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McCaskill Queries University, Law Enforcement Officials on Title IX Policy

Scott Harvey

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill says legislation aimed at curbing campus sexual assaults will be redrafted to encompass some of the suggestions received this week.

The Democratic senator from Missouri spoke to a group of students, area law enforcement and faculty and staff at Missouri State University on Wednesday. It was the final day of her three-day trip throughout the state to discuss the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, a bill she and a bi-partisan group of lawmakers introduced this summer.

“It’s stimulating conversations among people who need to be working closely together and I think that’s terrific. And it’s helping me a lot draft legislation that’ll work,” McCaskill said.

One of the provisions of her bill would require schools to enter into a memoranda of understanding with law enforcement to “clearly delineate responsibilities and share information” so that both entities can focus on solving the crime rather than debating jurisdiction.

She says providing a template for that type of an agreement, as well as one for training adjudicators and investigators will better assist colleges and universities looking to improve Title IX policy.   

Speaking to reporters after her roughly hour-long discussion, McCaskill said one of her biggest fears is that an abundance of students have expressed to her uncertainty of when conduct is criminal. Of the roughly two hundred people in attendance Wednesday, a few dozen were students; two of whom raised their hand when asked by the senator if they would do well on a criminal sexual assault quiz.

“Many of these victims will never get help if they don’t have the fundamental understand of when the law’s been broken.”

McCaskill stressed the urgency by which to report these crimes, noting that some are of a predatory nature and will happen again. Plus, delayed disclosure greatly diminishes the chance to hold the perpetrator accountable.

She queried various officials, both university and law enforcement, about the channels in place by which to report a sexual assault, the options available to the victim and informed party, and necessary disclosures to be provided to the victim.

Schools that don’t comply with certain requirements under the bill may face a penalty of up to 1 percent of the institution’s operating budget. McCaskill says she’s heard a lot of concerns about that provision.

“For a campus like Missouri State that could be millions of dollars. I think what we’ve learned on this tour is that fear needs to be alleviated with an insurance that that money could then be utilized to address some of the shortcomings on that campus for those students.”

Previously, the only allowable penalty for an institution was the loss of all financial aid, which McCaskill said is not practical and has never been done.

Wednesday’s session also touched on proper training of students on sexual assault. That’s included as part of Missouri State University’s new Title IX policy, which was updated this summer. Students are required to take the online course before allowed to enroll in spring classes. The school said all but about 1,000 students have done so to date.

McCaskill says the next version of the bill is to be issued upon her return to Washington in November. She’s hoping for passage of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act within the next six months.

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