting the bill as a bipartisan legislation, has 26 Democratic co-sponsors and one Republican – Rep. Pat Meehan (Pa.).

“It is unacceptable that 20 percent of young women and 6 percent of young men are victims of sexual assault or attempts of sexual assault during their college years,” Speier said at press conference Thursday afternoon.  “It is unacceptable that 63 percent of universities shirk their responsibilities and duties to respond to violent crimes according to the National Institute for Justice.”

The bill would force schools to conduct biennial climate surveys of students and notify them of their legal rights and the institution’s obligations under Title IX. The legislation would also force the Department of Education to disclose publicly a list of institutions under investigation and any penalties given and allocate an additional $5 million to the agency to hire additional Title IX and Clery Act investigators.