Bills addressing LSU sexual misconduct scandals move forward

By: - April 21, 2021 10:00 pm

LSU students protest in front of the Football Operations Center in — demanding stiffer punishment for athletic executives who sat on sexual misconduct allegations. (Photo by JC Canicosa/Louisiana Illuminator)

A pair of bills that increase transparency, clarify sexual assault reporting mandates in Louisiana colleges and universities and establish an anti-sexual assault “Louisiana Power-Based Violence Review Panel” for campuses were advanced without objection by the Louisiana Senate Education Committee Wednesday.

Sen. Beth Mizell (R-Franklinton), author of SB 230, told the committee that her bill, which requires “any responsible employee of an institution who receives information or witnesses any incident of power-based violence committed by or against a student promptly report the incident to the campus Title IX coordinator,” is “an actual solution based on what we’ve learned from testimony of students in what was lacking.”

Anyone who doesn’t report or knowingly falsely reports power-based violence — defined as “any form of interpersonal violence intended to control or intimidate another person through the assertion of power over them” — will be “terminated or otherwise disciplined.”

Mizell’s bill would also requires campuses to post on their website: the number of Title IX reports received, the number of investigations conducted as a result of the reports, the number of those reports for which the institution determined not to initiate a disciplinary process (if any),and any disciplinary actions taken as a result of the reports. The identity of any alleged victim must remain confidential unless disclosed to a police officer, a university administrator in charge of Title IX case reporting or someone allegedly involved in the case.

The education committee also advanced without objection SB 232, which creates “the Louisiana Power-Based Violence Review Panel.” The panel’s job is to “evaluate the policies that we have put into place to see if they are working… and then for us to come back and make the recommendations, change the law, then advise the legislature and the Governor,” Sen. Regina Barrow (D-Baton Rouge), author of the bill, said.

The panel is also to act as “an advisory agency to the legislature, the governor, the Board of Regents and the board of supervisors of each postsecondary education system.”

 The panel would be comprised of:

The president of the Louisiana Senate, the speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives, the chair of the Louisiana Senate Select Committee on Women and Children, the chair of the Louisiana House Select Committee on Women and Children, the attorney general, the president of each public postsecondary education management board, a student representative from each of the postsecondary management boards, the superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, president of the Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police, a member of the Domestic Violence Prevention Commission, a licensed social worker with experience related to power-based violence, a licensed psychologist with experience related to power-based violence, the executive director of the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault and the president of Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response — or any of their designees.

The bill would also require universities and colleges to submit an annual report including the school’s Title IX reports, the results of those reports and the amount of time it took for each case to be resolved.

The Senate Select Committee on Women and Children, to which Mizell and Barrow both belong, held three different sexual misconduct hearings concerning a sexual misconduct scandal at LSU after the law firm Husch Blackwell released a 150-page report last month that concluded that LSU hadn’t made enough of an effort to combat sexual misconduct and violence on its Baton Rouge campus, hadn’t sufficiently staffed the Title IX office, which handles campus cases of sexual misconduct and violence, and had no clear policies in place about when employees are required to report sexual violence and sexual misconduct.

The LSU scandal has had a ripple effect across the country, but no one who has lost a job was still employed at LSU. Former LSU football coach Les Miles was fired by the University of Kansas. KU also fired the athletic director who hired Miles. F. King Alexander, who served as LSU president between 2013 and 2019 when a number of the allegations of sexual misconduct and violence occurred, resigned as Oregon State University president. The Oregon State board of trustees said there was no way Alexander could regain the trust of the OSU community.

Verge Ausberry and Miriam Segar, two LSU athletics administrators who did nothing when they learned of several allegations of violence and misconduct against football players, were suspended but not fired.

Students have protested the LSU administration’s response, saying it has left students feeling that the university hasn’t done enough to protect its students.

Mizell said she learned from the committee meetings there was a “lack of understanding between law enforcement and the institutions, no clear path delineated for students to report a complaint, no clear reporting process within the administration, no oversight on the reports… no training that was defined and no verification of the training.”

“The intention of the bill was to cover the gaps, and those gaps that were made very clear to us,” Mizell said. 

“I think we are sending a clear resounding message to the students of the universities — as well as the parents to let them know that we have heard them loud and clear,” Barrow said to the committee. “We are taking every effective measure to ensure their safety and to avoid as best possible any sexual harassment or any type of violence on our campus.”

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JC Canicosa
JC Canicosa

JC Canicosa is an award-winning journalist at The Louisiana Illuminator. Canicosa has previous experience at Investigate-TV and The Loyola Maroon and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. At Loyola, he was the senior staff writer at The Maroon and the president of the school's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Off the clock, Canicosa enjoys playing basketball, watching movies and dabbling in comedy writing.