California SB 493 Provides Additional Protection for Sex Discrimination
As schools and students transition to virtual learning as campuses close, sexual misconduct investigations are being left in limbo. With little idea on how to approach these cases, schools need more guidance and regulations. California SB 493 protects students who are facing sex-based discrimination, which includes sexual violence and harassment. California needs to ensure that higher education institutions are accurately responding to these allegations. Covid-19 has proven that this is not the case.
Sexual harassment among college students is rampant with 1 in 5 women say they were sexually assaulted in college. Existing federal and state law does prohibit sex discrimination and requires universities to respond, yet there are not any guidelines on how to respond.
SB 493 includes notice requirements so that students know how to report sexual assault, the processes that the school will follow, and available counseling services. It also requires that school officials who are involved in the process of trauma-informed investigation and hearing processes are trained appropriately. The bill provides for interim supportive measures such as housing or class changes, or “no contact orders” that may be necessary to protect any students involved in the investigation. The bill also ensures that investigations must follow a prompt timeline, as well as clarifies that regardless of the location of the incident, schools must respond if it interferes with a student’s education. SB 493 prioritizes the mental health and recovery of alleged victims, while also maintaining a fair and equitable investigation for both parties.
With the pandemic, delays in school investigations are frequent causing increased anxiety and stress for students who do not foresee a resolution shortly. Schools are abdicating their responsibility to protect their students which dampens the quality of their education.