A new Texas state law is about to go into effect that will alter how Title IX investigations begin. The law drastically expands the scope of who would be considered a mandatory reporter, requiring far more people to forward signs of sexual assault and misconduct to the Title IX office.
Covered employees could face a criminal charge and could also be fired if they do not comply with their new duties under the law.
New Texas Law Makes Nearly All College Employees Mandatory Reporters
Back on June 16, 2019, the Texas legislature passed Senate Bill 212 and the governor signed it into law, scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2020.
The new bill does several things:
- It makes all college employees – except for student workers – mandatory reporters under Title IX law
- Requires Title IX offices in Texas to submit a written report of all of the tips generated under the new law
- Immunizes people who make sexual misconduct reports in good faith under the new law, including by prohibiting retaliation against them by the school
- Makes it a misdemeanor to knowingly fail to make a report or to knowingly make a report with the intent of deceiving or harming someone
- Requires colleges to fire an employee who violates the new law
The Tug of War Between Mandatory Reporting and Privacy
As we've covered elsewhere in our blog, mandatory reporting has several downsides to it that is often overlooked.
Among the most complicated and important is the invasion of privacy.
Students in college have only just reached adulthood, and one of the most rewarding changes that they experience between high school and college is the change in teaching dynamics. Whereas in high school their teachers are also figures of authority who can, to some degree or other, discipline them for misbehaving in the classroom, college professors treat their students as adults who can – and should – be able to make their own decisions.
The result is an atmosphere of congeniality that promotes the kinds of conversations that help college students grow as people and help them find their identity.
Making all college employees mandatory reporters undercuts this congeniality and trust in two very important ways:
- It can deter important and intimate conversations between students and college employees, including professors, by requiring professors to disclose them to a Title IX office that will use the information and take action based on what it learns, forcing professors to betray what a student might have hoped would be a confidential conversation
- It can add distance between students and faculty members, once students understand that any relationship that gets formed between the two will not be enough to keep the new mandatory reporting law from getting in the middle
Title IX Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento
The idea of deputizing more and more college personnel for Title IX purposes is not new. And while it can increase the number of sexual misconduct allegations that surface, it often does so against the wishes of alleged victims. It also comes at the expense of one of the most important relationships that college students can form.