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Messenger: President of NAACP adds his voice to those trying to protect Title IX in Missouri

Messenger: President of NAACP adds his voice to those trying to protect Title IX in Missouri

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Jamilah Nasheed election night watch party

Missouri State Senator Jamilah Nasheed delivers her concession speech on Tuesday, March 5, 2019 during her election night party at the Mahler Ballroom in St. Louis. Nasheed lost the Board of Alderman President race to incumbent Lewis Reed by 4.03 percent. Photo by Colter Peterson, cpeterson@post-dispatch.com

Who is this for?

That is the question Sen. Jamilah Nasheed asked late Tuesday night as the Missouri Senate debated a bill pushed by Republicans to shred Title IX protections on college campuses in the state.

Supporters of the legislation, backed by a dark money nonprofit called Kingdom Principles that is funding 29 lobbyists to push the bill, have argued that it is about protecting the due process of men — particularly black men — who might be accused of sexual assault on a campus and lose access to scholarships or the ability to attend the university of their choice.

Fine, said Nasheed, a St. Louis Democrat, even though there’s no evidence to back the claim. And she called their bluff, proposing an amendment that would provide public defenders for the indigent, and, thus, protect their rights as well as those who can afford private attorneys.

Republicans said no.

Who is this for?

That’s the question Rod Chapel, the head of the Missouri NAACP asked, last month, when he announced his organization’s opposition to the bill. Chapel joined public and private universities, women’s rights advocates, the Deaconess Foundation, St. Louis Graduates, and various student groups, in standing up for existing Title IX rules intended to increase reports of sexual assault and better protect victims of those assaults.

Chapel pointed out that the bill is sponsored by Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, the same man who pushed a bill in 2017 that made it easier for Missouri employers to discriminate against blacks, women and members of the LGBTQ community.

This week, Romine failed to get his Senate Bill 259 to a vote after debate that lasted into the early morning hours.

But he’ll be back.

And now he’ll have a new opponent.

Derrick Johnson, the president and CEO of the national NAACP, says Missouri lawmakers should defeat the bill.

“Title IX has spurred schools to address the pervasive challenges sexual harassment and assault that have contributed to hostile environments that deprive many students of equal educational opportunities. Yet recent attacks on Title IX enforcement would have the effect of silencing sexual assault survivors and denying them educational opportunities,” Johnson said in a statement first obtained by the Post-Dispatch.

“In the Missouri State Legislature, there is a bill being considered which would undo guidelines which encourage more women to report sexual assaults at colleges and universities. Although the Missouri proposal has been significantly amended since its introduction and now addresses the ‘due process’ aspect of Title IX, the bill remains an attack on civil rights protections — this time the civil rights of sexual assault survivors.”

For those lawmakers who care about the facts, the NAACP’s full-throated opposition should counter the false narrative the bill’s supporters tried to plant that this bill was somehow about protecting the civil rights of black students on college campuses.

Who is this for?

It’s for the sons of the privileged, who don’t want to face consequences for their actions.

It’s for the class of wealthy Americans caught up in the “Operation Varsity Blues” federal sting that found wealthy parents buying spots for their children on college campuses as though acceptance was their birthright.

It’s about lawmakers being fooled by the canard that a private college such as St. Louis University or Washington University or College of the Ozarks should be hauled before state regulators and political appointments to adjudicate matters that are not even in the judicial system.

Who is this for?

In the current bill, lawmakers have written out the President Donald Trump-loving religious College of the Ozarks after that school — like every other university in the state — objected to it. Meanwhile, one of the bill’s supporters is pushing a seemingly unrelated bill to tax the endowments of private universities such as SLU and Washington U.

Who is this for?

Johnson provides the answer.

“There is no evidence that African American men are disproportionately penalized by due process, yet there is lots of evidence — both scholarly and anecdotal — that Americans’ civil rights continue to be violated every day,” he writes. “That is why the NAACP — national and in Missouri statewide — call for an end to all the proposed changes to Title IX enforcement. Rather, we strongly urge the federal government and the Missouri state legislature to focus its energies instead on vigorously enforcing the Title IX requirements to ensure that schools promptly and effectively respond to sexual harassment.”

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