A bill by Rep. Aimee Freeman (D-New Orleans) that would require the termination of higher education employees who don’t report known Title IX violations and clarifies where higher education employees should report those violations was moved forward without objection from the Louisiana House Education Committee Thursday.
Freeman said that HB 409 is a response to findings and testimony during the three different sexual misconduct hearings the Louisiana Senate Select Committee on Women and Children held regarding a sexual misconduct scandal at LSU. She said the bill “addresses all the levels of trying to keep our students safe” and focuses on “accountability.”
Husch Blackwell law firm released a 150-page investigative 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.
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.
Freeman said HB 409 came from discussions from those committee meetings, and the bill “addresses all the levels of trying to keep our students safe” and “that there would be accountability.”
The bill is “for the survivors, the students, the parents and the alumni because everyone deserves to have protection and… be safe on campus,” Freeman said to the committee.
Freeman’s bill was included in Gov. John Bel Edwards’ legislative agenda.
Angelina Cantelli, co-president of Tigers Against Sexual Assault — a student-run anti-sexual assault organization, testified in favor of the bill Thursday. She said while the organization is “cautiously optimistic for the changes that are coming at LSU,” there are “some students who don’t feel that these cultural changes can be made adequately” if employees who sat on Title IX violation reports still work there.
“You haven’t obviously been able to see the internal conversations we’ve been having with students,” Cantelli said to the committee. “You haven’t been able to feel what so many survivors have felt this year. They felt neglected and ignored… and I can’t imagine reporting an abuse to someone you trusted, having that covered up, and then that person remaining at the University.”
Ricky Bryant, a male LSU student who said he was sexually assaulted, testified in support of the bill, but called it “the bare minimum.” He said Freeman’s bill “does what should have been done a long time ago.”
“Shifting the culture is not something that’s done just by this bill, but it’s something that every student is dying for,” Bryant said to the committee. “So please move favorably on this bill and expedite it through everything that we need, because right now the state needs you, and the students need you.”
A similar bill passed in the Senate Education Committee Wednesday. Sen. Beth Mizell’s (R-Franklinton) SB 230 says that 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.”
Rep. Neil Riser’s (R-Columbia) HB 394, which requires higher ed institutions to post their crime policies and statistics on their website, also passed without objection in the House Education Committee. Riser said this is already required for universities, but his bill expands that requirement to all postsecondary institutions, including community colleges.