TTU President Schovanec on "Alert" Act regarding Title IX

TTU President Schovanec on "Alert" Act regarding Title IX

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Texas Senator John Cornyn proposed the Alert Act or Accountability of Leaders in Education to report Title IX investigations. It would require administrators to certify they have reviewed any reports of sexual abuse involving university employees. 

"It's been a priority, it will always continue to be a priority," Texas Tech President Schovanec said. 

Schovanec said he does not oppose this bill. He said Title IX officers already inform him of reports involving students and faculty on a yearly basis.

"It might formalize some of the reporting processes that we have," Schovanec said. "If you look at the greater attention reporting that this act would provide I don't see a substantial difference in the way we would respond with what we are dealing with."

The bill also requires confirmation there was no interference or influence in on-going investigations.

"At the same time, there has to be a clear message from the top that we are responsible and really attentive to what's going on," Schovanec said. 

Tech law professor Kyle Velte said this bill provides opportunities for victims to take legal action against the school. 

"That's the key to this, awareness but not interference, because we want the investigators to be neutral and objective when they are doing the investigation," Velte said. "We want the students voices to be heard and due process to take it's course."

"So if a student here could show that an employee assaulted him and violated the Title IX rights and the president actually knew about it because of this new law and then the school was deliberately indifferent to the assault, then they could win money damages,"  Velte said. 

Velte said something is missing. The bill only requires the reporting of incidents involving interaction between employees and students, not those solely involving students. 

"They could still sue the school for money damages if they could show actual notice and deliberate indifference," Velte said. "It is just harder to do that if the president doesn't actually know about it, somebody would have to tell him that and that was the problem at Penn State and Michigan state is those presidents denied actual accountability." 

Whether this bill passes, she said she believes it is a step in the right direction. 

"The symbolic, the symbolism of this law is as important as the teeth it has in it's enactment and what it would do if it was enacted," Velte said. 

The Alert Act has bipartisan support in the Senate. It's coauthored by democratic Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters.  

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