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February 13, 2017

Penn State employees to learn level of responsibility in reporting campus sexual assault

Staff members at Penn State University will soon learn via email their responsibility to report sexual assault and sexual harassment on campus.

Staffers will either be classified as "confidential employees" or "responsible employees," the university announced Monday.

Confidential employees will be divided into two groups with different responsibilities and obligations under the law.

The first group, which includes licensed mental health counselors, pastors, priests or any other pastoral counselor who provides mental health counseling to the campus community, are not required to report any information under Title IX or the Clery Act. This group also includes workers supervised by these people.

The second group of confidential employees, non-professional counselors or advocates, should report aggregate data, but are not required to report incidents in a way that identifies the victim, unless they have the victim’s consent, according to the university. These staffers – students, social workers, doctors and anyone with a license that requires confidentiality – work or volunteer in on-campus sexual assault centers, victim advocacy offices, women’s centers or health centers.

All other campus employees will be designated as "responsible," meaning that the majority of Penn State employees are responsible for reporting sex- and gender-based misconduct when they become aware of it.

The university said it will launch new training on February 24 that is required initially for all employees, then as part of orientation for new hires. The 35- to 45-minute, online training session, titled "Understanding Title IX at Penn State," will teach relevant policy and law, reporting responsibilities and reporting protocol.

Administered by the Title IX Office, employees will only have to take the training once. Thereafter, the policy will be covered during Annual Compliance Training.

Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 is a federal law that states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

Designating employees' level of reporting responsibility was one of 18 recommendations to fight sexual assault and sexual harassment on campus.