University employees are now required by law to promptly report incidents regarding sexual harassment and assault against a student or another employee as of Sept. 1.
Senate Bill 212, which went into effect Sept. 1, says all employees of an institution, public or private, must “promptly report” any reports made to them involving the sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence or stalking in regards to a student or other employee.
“I think this was a state of Texas reaction to some past examples where perhaps employees at other universities were not reporting things,” said ACU Police Chief Jimmy Ellison. “So I think the state legislature is wanting to be a national leader in this field and they’re wanting to make it clear to everyone that not only are you expected to report these things, but now you’re going to be required by law.”
Prior to this law passing, the federal law for failure to report incidents regarding sexual assault created a civil penalty on the university or institution. Now, in addition to the civil penalty that the university would fall under, there is a criminal offense on the individual level.
Criminal punishment for not adhering to this law will go into effect Jan. 1. An employee’s failure to report an incident or the act of making a false report will create a criminal offense as a Class B Misdemeanor.
Wendy Jones, chief human resources officer and Title IX coordinator at ACU, said it is important to note that the Title IX Office is still expecting the release of the final federal Title IX regulations from the Department of Education later this fall.
“We are including information about the new laws in our training and making additional training sessions available to faculty, staff and students throughout this year,” Jones said.
Another law that passed on Sept. 1, House Bill 449, requires universities to make a notation on a student’s transcript when the student is ineligible to re-enroll in the institution for a reason other than an academic or financial. This applies to any disciplinary process which may result in the student becoming ineligible to re-enroll and requires the school to continue the process even if a student withdraws, “until the institution makes a final determination of responsibility.”
All three bills in Texas related to sexual assault were passed to become law on Sept. 1. This will result in new changes to university requirements in regards to reporting sexual assault incidents.
ACU Police Department, ACU’s Title IX Office and ACU’s General Counsel are working together to inform the ACU community about the recent law changes.
“The good news is that the faculty and staff at ACU are already doing a phenomenal job at reporting crime,” Chief Ellison said. “ACU has done a great job of making the community aware of their Title IX options as well as reporting obligations. The employees at ACU have been incredible about reporting these types of instances while also walking with victims through the Title IX as well as the criminal process. We like to think that is all part of the ACU difference, having employees who want to make sure students are getting everything that they need. Sometimes everything that they need involves resources and maybe just a friendly voice or holding their hand through a very traumatic incident.”