SB 493 intended to improve process for students
California schools will now provide a transparent and fair process for all students involved in a sexual assault allegation, according to a bill that passed Sunday in the State Assembly and won the Senate’s concurrence vote 31 to 8.
State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, is the author of SB 493, titled “Gender Equity in Education: Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence.” It requires state-funded colleges and universities to adopt “common-sense processes that ensure a fair, transparent, consistent response to reports of sexual violence.”
To do that, the bill will make it easier for students to report sexual harassment and violence by educating students on their rights and how to report. The bill also requires schools to respond to off-campus incidents that could interfere with students’ education.
In addition, the bill will prohibit “courtroom-style direct cross-examination of survivors by their assailants or attorneys,” Sen. Jackson said.
This cross-examination raises the standard of evidence above “more likely than not occurred,” to which Sen. Jackson says “clear and convincing evidence” is “often impossible to prove in cases of sexual harassment and assault.”
Angela Morabito, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Education, clarified that students are not permitted to cross examine each other.
“Betsy DeVos’s Title IX regulations jeopardize the rights and safety of student survivors by discouraging students from reporting abuse,” Sen. Jackson said in a news release. “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 bill also aims to ensure adequate, trauma-informed training for school officials, along with requiring colleges and universities to publish the contact information for individuals responsible for investigating complaints and instituting corrective measures.
The bill cited a Campus Climate Survey Validation Study of 25,000 college students, which found that one in five women and one in 14 men experience sexual assault in college. The study also noted common underreporting of sexual harassment and violence.
“One of the many harmful results of campus sexual harassment and assault is the pushout that often occurs when schools do not take appropriate steps to respond to these incidents,” the bill fact sheet said.
The senator also argues that schools’ failure to adequately address, investigate and protect students from these incidents deprives students of their right to equal access to education.
SB 493 is now headed to the governor’s desk.
Sen. Jackson also recently sponsored a bill that passed last week and requires companies with 100 or more employees to submit annual data to the state detailing pay by gender, race, ethnicity and job category. The bill is intended to close the race and gender pay gap.