Texas Senate Bill 212: What this Means for Title IX and the Future of Higher Education Employees

Feb. 18, 2020 By Andrew Miltenberg

Texas Senate Bill 212: What this Means for Title IX and the Future of Higher Education Employees

Texas passed a new law that took effect on January 1, 2020. The law makes employees at Texas universities and colleges subject to criminal charges and losing their jobs if they fail to report incidents of sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, or dating violence to the school’s Title IX coordinator. 

This law takes Title IX claims to a new level. Title IX of the federal Civil Rights Act is a federal law that prohibits colleges and universities from discriminating on the basis of sex or gender. The law applies to private as well as public institutions that receive federal funding. 

Title IX has been used by alleged victims of sexual misconduct to seek remedies against colleges that don’t take enough action against the persons accused of the misconduct. 

Title IX does not mandate any criminal penalties. Many schools have reporting policies or designated “reporters” to whom students or other personnel can go to report alleged Title IX violations. However, the Texas law applies to all university employees.

Under the Texas law, penalties for failing to report a violation are either a:

  • Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000, or a 
  • Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. 

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board can fine an institution up to $2 million if it determines the school to be out of compliance. The law also requires the college to terminate any employee who knowing fails to make a report.

As a result, any college employee who learns of a possible Title IX claim must report the allegation which will lead to an investigation by the Title IX coordinator. Second, third, or fourth-hand learning of a possible sexual misconduct violation must also be reported. 

Even a counselor or other person the university designates for confidential communications with students must report the fact of the alleged incident but not name the persons involved, unless approved to do so by the affected student. 

Every three months, the Title IX coordinator must inform the university President of each reported incident and how it was resolved. At least twice per year, the school must post on its website, the number of incidents reported; the number of investigations conducted; how those investigations were resolved; disciplinary actions taken; and the number of reported incidents for which the college did not initiate a disciplinary process.

The public reporting requirements may cause schools to pursue disciplinary hearings on claims that would otherwise go undisciplined. Universities may fear the consequences of reporting any meaningful number of incidents for which they did not conduct disciplinary hearings.

It is anticipated that the new Texas law will substantially increase the number of events reported as possible Title IX violations, even if the employee learns of them third or fourth hand. The chilling effect of facing criminal law penalties and possible termination of employment is expected to give rise to this result. 

Other states are considering similar legislation. Schools outside of Texas are also contemplating tightening up their requirements for employees to report alleged sexual misconduct. 

Contact Us

Our attorneys are Title IX defense specialists and we have helped hundreds of accused students across the country who have been treated unfairly by their schools. We are parents too. Call us at 212-736-4500 or contact us as soon as a complaint is filed and we will be there aggressively protecting your rights, ensuring a fundamentally fair process, or establishing the deficiencies that will lead a court to reverse the school’s adverse findings. There is no fee for a private consultation.

Because every individual’s situation is different, this blog does not constitute the giving of legal advice.