J4J Act: keeping California universities accountable

AB 644: The Justice for Josiah Lawson Act is being added to Section 66294 of the Education Code, relating to public postsecondary education most recently amended March 29. The name and background of the bill are in reference to David Josiah Lawson, a Cal Poly Humboldt student who was murdered at an off campus party in 2017.

AB 644 states that one year after the United States Secretary of Education make an online survey available to California institutions, the bill would require the office of the Chancellor of the California Community Colleges, the office of the Chancellor of the California State University and the office of the President of the University of California to submit a report of campus safety and hate crimes every two years following.

The bill states “campuses that already have formulated and implemented a campus climate survey before January 1, 2024, to meet on or before December 31, 2024, and at least once every 5 years thereafter, to review and update the survey with student participation and include hate crime-specific questions in the survey with student participation in the development of survey questions.”

Naomi Waters was a student at CPH who left in 2015 before completing her degree because of how the school responded to the hate crimes happening to students.

“The Institution was not being responsive to the needs of students of color,” she said.

Waters was informed of Lawson’s death a couple of months after the incident took place in 2017. She was connected to Josiah’s mother, Charmaine Lawson and the two began working together that year.

“A lot of times that’s when the conversation ended, like even if you had numerical data of why they [assembly and senate members] should care or should be interested it was very difficult sustaining the attention of the legislature,” Waters said.

According to the background of AB 644, “A requirement to track and report hate crimes would not only better identify hate crimes but would also give California’s higher education systems the tools to study hate crimes and prevent them before they happen.”

Waters explained that the bill is still a work in progress, amendments are still being made but it is a step in the right direction.

Charmaine Lawson said she is excited about the bill as they go into phase two to make sure the bill gets passed.

“My son will be remembered and so many students will benefit from this bill,” she said. “There’s a lot of incidents that take place on campus, off campus that’s not reported and with my son’s bill they will have to be reported.”

The Justice for Josiah 4k Run and Walk will be taking place on April 15. The community will gather at 9:30 a.m. and the walk/run will begin at 10 a.m. The walk/run will be from Arcata City Hall to the Arcata marsh. From 6-10 p.m. community members can gather at Serpentino Winery (650 6th St Arcata) for food from Mothers Kitchen, free music, poetry, dance and artists.

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