Bills responding to sexual misconduct scandal at LSU move closer to governor’s desk

By: - June 2, 2021 5:08 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)

In response to reports of inaction and negligence from LSU officials in the face of TItle IX violations, the both chambers of the Louisiana Legislature passed several bills Tuesday that, among other things, clarifies to whom higher education employees should report Title IX violations and requires the termination of higher education employees who don’t report known violations.

In the House, both SB 230 by Sen. Beth Mizell (R-Franklinton) and SB 232 by Sen. Regina Barrow’s (D-Baton Rouge) passed unanimously. 

SB 230 proposes that any employee who fails to report a known power-based violence violation “shall be terminated” and requires the chancellor of a college or university to report and publish the number of the school’s employees that have completed annual power-based violence training. Campuses would also have to report “the number of complaints which resulted in a finding that power-based violations occurred, the number of complaints in which the finding of power-based violations resulted in discipline or corrective action, the type of discipline or corrective action taken, the amount of time it took to resolve each complaint, the number of reports of retaliation and the findings of any investigations of reports of retaliation.” 

The bill defines “Power-based violence” as “any form of interpersonal violence intended to control or intimidate another person through the assertion of power over the person,” and includes: dating violence, domestic abuse, “peeping tom activities,” sexual assault, sexual harassment and stalking.

SB 232 creates “the Louisiana Power-Based Violence Review Panel” which would include the following people or a designee of theirs: 

  • 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 Louisiana attorney general
  • the president of each public postsecondary education management board and
  • a student representative from each of the postsecondary management boards
  • the Louisiana governor
  • a Title IX coordinator from a public college or university

The panel would also include representatives from law enforcement, the fields of social work and psychology, the executive director of the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault and the president of Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response, an organization that assists women who have experienced sexual assault.

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,” Barrow said in the Senate Education Committee in April.

Both bills were amended on the House floor to make sure they use same definitions for abuse, Rep. Aimee Freeman (D-New Orleans), who proposed the amendments, said. 

In the Senate, HB 409 from Freeman and HB 394 From Rep. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) also passed unanimously. HB 409 does many of the same things Mizell’s SB 230 does, including mandating employees report known power-based violence violations under threat of termination, and also provides more clarity on to whom university employees should report violations.

HB 394 requires colleges and universities to publish their campus security policies and crime statistics on their website. The bill was amended to mandate the reports be updated by April 10 and October 10 of each year.

The bills were part of that package of bills created in 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. Freeman said during committee in April her 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.

SB 232 moves to the Senate for concurrence to House amendments and HB 394 and HB 409 move to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments. SB 230 was concurred by Senate and moves the governor’s desk.

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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.