JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A lobbyist whose son was expelled from college under a federal sex-discrimination law successfully enlisted a Missouri state lawmaker to introduce a bill that would overhaul how such complaints are handled — a measure that one opponent called “revenge legislation.”
Republican Rep. Dean Dohrman said lobbyist Richard McIntosh asked him to sponsor the proposal , which would change how Missouri colleges handle alleged violations of Title IX, the federal law that bans sex-based discrimination in education.
The measure would allow students to hire attorneys and cross-examine witnesses, meaning the accused could question their accusers. Cases could be appealed to a panel known as the Administrative Hearing Commission, which currently includes McIntosh’s wife and the mother of his son.
Dohrman said he learned about the son’s expulsion from Washington University from McIntosh, who told him it was related to a Title IX complaint.
The lawmaker declined to say whether he knew about the family’s situation before filing his bill. He said he did not ask McIntosh for “a bunch of details” and did not “necessarily want to know a bunch of details.” Dohrman said he’s pushing the legislation because he supports the policy.
“The situation with the McIntosh family is immaterial to my position,” said Dohrman, who represents a rural area east of Kansas City. “I believe there needs to be changes in due process of Title IX. That’s why I filed the bill.”
The allegations against the son are not public. Title IX complaints can include accusations of sexual harassment, sexual assault or other infractions.
The link between the lobbyist’s son and the legislation was first reported by the Kansas City Star.
McIntosh has previously declined to comment when asked by The Associated Press about his son’s expulsion. He did not return an AP request for comment this week.
The Kansas City Star report sparked outrage among the bill’s critics, including state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, a St. Louis Democrat who said “revenge legislation should have no place in this Capitol.”
“How dare you bring in legislation to the body and try to change the whole structure of Title IX simply because one person” was accused, Nasheed said.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, who supports some changes to Title IX, said the McIntosh family’s involvement in the legislation is “not a particularly good look” for lawmakers.
Both Dohrman and Republican Sen. Gary Romine, who sponsored a Senate version of the bill, said they stand by the proposals. Romine said he was aware of the expulsion after filing the bill but said he did not hear about it from McIntosh. “I kind of learned that by osmosis,” he said.
Proponents of changing Title IX proceedings say the current process does not give accused students a fair shot at defending themselves.
A coalition supporting the effort is bankrolled by Kingdom Principles, a political group that is at least partly funded by World Wide Technology co-founder and Washington University trustee David Steward.
McIntosh is listed as the registered agent for Kingdom Principles and has lobbied for World Wide Technology since 2000.
Kingdom Principles hired 29 lobbyists for the 2019 legislative session, including McIntosh.
Other supporters include St. Louis County NAACP President John Gaskin III, who previously said black men are disproportionately affected by “the denial of due process.”
Nasheed argued that the bills were introduced “for the sole purpose of a young white kid who was accused of a crime.” McIntosh and his family are white.
“To try to make it seem like this was a black movement is really appalling,” Nasheed said.
Colleges and universities, victims’ rights advocates and the Missouri NAACP president all oppose the effort.
Lawmakers have stripped out some of the more contested provisions , but Dohrman’s original proposal also would have allowed students accused of Title IX violations to sue people who make false complaints.
St. Louis Democratic Rep. Gina Mitten said parts of the initial bill were “antagonistic to any victim of sexual assault or rape.”
“To me that is indicative of the axe to grind,” Mitten said. “It is indicative of a vindictive spirit that had very little to do with due process and far more to do with one man’s personal experience.”
Lawmakers removed a provision that would allow past cases to be appealed, but it was unclear if that would prevent McIntosh’s son from appealing. There’s no deadline to appeal under Dohrman’s bill.
With only weeks left before lawmakers’ May 17 deadline, the bills face an uphill battle.
Neither has passed out of its respective chamber, and Nasheed pledged to block the Senate version. Rowden said he’s “doubtful” the measure will come up for debate on the Senate floor before the end of session.