The education sector has a long, scary history on how they handle sexual harassment reports. Recently, Senators drew attention to the Secretary of Education’s failure to address lawmakers’ concerns regarding how sexual misconduct cases are dealt with, as startling reports show offenders are often rehired in the education sector again. Now, teachers in California have drawn up a petition demanding a legal investigation into the state’s ongoing problem handling educators accused of sexual harassment in the state’s colleges.
The faculty association at Cal State East Bay started a petition last week calling for the state Legislature to launch an investigation into how the college’s 23 campuses handle sexual harassment complaints and allegations under Title IX. The petition stated the faculty association had no confidence in the current board of trustees’ investigation being conducted. Currently, the board is undergoing an independent investigation into how Fresno State officials handled sexual harassment reports between 2014 and 2019 involving a professor.
Sexual harassment complaints against Frank Lamas began in 2014, the same year the professor was hired at the university. However, the school failed to launch an investigation until years later when a female employee filed a former Title IX complaint in October of 2019 against the educator. Recently, a USA Today report detailed how the California State University Chancellor, Joseph Castro, failed to take disciplinary action against Lamas. In fact, Casto reportedly authorized a $260 thousand payout and a retirement package complete with a glowing letter of recommendation for the alleged sex offender. Castro’s authorization to do this came after investigations showed “credible evidence” backing the misconduct claims.
Castro has since resigned, and the chancellor’s office announced their own investigation into the matter, but CSU faculty have lost trust in their administration. This wasn’t the first strike to lead faculty to this decision. In 2009 and 2010, San Jose State’s internal investigation similarly failed to expose sexual harassment committed by a former sports trainer against student-athletes. Now, some think it is time for lawmakers to step up.
Sen. Connie Leyva is one lawmaker who has acknowledged the college’s failure to properly address sexual harassment cases. Leyva chairs the state Senate Education Committee. On March 1st, she made comments regarding CSU’s decision to launch an internal investigation. In a Tweet, she said she “looked forward” to reviewing the internal investigation’s conclusions. She also went on to affirm that she would afterward assess any needs to further investigate the happening, and determine if more actions may be needed.
California Assembly Representative Jose Medina recently authored a bill in regards to the ongoing sexual harassment issues universities have seen. Assembly Bill 1844 aims to require colleges and universities to complete an investigation into complaints or allegations of sexual harassment in regards to employees against a student or colleague regardless of whether that person resigns or is fired. It would also fix loopholes in Title IX to strengthen the reporting guidelines of sexual misconduct.
The CSU board of trustees is expected to discuss an investigation next week when they meet. Furthermore, the trustees announced plans to revise the current policy allowing an administrator to retreat to a faculty position after being fired. For now, faculty will have to wait and see if their petition is able to grab more attention from state lawmakers as the need to address how the education department handles such cases seems dire.