U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin on April 30, 2019, joined Michigan Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Reps. Fred Upton and Paul Mitchell, and Sen. John Cornyn of Texas called on Congress to pass their bipartisan, bicameral legislation to hold universities that receive federal funding accountable for sexual abuse cases that threaten the safety of their students. The ALERT (Accountability of Leaders in Education to Report Title IX Investigations ) Act would require university leaders to certify that they have reviewed any reports of sexual abuses perpetrated by university employees. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives held a press conference today on the need to pass their bill.
Peters recently reintroduced the ALERT Act with Cornyn and Stabenow, and Slotkin led introduction of the bipartisan House companion bill with Upton and Mitchell.
“The leaders that are responsible for the safety of our students at colleges and universities across the country cannot be allowed to escape accountability when they fail to take action following instances of assault,” said Peters. “‘I didn’t know’ can never be an excuse for college and university leadership. It’s time for Congress to pass this commonsense, bipartisan legislation that would hold university officials accountable if they neglect their basic responsibilities in responding to reported instances of young people being abused or assaulted by an employee affiliated with the institution.”
“It is critical that we answer survivors’ courage with action, and I’m proud to introduce the bipartisan, bicameral ALERT Act in the House today,” Slotkin said. “This legislation is about the accountability of leaders on our nation’s campuses to the students they are supposed to serve, and is one important step toward protecting the safety of our students. I’m proud to stand alongside equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans in support of this bill – an important signal that working to prevent sexual assault and protect students is not, and should never be, a partisan issue.”
“I’ve had the honor to meet with a number of young survivors, both in Washington and in Michigan, and many of them have mentioned how incredibly alone they have felt,” Stabenow said. “We are here today to tell them that they are not alone now. Our legislation will help hold universities accountable to keep our young people safe.”
The bipartisan ALERT Act is supported by the American Association of University Women and the National Women’s Law Center.
Under Title IX, colleges and universities that receive federal funds are required to establish clear procedures for promptly responding to instances of sexual violence on campuses. They must also have a Title IX coordinator in place to oversee investigations, coordinate disciplinary actions, and ensure compliance with federal guidance. However, after university leaders have continually failed to take action on or even claim they were unaware of reports of sexual abuse by university employees, such as in the cases of Larry Nassar at Michigan State University and Jerry Sandusky at Pennsylvania State University, official Title IX or external investigations as currently constructed have not proven to be sufficient motivators for high-ranking university officials to report the truth.
The ALERT Act would require federally funded colleges and universities to submit an annual certification to the Secretary of Education affirming that the school’s President, or equivalent officer, and at least one other member of the Board of Trustees have reviewed all sexual abuse investigations involving an employee reported to the Title IX coordinator that year. The annual certification would also require confirmation that neither the President, or equivalent officer, or board member had interfered with or inappropriately influenced an ongoing investigation.