Governor Signs SB 493, Protecting CA College Student Survivors from Trump Title IX Changes

October 1, 2020

SACRAMENTO – Tonight Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill to protect California college students from recent changes to Title IX, requiring schools nationwide to respond differently to student reports of sexual assault and harassment. Senate Bill 493 (Jackson) defies new rollbacks of protections for student victims which took effect in August under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

SB 493 — authored by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) and sponsored by Equal Rights Advocates and the Women’s Foundation of California — will ensure California institutions of higher education provide a transparent, consistent, and fair process for all students involved in sexual misconduct investigations. (Bill provisions listed below.)

“Even in the midst of a global pandemic, the Trump Administration has wasted no opportunity to be misogynistic and cruel,” said Senator Jackson. “While Trump’s new Title IX regulations jeopardize student survivors’ safety and discourage others from reporting abuse, SB 493 will ensure California’s higher educational institutions protect survivors through policies that treat survivors with dignity and respect, while ensuring the civil rights of all students.”

The Trump Administration’s regulations, which took effect in August:

- hinder students’ ability to report sexual assault and harassment;

- force schools to dismiss most off-campus complaints (where the majority of assaults occur);

- require retraumatizing investigatory processes, including direct cross-examination of victims by an “advisor” of the assailant’s choice (a parent, friend, or hired attorney); and

- require the sexual misconduct to be “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” (as opposed to the previous “severe or pervasive) before schools are allowed to act, a difficult standard to meet that may require an escalation of abuse before the school can step in.

Senate Bill 493 would make it easier for students to report sexual harassment and assault by:

- requiring schools to provide notice to students of their rights and how to report incidents;

- requiring schools to respond to off-campus incidents where they could interfere with a student’s access to education;

- prohibiting courtroom-style direct cross-examination of victims;

- ensuring adequate training for school officials involved, including training on implicit bias, trauma-informed practices, and the history of racial discrimination in school discipline.

“SB 493 will ensure that California institutions of higher education adequately address and respond to rampant sexual violence in our schools,” said Jessica Ramey Stender, Senior Counsel for Workplace Justice & Public Policy at Equal Rights Advocates, a co-sponsor of the bill. “The required procedures under the bill are common-sense, and they protect all California students’ civil rights and access to education, regardless of rollbacks at the federal level.”

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

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

Cited from Sept. 29, 2020, https://www.equalrights.org/news/governor-signs-sb-493/