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Education

U.S. Senators want greater accountability for campus sexual assault

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kate wells
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Michigan Radio

Michigan’s two U.S. Senators want universities that receive federal funding to certify they are properly handling sexual abuse investigations.

Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, along with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced “The Accountability of Leaders in Education to Report Title IX Investigations (ALERT) Act" this week.

The bipartisan bill would require colleges and universities that get federal funding to submit an annual certification to the secretary of education.  They would have to affirm that top school officials have reviewed all Title IX and Clery Act sexual abuse investigations involving an employee that were reported that year.

Higher education officials would also be required to confirm that university officials have not interfered with or inappropriately influenced an ongoing investigation.

"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,” said U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

The bill follows the sexual abuse scandal involving former Michigan State University sports doctor Larry Nassar.

Michigan State University is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for its handling of complaints against Nassar. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has also named a special investigative team to review the university’s handling of the allegations against him.

Nassar has been sentenced to decades in prison for abusing young female athletes brought to him for treatment of sports injuries.

A similar scandal rocked Penn State in 2011 when allegations of child sexual abuse came out against former football coach Jerry Sandusky. The university’s president, vice president, and athletic director were all sentenced to jail terms for their failure to alert law enforcement officials about those allegations.

“Too many young people have suffered appalling harm from abusers who should have been stopped by university officials,” said U.S Senator Gary Peters (D-MI).

Sandusky was convicted in 2012 of sexually abusing boys he accessed through his Second Mile charity for at-risk children.

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