JEFFERSON CITY- Two bills proposed by Republican lawmakers may change how Missouri colleges handle Title IX cases.
“Senate Bill 259 is designed to make sure that Title IX has the best impact it can on protecting student’s rights,” Sen. Gary Romine said.
Romine’s bill and Rep. Dean Dohrman's House Bill 573 would allow students involved in a Title IX case to have a hearing before the State of Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission. Both representatives want their bills to create a balance between the accused and the accuser.
“There is a concern that we do not have legal minds actually making these decisions, and we want to make sure the system is used in such a way so that it protects both the person that is assaulted or accused of assault,” Romine said.
In a press release on Tuesday, Romine said “false accusations cause Title IX to lose value,” both Representatives push for due process during these cases.
But Matthew Huffman, a representative for Missouri Coalition Against Sexual Violence, said Title IX was never intended to mirror a civil or criminal justice route.
“At it’s base [Title IX] is really about equitable opportunity for students to have access to education,” Huffman said.
Huffman said many Universities in Missouri have worked hard to perfect their Title IX policies and procedures. He said the bill could stunt that progress.
“There are elements in this proposed bill, both the Senate and the House version where survivors who come forward to tell their story aren’t really able to have access to safety,”
Huffman said that survivors may be cross-examined and their credibility will be called into question, he said this could stop survivors from coming forward with their stories.
Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos has also proposed changes to the Title IX process and pushes for more protections for those that are accused.
“The most important issue of this bill is protecting the rights of all involved and making sure that anyone that has been assaulted has their process, but anyone that’s been accused to make sure that, until its been validated, is protected as well,” Romine said.