As of this morning, there is a new acronym you need to learn: CASA, which stands for The Campus Accountability and Safety Act. This proposed legislation was introduced by Senator Claire McCaskill and a bipartisan group of Senators, and was developed with information gathered at three roundtable discussions that we wrote about on this blog.
The purpose of the legislation is to “create incentives for schools to take proactive steps to protect their students and rid their campuses of sexual predators.” In other words, under this legislation there would be more significant consequences for noncompliance:
- a penalty of up to 1% of the institution’s operating budget for CASA violations, and
- increased penalties of up to $150,000 for each Clery Act violation
The bill requires schools to:
- designate confidential advisors to (1) receive anonymous or confidential reports of sexual violence, and (2) coordinate victim support services and accommodations, with the decision to report the crime to law enforcement or campus authorities left up to the victims or survivors
- encourage reporting by prohibiting disciplinary action against students who disclose conduct violations, such as underage drinking, in the process of reporting a sexual assault
- provide mandatory training for campus personnel who are involved in reporting or resolving complaints of sexual violence, on how to identify sexual violence and its effects on victims and survivors, and provide specialized training for those who are involved in grievance proceedings
- use one disciplinary process for all sexual violence complaints and prohibit athletic departments and other groups from handling the investigation or resolution of these complaints
- disclose in the Annual Security Report how many sex offenses were investigated by the institution the previous year, and the number of those cases referred for disciplinary hearing or criminal investigation, how many of the accused were found responsible, any sanction imposed, and how many complaints were closed without resolution
- conduct an annual standardized online survey of students to determine the incidence and prevalence of sexual violence, their knowledge of school policies and procedures, the experience of those who reported sexual violence, and the context of those reported incidents
- enter into a memorandum of understanding with local law enforcement to define their respective responsibilities and to share information in sexual violence cases, “when directed by the victim”
- provide contact information for its Title IX coordinator to the Department of Education, which shall be posted on a Title IX website, together with information about pending compliance investigations
CASA would also extend the deadline to file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights to 180 days after a student graduates from or drops out of the institution. And in compliance reviews, CASA would give the Assistant Secretary of the OCR and the Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice the power to:
- issue subpoenas, which are enforceable by the U.S. District Court
- request schools to produce documents and answer interrogatories
As it turns out, CASA is just the beginning of new federal legislation to address campus sexual violence. U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and Congresswoman Susan Davis also introduced legislation today – S.O.S. Campus Act – the Survivor Outreach and Support Campus Act, which would require colleges and universities to designate an independent advocate who would be responsible for making sure that victims and survivors have access to medical care, forensic exams, counseling, legal advocates, and information on reporting options.
Rep. Jackie Speier also introduced a bill in the House of Representatives – HALT – the Hold Accountable and Lend Transparency on Campus Sexual Assault Act, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney said she’d be filing a House version of CASA after summer recess.
Keep your acronyms list handy since it looks like there’s more to come, and we’ll keep you informed on the debates that may shape new federal laws for higher education.