Sacramento – Today, Assemblymember Marty Block (D-San Diego) introduced the Equality and Equal Access in Higher Education bill (AB 620), sponsored by Equality California, which seeks to combat bullying and harassment against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students and staff at public colleges and universities throughout California. If passed, the bill would implement many of the 2009 California Postsecondary Education Commission recommendations including requiring professional development and awareness training on anti-LGBT bullying for staff and employees at public institutions of higher education. The bill would also require public colleges and universities to include a policy on harassment and intimidation as part of its student code of conduct.
“Last year our nation witnessed the devastation and heartbreak anti-LGBT bullying causes young people, their family and friends,” said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California. “This bill is designed to help save young lives by ensuring that there are adequate resources for LGBT students and cultural competency training for staff at public colleges and universities.”
The bill also codifies in state law the practice, already put into place by many universities, of collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity in the same manner as gender, race, ethnicity and disability, on voluntary demographics sections of university forms. Additionally, the bill updates the state’s higher education code to include sexual orientation and gender identity and expression as classes protected against discrimination in portions of the code where this is not currently specified.
“Students attending our public colleges and universities deserve a campus that is serious about providing a safe environment where all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, can excel to their fullest academic potential,” said Assemblymember Block. “Bullying and harassment sadly continue to be a primary concern for LGBT students on campus and is often cited when determining why they underperform or drop out. Discriminatory behavior should not be tolerated under any circumstances and I am proud to be working with Equality California to move forward this important piece of legislation.”
A 2008 University of California Undergraduate Experience Survey (UCUES) found that LGBT students face many challenges that require additional campus services and resources for them to be successful in college. The survey found that, compared to their heterosexual peers, LGBT students face higher rates of mental health problems, sexual health risks, substance abuse, and family issues leading to negative health outcomes. Data collected also revealed that 33% of LGBT students report having serious depression concerns — 50% higher than heterosexual students. In addition, 93% of heterosexual students said they feel “respected on campus,” compared to only 73% of LGBT students.
AB 620 would also encourage college campuses to identify a point-person for addressing the needs of LGBT faculty, students and staff on campus and to add the individual to their respective personnel portfolios in student affairs.