The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday June 6th

ALERT Act would hold universities accountable for sexual abuse cases

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators announced Thursday they will introduce legislation that would hold universities receiving federal funding accountable for sexual abuse cases that threaten the safety of their students.

The Accountability of Leaders in Education to Report Title IX Investigations (ALERT) Act, introduced by U.S. Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., John Cornyn, R-Texas and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., would require university leaders to certify they have reviewed any reports of sexual abuse perpetrated by university employees. 

The press release mentioned the cases of Larry Nassar at Michigan State University and Jerry Sandusky at Pennsylvania State University as examples.

Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor and Michigan State employee, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexual abuse Jan. 24. 

Sandusky, former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach, was sentenced to 30-60 years for sexual misconduct Oct. 9, 2012.

Peters said in the press release that colleges and universities must do more to protect the safety of students, and they should be held accountable when they fail.

“Too many young people have suffered appalling harm from abusers who should have been stopped by university officials,” he said. “I’m introducing this legislation to ensure that ‘I didn’t know’ will never again be an excuse for permitting monstrous abuse to continue under the watch of the officials we trust to look after our children.”

The ALERT Act would require federally-funded colleges and universities to submit annual certification to the U.S. Secretary of Education affirming the school’s leadership has reviewed all incidents involving employee sexual misconduct that were reported to the Title IX coordinator at that institution in the previous 12 months, the press release said.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects people from discrimination based on gender in education programs or activities that receive federal assistance, the U.S. Department of Education says on their Office for Civil Rights website.

UNC’s Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office lists on their website their policy on prohibited discrimination, harassment and related misconduct, including who it applies to, where it applies and the prohibited conduct.

Jeni Cook, a spokesperson for the University, said in an email UNC would not be able to speculate about how proposed legislation could affect the University and that University leadership recently underscored its commitment to fostering a safe campus environment.

A joint statement on Jan. 23 by UNC Chancellor Carol Folt, executive vice chancellor and provost Robert Blouin and vice chancellor for workforce strategy, equity and engagement Felicia Washington said they did not want the campus to be just a part of the conversation but doing everything to engage and create positive change.

“We are taking a fresh and critical look at policies and procedures across the University to make sure we are doing everything we can to create an inclusive and respectful culture at Carolina."


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