Since January 1 of 2020, employees of Texas Universities and colleges who fail to report all credible accusations of rape, sexual misconduct, and/or sexual harassment, face the threat of being terminated – or even criminal charges. While other states like California and Florida have implemented similar requirements related to reportage, Texas is the first to impose criminal charges for compliance failure. Some critics of the law contend that the penalties for failure to report are harsher than those for engaging in sexual misconduct in the first place.
Layers of Mandatory Reporting
Many observers contend that the new law imposes layers of mandatory reporting for all institutions of higher learning in Texas, and each layer comes with its own set of reporting requirements. Some highlights include:
- All student employees and any employees who have experienced sexual misconduct personally are exempt from all mandatory reporting.
- Counselors, healthcare workers, and any other employees of the state’s universities and colleges whose job it is to collect confidential information from individuals are similarly exempt – but they are required to report the type of incident involved to the school’s Title IX coordinator in compliance with the law.
- Each school's Title IX Coordinator is responsible for summarizing all the above mandatory reporting of incident types and providing that summary to the university's president. Further, the coordinator is required to publish the information in an anonymous form once each semester. The reasoning behind this provision is to help forestall those headlining cases where university presidents astonishingly claim to know nothing about their school's serious problem with sexual misconduct.
Responding to Criticism
Many employees who are affected by this legislation express concern that students who might otherwise confide in them may be dissuaded from doing so by the requirement for mandatory reporting. The sponsors of the bill, however, have made it clear that the new law's intention is to enforce those incidents of failure to report that are abjectly damaging – like those that have captured so much media attention – and not to penalize those who choose not to report for credible reasons
What Are the Penalties Imposed?
Those employees who are required to adhere to the new reporting law but fail to do so can face either Class A or Class B misdemeanor charges. The associated penalties include up to one year in prison for each individual charge – along with monetary fines. Few defendants who face misdemeanor charges and have no prior criminal record, however, are actually sentenced to time behind bars. The deleterious effects of a misdemeanor on one’s future prospects, on the other hand, can be significant.