New rules govern misconduct claims at Louisiana’s colleges

Louisiana News

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s top higher education board Tuesday enacted the rules governing how college campuses must respond to and report sexual misconduct and harassment complaints, with training for school administrators scheduled for next week.

The regulations adopted by the Board of Regents stems from new laws passed by the Louisiana Legislature in response to a searing independent report that documented years of Louisiana State University’s mishandling of student allegations of rape, assault and abuse covered under federal Title IX laws

Lawmakers enacted several measures spelling out who is required to report “power-based violence” allegations and what steps must be followed for dealing with any claims. The Board of Regents rules detail how those requirements work for campuses, sets reporting deadlines and issues training mandates — regulations that board members enacted more quickly than the law required.

“We felt it was critical to have the new policy in place before our campuses reopen for the fall semester in the next few weeks. And while the law prescribed a January deadline for having these new policies in place, we have training scheduled for next week,” said board Chairman Blake David. “There’s no time to waste when it comes to protecting our students.”

Mandatory training is set on Aug. 17 for higher education board members, college system presidents and their lawyers and on Aug. 18 for chancellors, Title IX coordinators, police officers, athletic department staff and other employees involved in responding to misconduct claims.

Under the new laws and regulations, colleges are required to fire employees who don’t report sexual misconduct, harassment, exploitation and abuse allegations — or who make reports that are knowingly false. Retaliation is banned against people who report allegations, with risk of firing for staff or expulsion for students found to have lashed out in a retaliatory way at anyone reporting misconduct claims.

Schools must withhold transcripts or add notifications on transcripts for students that are under investigation for sexual misconduct allegations or found to have violated misconduct policies and are seeking to transfer to another school.

Campuses will have to publish detailed reports online about their security policies and crime statistics. If they don’t, they will be ineligible to borrow money for state-financed construction projects.

Colleges must distribute to students information about how to identify threats, how to report incidents and threats and where to find campus safety reports. They’ll have to develop a standardized form for reporting threats that allows for anonymous reporting. And they must enter into written agreements with local law enforcement agencies describing how investigations will be handled.

The Board of Regents — which approved the new rules without objection — will submit annual reports in January about campus incidents to the governor and legislative leaders. Each of Louisiana’s four college systems must submit their more detailed campus-specific policies for handling and reporting misconduct allegations to the Board of Regents by December for compliance review.

Female lawmakers sought the tougher policies across college campuses in response to scandals at LSU.

LSU hired independent law firm Husch Blackwell to review its response to sexual misconduct complaints after reporting by USA Today scrutinized the university’s handling of assault cases implicating two former football players. The blistering report outlined multiple examples of the university ignoring student allegations of rape, domestic violence and assault for years, particularly in LSU’s athletic department.

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Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte.

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