Title IX is Up for Change in Missouri

I’m sure one of the first things you’re asking yourself is, “What is Title IX in the first place?” and the only thing you can think of are the series of videos and questionnaires that many of us were required to do at the beginning of the fall semester. Title IX is a federal civil rights law that was passed in 1972 as part of the Education Amendments. Title IX states that:

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

To put it into simpler words, institutions that receive federal funding from the Department of Education (like public universities and colleges as well as state and local educational agencies) are not allowed to discriminate against anyone because of their sex. Title IX also covers one more thing. Sexual harassment, which includes sexual violence, is prohibited in Title IX as it is also seen as an extension of discrimination on the basis of sex. Title IX also states that:

“A recipient may not retaliate against any person for opposing an unlawful educational practice or policy, or because a person made charges, testified or participated in any complaint action under Title IX.”

So now that you hopefully understand what Title IX is, let’s talk about what’s going on in Jefferson City, MO. One lawmaker, Senator Gary Romine, presented Senate bill (SB) 259 to the Senate Education Committee a few weeks ago.

So under this legislation, an accused “student at any institution of higher education may request a due process hearing before the Administrative Hearing Commission with respect to any formal Title IX complaint filed with the institution. Students that have received disciplinary action, past or present, would be able to appeal a decision made by the university to the Administrative Hearing Commission.”

The bill also allows the accused to take civil action against, in simpler terms “to sue,” the accuser if they feel that they have been made the victim of a false claim or complaint. If a student that was accused is denied due process, “to go to court,” they would be able to seek relief from the administrative individual who made the denial. “The Missouri Attorney General would, therefore, have the authority to investigate alleged or suspected violations of the grievance procedures.” This basically means that if the student accused is unhappy with how anything in the proceedings of the investigation is going, they can take it to court.

It’s safe to say the proposed bill would make significant changes to how complaints involving Title IX would be handled on college campuses in Missouri. “Alterations to the process would include unifying the system statewide, enable lawyers to speak for clients, and ensure due process is followed.” Which at first glance doesn’t seem to be bad, it, in fact, seems like a good thing.

There are still a lot of things to keep in mind with this. Rape-shield laws, which protect victims of sexual harassment and assault from being asked intrusive questions about their sex life, what their apparel was, what their alcohol level was, and so on, would not be applicable in these circumstances. It’s also important to note that the reason that many victims of sexual harassment and assault prefer to report the incidents to their universities or colleges is because they want it to be a private investigation. This legislation would throw that out the window by inputting so many clauses on “civil action” and “due process” and the like. Not to mention, this legislation “would give those accused of sexual harassment, assault or discrimination at Missouri universities more control over the process than in any other state in the nation.”

This legislation would also potentially prevent more victims of sexual harassment and assault from reporting the incidents since there would be such a high risk of being sued for doing so or of the process becoming uncomfortably public. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reports that 95% of rapes on college campuses go unreported, now imagine that percentage increasing even just a little bit, that’s not good for anyone.

And this legislation wasn’t created in a vacuum, it is the byproduct of the #MeToo movement and, the oppositional movement that sprang up soon afterward, the #HimToo movement. For those who don’t know, or just don’t remember, the #MeToo movement is a movement that was originally founded in 2006 “to help survivors of sexual violence, particularly Black women and girls, and other young women of color from low wealth communities, find pathways to healing.” This movement blew up 2017 when various celebrities began tweeting in support of it as well as sharing their own stories of sexual harassment and assault, and it spread from there.

The #HimToo movement was born soon afterward. This movement was utilized, instead of in support of male victims of sexual harassment and assault (even though #MeToo is not gendered), to be in support of those accused of sexual harassment and assault. This movement blatantly supports the notion that men are more likely to be the victims of accusation of sexual harassment and assault than to be the perpetrators of such acts, and that therefore men need to be protected. I see this proposed bill as the direct effect of this movement.

So what can you do to stop this? Right now, there isn’t much. Online, or in real life, petitions haven’t been created yet. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t call up your senators and representatives and tell them how you feel. The best way I’ve been able to find my senators and representatives contact information is through this website, which will give you all the steps and tips on how to get in touch with them!

Also, Student Advocacy Day is coming up! If you don’t know what that is, it’s a day where students can go to Jefferson City, MO for a day and share with legislators how they feel. It’s especially a chance for you to tell legislators how you feel about SB 259. If you’re interested in attending, the link is here.