Jackson Bill to Ensure Civil Rights of College Students Involved in Sexual Harassment, Assault Allegations Passes Assembly

August 30, 2020

SACRAMENTO –Following Trump Administration Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s roll back of Title IX protections for student survivors of sexual assault on college campuses, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara)’s SB 493 to ensure California schools provide a transparent and fair process for all students involved in a sexual assault allegation, passed the State Assembly today. The bill will go back to the Senate for a final concurrence vote before heading to the Governor’s desk.

In direct response to the Trump Administrations’ harmful changes to Title IX — the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally-funded schools — SB 493 will require state-funded colleges and universities to adopt common-sense processes that ensure a fair, transparent, consistent response to reports of sexual violence.

“Betsy DeVos’s Title IX regulations jeopardize the rights and safety of student survivors by discouraging students from reporting abuse,” said Senator Jackson. “SB 493 will ensure that California’s educational institutions protect survivors through policies that treat them with dignity and respect, while ensuring a fair and transparent process for those accused.”

The Trump Administration’s regulations require schools to allow direct cross-examination of student victims, and would, in many cases, raise the standard of evidence from the standard administrative requirement of preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not occurred) to “clear and convincing” evidence, which is often impossible to prove in cases of sexual harassment and assault.

Senate Bill 493 would make it easier for students to report sexual harassment and violence by requiring schools to provide notice on students’ rights and how to report incidents; require schools to respond to off-campus incidents where they could interfere with a student’s access to education; and prohibit courtroom-style direct cross-examination of survivors by their assailants or their attorneys. It would also ensure adequate training for school officials involved, including training on implicit bias, trauma-informed practices, and the history of racial discrimination in school discipline.

Studies show at least one in five U.S. women, one in eight men, and one in four trans or gender non-conforming students survive sexual assault as undergraduates. Equally troubling, 63 percent of students – women and men -- report experiencing sexual harassment in college. Schools’ failure to adequately address, investigate, and protect students from sexual violence deprives students of their right to equal access to education. An estimated 34% of student survivors drop out of college.

Senator Jackson has long worked to implement protections for student survivors of sexual assault. In 2014, she joint-authored Senate Bill 967, which requires institutions of higher education to educate students about affirmative consent and sexual assault, improve response and prevention efforts, provide services for victims, and implement comprehensive prevention and outreach programs addressing sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. She also authored Senate Bill 186 in 2016 to allow community college districts to extend their jurisdictions beyond their campus borders and use their existing disciplinary process to discipline, suspend, or expel students for off-campus sexual assault and sexual exploitation.

Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.