The Assembly Committee on Higher Education approved Assembly Bill 620, to improve the climate for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) students at California public colleges and universities. It passed with a 6-2 vote.
The bill, approved on March 30 and proposed by Rep. Marty Block (D-San Diego), would require that California State University and California Community Colleges to add sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to campus anti-discrimination policies.
The bill also encourages University of California to adopt the policies, though UC is still reviewing the request.
The bill would also require that colleges create programs to train and educate their faculty on awareness and how to better understand the needs of the LGBT community at their campus. This bill would also call for an assessment of all the college campuses, to create specific lists of what each campus’ LGBT students need and how to best go about making changes.
“Our campuses should be places where all Californians feel secure and are able to develop their education and talents,” said Block in a press release. “AB 620 provides the framework to ensure all public campuses improve their campus climates for LGBT students, faculty and staff.”
The bill specifically mentions a 2009 study by the California Postsecondary Education Commission (CPEC), which found that LGBT students faced difficulties that would necessitate more campus resources and services for them to be successful in college.
“We have an obligation to all students to make sure there is an equal playing field for them to succeed,” said Mike Naple, communications director for Block, “and that adequate support is available and we know that is not the case for LGBT students at all of our public colleges and universities.”
According to Naple, with the campus assessments AB 620 calls for, CPEC would create focus groups to study the needs of LGBT students. From these they would develop recommendations of what the best courses of action would be.
The bill is sponsored by Equality California, an organization dedicated to achieving equality and legal protection for the LGBT community.
“The implications of this bill are that we need to ensure that LGBT students are free of discrimination and that they are able to access resources on campus,” said Mario Guerrero, government affairs director for Equality California, in an e-mail.
According to Naple, this bill would build on existing nondiscrimination laws related to hate violence to now include gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation.
The bill has received widespread support from various organizations, some of which include the California Federation of Teachers, California State Students Association and Student Senate for California Community Colleges. The University of California Students’ Association sent a support letter to Block as well.
“I think it is crucial to address campus climate issues through institutional change. Implementing policies and educational trainings is a step in the right direction,” said Sheri Atkinson, director of the UC Davis LGBT Resource Center.
“It takes a commitment from the entire community to create change and to prioritize creating an inclusive campus environment that benefits all of us,” Atkinson said.
The bill will now go to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for consideration.
ANNABEL SANDHU can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.