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Controversial sexual assault bill debated in state senate

A contentious Missouri bill that would have changed federal Title IX sexual assault and harassment protections for college students stalled earlier this month after a vigorous debate.

Proposed by Republican Sen. Gary Romine of Farmington, Senate Bill 259 would have required colleges and universities to establish commissions to hear student sexual harassment cases. The students involved could have attorneys, cross examinations could take place and there would be an appeals process.

The bill, first filibustered by Senate Democrats in April, would give students accused of campus sexual assault more legal protections.

Proponents of the bill, including Republicans and the NAACP, say it offers the constitutionally guaranteed right of due process and it protects African-American men, who are disproportionately hurt by Title IX.

St. Louis Democrat Jamilah Nasheed, a staunch critic of the bill, vowed to make sure it doesn’t pass.

“This is about protecting wealthy white boys who think they can do and get away with anything,” Nasheed said. “It’s not about helping young black men.”

What is Title IX?

Passed in 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments is a federal civil rights law prohibiting sex discrimination in any education institute that receives federal funds. Title IX applies to all forms of sexual harassment, including sexual violence and sex discrimination.

Under Title IX, schools have a responsibility to stop sex discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual assault. Institutions must have policies and procedures in place to report complaints and deal with those accused.

Title IX covers all students, regardless of sex, gender identity or sexual orientation. It also covers international students, visiting students and prospective students.

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