California Governor Vetoes Bill Calling For Minimum Punishments In College Sexual Assault Cases

The law would have been the first of its kind in the country.

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) vetoed legislation Sunday that would have made California the first state in the U.S. to have a mandatory minimum punishment in college sexual assault cases.

The bill, AB 967, would have required colleges in the state to give at least a two-year suspension to any student found responsible of a sexual assault violation in a campus judiciary process. The bill would have also required schools to disclose how sexual assaults are punished on campus, and would have required colleges and universities to "adopt and carry out a uniform process" for handling such cases.

Brown said it shouldn't be up to states to decide what kind of punishments college administrators dole out.

"College campuses must deal with sexual assault fairly and with clear standards of process," he wrote in a statement to the legislature. "It is eminently reasonable to expect that discipline shall not vary based on a student's status as an athlete or declared area of study. This bill, however, could deprive professionals from using their judgment to discipline according to relevant circumstances."

Colleges are obligated under the federal gender equity law Title IX to address reports of sexual assault on campus. If a school adjudicates a case of sexual violence, there are no requirements about what kind of sanctions it has to use. As a result, sanctions can vary widely between cases and from school to school.

A Huffington Post analysis last year found that fewer than one-third of cases where a student is found guilty of sexual assault result in expulsion, the most serious consequence a school can impose. Suspensions are the most common punishment, but they can range in length from weeks to years, and there is little available data to determine what the average duration is.

Last month, Brown signed a bill requiring that certain sex ed classes in the state include education about affirmative consent -- the idea that rather than using the standard of "no means no" to determine consensual sex, the baseline should be "only yes means yes." California was the first state to require higher education institutions to use affirmative consent as a standard in the judicial processes for sexual assault. Hundreds of colleges and universities already have affirmative consent policies in place.


Tyler Kingkade covers sexual violence, and is based in New York. You can contact him at, or on Twitter: @tylerkingkade.