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Davis, California

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Bill targeting sexual assault on community college campuses approved by California Assembly

AB 969 currently has bipartisan support

On May 19, the California Assembly approved Assembly Bill (AB) 969, a bill that would give California Community Colleges (CCCs) grounds to suspend or dismiss students who threaten or commit violence against fellow classmates, whether the violence occurs on or off campus. The bill also requires students to report any charges of sexual assault that resulted in dismissal from an academic institution if transferring between CCCs.

“We discovered that a student found responsible for campus sexual assault simply transferred to another community college district without any problems,” said Lourdes Jimenez, chief of staff for state representative Das Williams (D–Carpinteria), the author of the bill. “Additionally, we found that a community college district was not pursuing off-campus reports of campus sexual assault due to confusion in current law.”

Jimenez said that he feels the rape culture in our higher education system needs to be addressed. One in five women will be a victim of sexual assault in her college career, however, only five percent of these cases are reported and even fewer are investigated. The hope is that this bill will aggressively tackle these problems among community college campuses.

“The state has an obligation to provide a safe and secure learning environment at our campuses for our students. The students, their families and the general public need assurance that the [institutions] take campus sexual assault seriously,” Jimenez said.

This bill directly targets sexual assault on community college campuses, because unlike a California State University or a University of California,which has on-campus housing, CCCs do not. This allows for violence to occur more frequently between students off-campus than on-campus. This is why any off-campus violence will be punishable by any CCC in question according to this bill.

Punishment under this bill for reported cases of sexual assault would be brought to a governing board to determine the expulsion or admittance of a perpetrator of sexual assault.

“According to the US Department of Justice, about 70 percent of rape and sexual assault victimizations occurred either at the victim’s home or the home of another known person, meaning that most sexual assault cases do not occur on campus or during campus related events,” Jimenez said.

Mitchel Benson,spokesman for Los Rios Community College District, which includes Folsom Lake College, American River College, Cosumnes College and Sacramento City College, said that the district has not taken a stance on the bill.

“At this point we’re studying what kind of impact, if any, it would have on community colleges, and the Los Rios colleges in particular,” Benson said.

Benson said that the Los Rios Community College District is an open admissions college system.

“To have a survivor centered approach is really important,” said Heather Lou, the assistant director of outreach for the Women’s Resource Center at UC Davis.

She said she feels the most positive impact this bill could have would be to encourage conversations on college campuses.

“I really appreciate that it does talk specifically about the different kinds of violence that can happen and I think that that may be something that would feel good for survivors,” Lou said. “As long as survivors have the resources and the understanding of how this could impact them, then I think this is something that could be good.”

This bill currently does not have any opponents according to Jimenez. It is supported by the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, a membership association of rape crisis centers and sexual assault prevention programs in the State of California.

“From my discussions with students and the public…it looks like there’s a lot of support for policies that will address the problem of campus sexual assault,” Jimenez said.

Graphic by Jennifer Wu.


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