Over the last two years, Texas lawmakers have been passing bills that aim towards providing more explicit guidelines and protections for how universities must handle reports of sexual assault.
Under Senate Bill 212, which went into action on January 1, 2020, employees of Texas universities who fail to report incidents of assault, harassment or violence, could lose their jobs, as well as face criminal charges. Previously, only faculty members at the university were required to report Title IX and other violations. This new law expands those requirements to all university employees as well as confidential reporters such as doctors and other health professionals.
University employees caught in violation of SB 212 may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $4,000. Some offenses may qualify as Class B misdemeanors, which are punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
Under this law, Title IX coordinators at each university must routinely summarize all reports of assault for the university president. This procedure is in response to situations where University President’s claim they were not made aware of reports of an assault on their campus. Universities are also required to publish reports containing non-identifying information about campus assaults each semester.
Another change comes with Texas House Bill 1735, which updates the policies and procedures that colleges are required to follow around campus awareness of sexual assaults. The bill mandates that Texas universities give sexual misconduct orientation to university students as well as create public awareness campaigns and campus initiatives to educate the campus.
There is some discussion regarding exactly how the punishments for not reporting will be mandated. These bills could also create a situation where failure to report sexual misconduct could result in more severe consequences than the crime itself.
These laws are aimed towards creating a safer environment on campus. However, there is some pushback from students who don’t want to be forced into a Title IX investigation should they report an assault. Mandatory reporting policies can raise awareness of sexual assaults on college campuses and inform students that they have resources available to them should they need to come forward.
Texas is one of the first states to pass laws like these, showing just how serious officials are about increasing safety measures on campus and avoiding another situation like the one Baylor University faced in 2016.
The two bills — SB 212 and HB 1735 — are part of a larger nationwide conversation making Texas an example that other states are using as a model to create their own requirements in regards to the nationwide increase in campus assaults.
If you’ve been accused of assault in Houston, Texas, it’s crucial to contact a qualified criminal defense attorney who is experienced at handling cases like yours. The laws around assault are continually changing and can be tricky to navigate when you’re not a professional.
Christopher T. Gore has been representing assault cases in Houston, Texas, for over a decade. Make an appointment for a consultation to find out how he can help your case.