New bills to tackle campus sexual violence

Know Your IX organizer (and Feministing blogger!) Wagatwe Wanjuki speaks at a press conference to introduce the CASAct.

Two bipartisan bills that would empower college students against campus sexual assault were announced this past week in the Senate and House. The Senate’s Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA) and the House’s Hold Accountable and Lend Transparency (HALT) share their focuses on mandating increased support for students on their campuses, increased transparency, and the creation of intermediary fines for schools found violating students’ civil rights. This last provision in particular is a a big win for student organizers who have long advocated for intermediate sanctions, like us over at Know Your IX‘s ED ACT NOW campaign. Here’s a quick run down of what you need to know about these bills and where we can expect things to go from here.

Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA), announced on Wednesday, was spearheaded by Senators Claire McCaskill and Kristin Gillibrand along with bipartisan support from Sens. Marco Rubio, Kelly Ayotte, Richard Blumenthal, Chuck Grassley, Dean Heller, and Mark Warner.  The bill in full can be read here but according to this helpful breakdown by Gillibrand’s office, it will:

  • “Establish new campus resources and support services for student survivors 
  • Ensure minimum training standards for on-campus personnel
  • Create new historic transparency requirements
  • Increase campus accountability and coordination with law enforcement (Note: This does not include mandatory referrals to the police)
  • Establish enforceable Title IX penalties and stiffer penalties for Clery Act violations”

The Hold Accountable and Lend Transparency  on Campus Sexual Assault(HALT) House bill, announced Thursday and co-sponsored by Representatives Jackie Speier, Patrick Meehan, Judy Chu, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Barbara Lee, and Sheila Jackson Lee also seeks to prevent campus sexual violence and enforcement of federal law and policy by requiring, according to a fact-sheet by Speier’s office:

  • “The Department of Education to issue penalties for noncompliance with civil rights requirements under its authority, including Title IX 
  • the availability of a private right of action for students harmed by institutions that fail to meet campus safety requirements
  • Increasing penalties for Clery Act violations
  • Annual climate surveys
  • Public disclosure of all resolution agreements between higher education institutions and the Department of Education compliance reviews
  • Increased funding for Title IX and Clery investigators
  • Expansion of institutional requirements for notifying and publicly posting students’ legal rights and institutions’ obligations under Title IX
  • An interagency task force to increase coordination between agencies and enhance investigations”

The introduction of these Senate and the House bills once again illuminate the continued power of student organizers in fighting assault on their campuses as well as the powerful results when lawmakers actively engage grassroots organizations in legislation creation. By working in tandem with survivors and students, legislative leaders like Senators McCaskill and Gillibrand and Representative Speier have demonstrated the importance generating solutions that are relevant to current campus context. As with any bill, there is certainly opportunity for improvement and reshaping, but as long as the continued commitment to students organizers is honored, I trust that new solutions will be yet another step towards justice.


Suzy 1Suzanna is the Feministing Five interview coordinator, filling in this week on regular blogging duty for Juliana. 

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