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In Wake of Nassar Scandal, Peters, Cornyn & Stabenow Introduce Legislation to Hold Universities Accountable for Sexual Abuse

Bill Would Require University Leadership to Review Sexual Abuse Cases Involving Employees

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) today announced that they are introducing legislation to hold universities that receive federal funding accountable for sexual abuse cases that threaten the safety of their students. Following horrific abuses involving Larry Nassar at Michigan State University and Jerry Sandusky at Pennsylvania State University, the Senators are introducing the Accountability of Leaders in Education to Report Title IX Investigations (ALERT) Act to require university leaders to certify they have reviewed any reports of sexual abuses perpetrated by university employees.

“Our colleges and universities must do more to protect the safety of our children, and we must hold them accountable when they fail,” said Senator Peters. “Too many young people have suffered appalling harm from abusers who should have been stopped by university officials. I’m introducing this legislation to ensure that ‘I didn’t know’ will never again be an excuse for permitting monstrous abuse to continue under the watch of the officials we trust to look after our children.”

“University officials must be responsible stewards of students’ trust, especially when they come forward with unthinkable allegations of abuse,” said Senator Cornyn. “This legislation would ensure reports of sexual misconduct against campus employees have been thoroughly reviewed by university leadership.”

“When I met with survivors, they were very clearly focused on the future and making sure other young women never have to experience what they have gone through,” said Senator Stabenow. “This bill is just one step we can take to make sure all universities take sexual abuse more seriously and that their leadership is held publicly accountable.”

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, in both the Nassar and Sandusky cases, university leaders failed to take action on or even claimed they were unaware of reports of sexual abuse by university employees, despite the fact that official Title IX or external investigations had been conducted.

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 incidents involving employee sexual misconduct that were reported to the Title IX coordinator at that institution in the previous 12 months. The annual certification would also require confirmation that neither the President, or equivalent officer, or board member had not interfered with or inappropriately influenced an ongoing investigation.