Attorney General Bonta Leads Coalition in Support of Increased Protections Against Sex Based Discrimination for All Students, Amidst Conservative Attacks on Title IX Final Rule

June 12, 2024
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta, New Jersey Attorney General Mathew J. Platkin, and Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle A. Henry today led a coalition of 16 attorneys general in filing a multistate amicus brief in the Western District of Louisiana in support of the U.S. Department of Education’s 2024 Title IX Final Rule amidst several lawsuits filed by Republican states attorneys general and groups seeking to undermine the rule’s enhanced protections. The final rule restores strong protections against sexual harassment and assault and reinforces critical protections for LGBTQ+ students. Today’s announcement comes shortly after the California Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss without prejudice its lawsuit against the Trump administration's Title IX Rule that severely weakened prohibitions against sex-based discrimination in light of the Biden administration’s issuance of the final rule. In today’s amicus brief, the multistate coalition stresses the importance of implementing the new rule nationwide to ensure that our schools operate free from sex discrimination.

“Title IX has been vital to providing safe and welcoming schools for all students since its enactment in 1972, and the Biden administration’s final rule enhances safeguards against discrimination and protections for all students,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Today’s brief is a testament to our commitment to ensure an equal education free from discrimination. Conservative attacks on policies that protect students across the nation will not stand. I will continue to use all of my resources to fight for these important protections for all students.”

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 requires that students receive an educational environment free from discrimination based on sex, including sexual harassment and sexual violence. Following the Biden administration’s issuance of the final rule, several conservative attorneys general moved to quickly file lawsuits challenging the rule, and sought to stop the rule from going into effect on August 1, 2024. In today’s brief, the coalition states cite protecting students from discrimination on the basis of sex dramatically improves economic, psychological, health, employment, and educational outcomes for these individuals, yielding broad benefits without imposing significant costs on schools or compromising student privacy or safety. 

In filing the amicus brief, Attorney General Bonta is joined by the attorneys general of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

A copy of the amicus brief is available here.

Attorney General Bonta: Mojave Unified School District Achieves Compliance with DOJ’s Four-Year Stipulated Judgment, Commits to Additional Reforms to Protect Students from Disproportionate Discipline and Increase Mental Health Support

May 9, 2024
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced that the California Department of Justice (DOJ) has ended monitoring of the Mojave Unified School District (District), concluding the four-year term of a 2020 stipulated judgment that addressed the District's policies and practices, including with regard to complaints of discrimination and retaliation. The settlement followed findings that the District failed to investigate a report that a principal threatened immigration-related consequences and retaliated against a student and his family for advocating for the student's legal rights. The terms of the 2020 judgment put in place reforms to protect students and ensure the District would improve its investigation and response process for complaints of discrimination and retaliation, revise policies, procedures, and practice, and staff training. The District has achieved substantial compliance with the judgment, and has agreed to implement an additional plan to significantly reduce disproportionalities in discipline for African-American students and students with disabilities, for a minimum of two years and provide DOJ with evidence of implementation two times a year.

“As the People's Attorney, I am committed to protecting students from discrimination and retaliation. The California Department of Justice and the Mojave Unified School District have worked together over the past four years to successfully implement the corrective actions set out in our 2020 stipulated judgment to address concerns regarding discrimination and retaliation,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “With the agreement announced today, Mojave Unified will take critical steps to ensure that no student is subject to discrimination in discipline and to provide additional mental health services for struggling students. My office will continue to work with the District to ensure the plan to reduce disproportionality in discipline is fully implemented, and we will continue to monitor over the next two years.”

 “Reflecting back to the start of the oversight, there were substantial changes needed to structure and maintain an environment that not only provided for, but addressed, the needs of all of our students,”said Dr. Aguirre, Mojave Unified School District Superintendent. “I thank all of our teachers, staff and administrators for their tremendous work and dedication to ensure that our practices and procedures are legally compliant, non-discriminatory and equitable. I am proud of their commitment to reviewing practices and procedures and for their reflection on what is fair and equitable in addressing and responding to our students’ needs. We could not have done so without the continuing support of our Governing Board members.”

In 2019, a DOJ investigation found that the District failed to properly investigate the family and student’s complaint of discrimination and retaliation. The investigation also found that the district violated state law with respect to search and seizure practices, special education identification, independent study and county community school placements, maintaining student record confidentiality, and the process for investigating and resolving complaints of discrimination and retaliation. DOJ and the District entered into a stipulated judgment that required significant reforms and a four-year monitoring period. 

At the conclusion of the judgment, the District achieved substantial compliance with all terms of the judgment by: 

  • Improving procedures for handling student complaints, including ensuring that staff understand their obligations under the law to adequately respond to and track reports of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.
  • Ensuring alternative education programs meet legal requirements, following findings that the District provided only 10-15 minutes of support per week to below-grade-level students in independent study and that students placed in supervised suspension did not have a credentialed teacher for at least half a school year.
  • Training staff in records management, as part of an effort to prevent the loss or removal of confidential student records.
  • Addressing potentially inappropriate transfers to county community day schools, which, if not for expulsion, generally may only occur with the voluntary and informed consent of the student and family.
  • Increasing the accessibility of special education evaluations, building on the District’s affirmative move to eliminate a screening process in order to help parents or guardians have a meaningful opportunity to engage in decisions about whether to evaluate their child for mental health-related disabilities.
  • Reforming practices on searches and seizures, making sure there is reasonable suspicion, as legally required, before class-wide or grade-level-wide searches are conducted.
  • Notifying families of the availability of translation and interpretation services, recognizing that meaningful access to education cannot be dependent on a student’s ability to translate between staff and a parent or guardian.
  • Conducting a quarterly community advisory survey, supporting efforts to gage the efficacy of the independent study program and alternative education arrangements.
  • Remedying grievances suffered by the individual harmed student, including by removing certain absences in the student’s record and providing 125 hours of free compensatory education and mental health services. 

The District has further committed to implementing a two-year suspension disproportionality reduction plan, and providing DOJ with evidence of implementation twice a year. The plan includes: 

  • Continued comprehensive implementation of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), including re-entry protocol for students returning from out-of-school removals.
  • Working with a consultant to provide guidance and support in the District’s PBIS implementation.
  • Additional mental health and behavioral support staff at school sites.
  • Training and implementation of restorative justice.
  • Training for all staff and consistent teacher supports in PBIS, restorative justice, nondiscrimination, bias, conflict resolution and de-escalation, trauma, and social emotional learning curriculum.
  • Tracking and monthly review of disaggregated PBIS and discipline data to identify trends and address root causes of discipline and disproportionality in discipline and implement necessary remedies. 

A copy of the agreement reached with the district is available here. A copy of the stipulated judgement is available here


Joined by Attorney General Bonta, Biden-Harris Administration Approves $72 Million in Borrower Defense Discharges for over 2,300 Borrowers who attended Ashford University

August 30, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

Relief stems from evidence provided by the California Department of Justice during successful lawsuit brought against the college and its parent company 

OAKLAND – Joined by California Attorney General Rob Bonta, the Biden-Harris Administration today announced the approval of $72 million in borrower defense to repayment discharges for more than 2,300 students who attended Ashford University (Ashford) and applied for relief. Ashford University was an online, for-profit school based in San Diego. The approvals come from a review by the U.S. Department of Education (Department) of evidence presented by the California Department of Justice during a successful lawsuit brought against Ashford University and its parent company, Zovio, Inc. (Zovio), which resulted in a judgment against the company in March 2022. Based upon evidence presented in that lawsuit, which covered the period from March 1, 2009, through April 30, 2020, the Department concluded Ashford and Zovio made numerous substantial misrepresentations during that period that borrowers relied upon to their detriment. The approved claims are from borrowers who enrolled in Ashford during this period and filed applications for borrower defense with allegations corroborated by these findings. Ashford student borrowers who were misled by Ashford and are not benefiting from today’s action can submit an application for relief at For help with the application, Ashford student borrowers can visit

“What Ashford University did to its students was unconscionable and illegal. That’s why the California Department of Justice took Ashford and its parent company to court. Ultimately, we prevailed, securing more than $22 million in penalties,” said Attorney General Bonta. “I want to thank the Biden-Harris Administration for changing the lives of thousands of former Ashford students today. They have lived a nightmare for too long. I encourage other individuals who took out federal student loans to attend Ashford, and were subject to its deceptive or misleading tactics, to apply for relief from the U.S. Department of Education as soon as possible.”

Borrowers will not have to make any payments on the loans being discharged. The Department will email borrowers who qualified for a borrower defense discharge in September that their applications have been approved. Borrowers will see any remaining loan balances for federal loans zeroed out and credit trade lines deleted. Any payments those borrowers made to the Department on their federal student loans will be refunded. Separately, the Department intends to initiate a recoupment proceeding at a later date to seek repayment of the liabilities associated with these approved claims.

“As the California Department of Justice proved in court, Ashford relied extensively on high-pressure and deceptive recruiting tactics to lure students,” said Under Secretary James Kvaal. “Today we are protecting the students who were cheated by Ashford, and we will also hold the perpetrators accountable, protect taxpayers, and deter future wrongdoing.”

The Department will also review the evidence to examine whether members of Ashford’s management and leadership took actions that violated Federal laws or regulations and threatened the integrity of the federal student financial aid programs. If the evidence shows they did, the Department may pursue appropriate remedies to enforce those rules.

In 2017, the California Department of Justice brought a lawsuit against Ashford and Zovio (which at the time was known as Bridgepoint Education) arguing that the for-profit college and its leadership engaged in numerous practices that misled and deceived prospective Ashford students. That suit led to an 18-day trial that featured nearly two dozen witnesses and more than 1,500 exhibits, plus additional written depositions. 

On March 3, 2022, the court ruled in favor of the California Department of Justice, concluding that Ashford made more than 1.2 million misleading representations to prospective students nationwide and assessing a civil penalty of $22.3 million. As the judgment said, the “Court heard substantial evidence that over the last decade, Defendants created a high-pressure admissions department whose north star was enrollment numbers.” It found that “admissions counselors would cross a ‘gray line’ ethically or ‘do things they wouldn’t normally do’ to boost numbers to keep their jobs.” The court found that executives’ testimony that Ashford “always put students first” lacked credibility. In fact, the court described a “paper trail [showing] that company executives were well aware of [the admissions department’s] fear-based culture.”   

The penalty assessed is the subject of an ongoing appeal, but Zovio did not challenge the court’s findings about the underlying conduct. As established by the court and verified through the Department’s independent review of the evidence, Ashford and Zovio engaged in extensive substantial misrepresentations:

  • Ashford recruiters told students they would be able to work as teachers, social workers, nurses, or drug and alcohol counselors. But Ashford never obtained the necessary state approval and/or accreditation for students to enter these professions, meaning students wasted years of their lives and incurred tens of thousands of dollars of debt for degrees they could not use. 
  • Ashford recruiters also lied about the cost to attend Ashford, the amount and type of financial aid students would receive, and the amount of debt students would accumulate. For instance, before they had access to borrowers’ financial aid award information some recruiters told prospective students that they would not incur out-of-pocket costs, that every Ashford student qualified for Federal Pell Grants, or that loan payments would be $50–$75 per month. Borrowers later discovered these promises were untrue when, for example, they unexpectedly reached lifetime loan limits during their enrollment, unexpectedly incurred out-of-pocket costs, and were forced to withdraw with debt but no degree. 
  • Ashford recruiters misled students about how long it would take to obtain an Ashford degree by stating its bachelor’s programs were “accelerated” or by comparing Ashford’s bachelor’s programs to traditional four-year schools when, in fact, Ashford’s bachelor’s degree programs were structured to take five academic years to complete. 
  • Ashford recruiters misled students about the ability to transfer credits both into Ashford and out of Ashford. Recruiters told students that Ashford would accept previously earned credits, reducing the amount of time and money students would spend completing their degrees. Students would later learn only some of the promised credits actually transferred. Ashford recruiters also promised students that the credits they earned at Ashford would transfer to other universities, when this was not always true.  

Borrowers relied upon these substantial misrepresentations to their detriment. Additionally, the evidence from the California case demonstrated that three-quarters of all Ashford bachelor’s degree programs would have resulted in a negative value for students, making the education they obtained effectively worthless. The Department approved these findings prior to July 1, 2023, and this action covers loans under the 1995 or 2016 regulation, as applicable.

Three years into the California lawsuit, on Aug. 3, 2020, the University of Arizona announced a plan for its affiliated foundation to acquire Ashford University and turn it into the University of Arizona Global Campus (UAGC). The University of Arizona acquired direct ownership of UAGC at the end of June 2023.

Attorney General Bonta Urges Chino Valley Unified School District to Safeguard Student Privacy, Autonomy Amid Proposed Parental Notification Policy Impacting Gender Identity

July 20, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000,


OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today issued a statement urging the Chino Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) to prioritize protecting student privacy. In an urgent letter sent to Superintendent Norman Enfield and the Board of Education, Attorney General Bonta expressed serious concern over the proposed Parental Notification policy, emphasizing the potential infringements on students' privacy rights and educational opportunities. The Attorney General's office is committed to protecting the rights and well-being of students in California schools.

"The protection of every student’s privacy and safety is of utmost importance, and that includes protecting their right to choose when, how, and with whom they share their gender identity. That is a personal decision for them, and them alone,” said Attorney General Bonta. “By allowing for the disclosure of a student’s gender identity without their consent, Chino Valley Unified School District’s suggested Parental Notification policy would strip them of their freedom, violate their autonomy, and potentially put them in a harmful situation. Our schools should be protecting the rights of all students, especially those who are most vulnerable, and should be safeguarding students’ rights to fully participate in all educational and extracurricular opportunities. I strongly encourage CVUSD to prioritize the rights and privacy of all their students.” 

The proposed policy is up for consideration tonight at the CVUSD Board of Education meeting. If approved, it would require schools to inform parents, without exception, if a student wants to use a name or pronoun different from what's on their birth certificate or official records. It would also require notification if a student wants to use facilities or participate in programs that don't match their gender on official records or if a student wants to change any information in their school records.

In the letter, Attorney General Bonta calls on CVUSD to fulfill its weighty responsibility as educators to create an inclusive and safe environment for all students. Additionally, the letter underlines that decisions about gender identity are deeply personal and should be handled with sensitivity, allowing students to make their own choices regarding when and how to disclose their identities to their parents. Furthermore, this proposed mandate demonstrates a reckless disregard for the real-world dangers some children may face at home. Any child harmed following such a mandatory parental notification could lead to potential liability for the school district. 

A copy of the letter can be found here.

Attorney General Bonta: Supreme Court Decision on Student Loan Debt Forgiveness Plan is ‘Profoundly Disappointing’

June 30, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Biden Administration’s plan to discharge between $10,000 and $20,000 in federal student loan debt for certain lower-income borrowers. On January 11, 2023, Attorney General Bonta joined 21 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of that historic plan.

“The Supreme Court’s decision is profoundly disappointing,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Approximately 40 million Americans — including more than 3.5 million Californians — stood to benefit from the Biden Administration’s historic student loan debt forgiveness plan, and now, they’ve been hung out to dry. As my fellow attorneys general and I underscored in our amicus brief, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona properly exercised his legal authority by targeting borrowers most impacted by the pandemic. I continue to stand by that belief.”


Attorney General Bonta and Governor Newsom Demand Answers from Temecula School Board

June 7, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Rob Bonta and Governor Gavin Newsom today issued a joint statement urging the Temecula Valley Unified School District Board of Education (Board) to provide information regarding its process and decision-making related to the Board's decision to reject the Social Studies Alive program for grades 1 through 5 on May 16, 2023. The curriculum, recommended by district staff and adopted by the State Board of Education, is in line with the FAIR Act's requirements. In light of this, Attorney General Bonta today sent a letter to Superintendent McClay and Board President Komrosky expressing concern over the Board's actions, and seeking information regarding its decision.

"We urge the Board to adhere to the FAIR Act's provisions and provide a comprehensive social sciences curriculum that reflects our diverse state and nation. This should include accurate representations of historical figures like Harvey Milk and not be influenced by personal bias," said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Restricting what our children are taught in school based on animus or ideological opposition contradicts our societal values. The Board needs to explain its decision making, and moving forward will need to ensure students have access to a wide range of ideas and perspectives."

“In the Golden State, our kids have the freedom to learn — and there are consequences for denying that freedom,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “California is closely watching the actions of malicious actors seeking to ban books, whitewash history, and demonize the LGBTQ+ community in Temecula and across the state. If the law is violated, there will be repercussions.”

Attorney General Bonta's letter emphasizes that local educational agencies have a legal obligation to implement a social sciences curriculum highlighting the contributions of various groups, including gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans. Furthermore, it highlights that a decision to remove or reject curriculum materials reflecting these identities may constitute unlawful discrimination. Concerning statements made by Board members during the May 16 meeting, including allegations about LGBTQ+ community leader Harvey Milk, the Attorney General’s letter expresses deep concern about the potential discriminatory intent.

To investigate the Board's process and rationale for rejecting Social Studies Alive, the letter requests the Board produce various documents, including instructional materials assessment and adoption policies, documents related to the proposed adoption of Social Studies Alive, and any complaints related to the program no later than June 22. The letter sent by Attorney General Bonta can be found here. The letter sent today follows a joint letter issued on June 1 by Governor Newsom, Attorney General Bonta and Superintendent Thurmond on “Educational Rights and Requests to Remove Instructional Materials,” which is available on the California Department of Education website.


Attorney General Bonta Announces Statewide Guidance on School Closures to Ensure Equitable Access in Education and Prevent Systemic Discrimination in Schools

April 11, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

The Guidance on School Closures in California guards against discrimination and supports equal partnership from school communities


OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced today statewide guidance on school districts’ legal obligations and best practices when considering school closures, including mergers, and consolidations. School districts that follow the legal mandates and best practices described in the Guidance Regarding Laws Governing School Closures and Best Practices for Implementation in California (Guidance) will take a step towards providing equal educational opportunity to all students, and begin to remedy the continuing harms of segregation. The Guidance also provides best practices to improve community trust and parent engagement and reduce a district’s legal risk before, during, and after the closure selection process. School superintendents and members of school boards throughout California received the Guidance today.

"Our 5.8 million public school students in California deserve an equitable and high-quality education. The statewide guidance issued today presents clear standards and procedures on how school districts should determine school closures, mergers, and consolidations to meet their legal requirements and to establish a mindful community engagement process with local school communities," said Attorney General Bonta. “We must proactively mitigate harm and ensure equity in our school system to help navigate this difficult process. I am committed to working with our schools and school board leaders to achieve successful outcomes for all our students."

As some school districts in California experience declining enrollment, communities are faced with the prospect of school closures, including mergers, and consolidations. For families, students, and staff, losing a beloved neighborhood school can upend livelihoods, and cause educational disruption and emotional distress. Students may have difficulty transitioning to a new school community, have to travel farther distances, or experience an increase in transit costs and time, exacerbating barriers to an equal education. These impacts are serious and can cause educational harm to students and their families.

Under AB 1912, enacted in September 2022, financially distressed school districts are mandated to engage the community before closing schools. Deep community engagement is the best practice for all school districts, as it pays dividends beyond school closures. Increased parent and student engagement lead to better academic achievement and attendance, which in California leads to more funding for schools and the decreased likelihood of future school closures. Under AB 1912, a financially distressed school district must also conduct an equity impact assessment before school closures, mergers, or consolidations and provide the public with the set of metrics or criteria proposed for closure decisions so that the public can provide input. Additionally, existing California civil rights laws impose mandates for all school districts in California considering closures. The Guidance issued today explains these legal mandates and offers best practices for all school districts to take before implementing school closures to protect California's students and communities from inequality and injustice.

 You can read a copy of the guidance here.


Attorney General Bonta Announces New Online Portal and Hiring of Statewide Sexual Assault Evidence Outreach Coordinator to Strengthen Support for Survivors

November 1, 2022
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

Sexual assault evidence kit portal launched as a result of the passage of Senate Bill 215 

Outreach coordinator, Dr. Sarai Crain, to serve in first-ever role at the statewide level in California

LOS ANGELES – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced the launch of a new online portal to allow survivors of sexual assault to track the status of their sexual assault evidence kits and the hiring of the state’s first-ever sexual assault evidence outreach coordinator, Dr. Sarai Crain, who will work directly with law enforcement, medical facilities, and other partner organizations to support local efforts to track and process sexual assault evidence. Together, these new initiatives aim to clear the backlog of sexual assault evidence at the local level, ensure timely processing of sexual assault evidence, and increase transparency and access to information for survivors.

“There is no place for sexual assault in California or anywhere,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “My office is committed to doing everything in our power to support survivors, reduce harm, and secure justice. That’s exactly what the new actions we’re announcing today are all about — increasing access to the information to which survivors are entitled under the law and supporting our local partners in their efforts to process sexual assault evidence. Dr. Crain is an essential new addition to our team and she will play a vital role in fighting to ensure sexual assault evidence is never again left to gather dust. And, as a result of the new portal, survivors will have direct access to critical information. The portal would not be possible without the tireless work of Senator Leyva, survivor leaders, and advocates across the state who are committed to standing up for those impacted by sexual violence. Together, we will continue to fight against sexual abuse in all its forms.”

“As the author of SB 215, I am so proud that California is continuing to prioritize and empower rape survivors by making sure that they are able to easily and privately find out where their rape kit is in the process,” said Senator Connie M. Leyva. “After they have already been sexually assaulted — and after they have bravely endured a long and invasive rape kit exam — it is crucial that we enable survivors to track the status of their rape kit securely whenever they wish. I thank Attorney General Rob Bonta for his partnership on this important effort, as well as our committed coalition of sponsors — District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, Joyful Heart Foundation, and Natasha’s Justice Project — and supporters for testifying, tweeting, writing, and speaking out about the vital need for this survivor-centered online portal that prioritizes healing and justice.”

“After bravely undergoing a medical and forensic exam following a sexual assault, victim-survivors should have the right to know whether the evidence collected in the forensic examination kit has been tested. Managed by the Attorney General’s Office under the leadership of Attorney General Rob Bonta, this new portal provides victim-survivors the ability to track the processing of the kit,” said Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley. “For far too long, the forensic kits sat on the shelves in police evidence rooms, across this country and our state, untested. That is no longer!

“Knowledge is power and this portal gives that power to the victim-survivor. By providing access to the progress and any results through testing the sexual assault kit, victim-survivors can move forward in their healing with the peace of mind that law enforcement and our crime labs are doing their legal and statutory part in bringing justice to the victim-survivor and protecting other individuals in our community,” continued District Attorney O’Malley. “I am proud to have sponsored several pieces of legislation to bring us to this victory. I am grateful for the leadership, tenacity, and persistent work of Senator Connie Leyva, who has fought hard for several years, in the legislature and beyond, to ensure the rights, and for the empowerment of victim-survivors of sexual assault and other crimes. Thank you also to our partners, Joyful Heart Foundation and Natasha’s Justice Project.” 

“Joyful Heart is thrilled that the California Department of Justice is taking new, innovative steps that empower and support survivors,” said Ilse Knecht, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Joyful Heart Foundation. “The creation of a position dedicated to addressing the rape kit backlog not only signals to survivors that they matter, but raises the bar for what states are willing to do to end this crisis forever. We wholeheartedly hope that all states will take note, and follow suit. In addition to this groundbreaking position, we applaud Attorney General Bonta for the launch of a victim portal to the existing rape kit tracking system. Studies have shown that granting survivors access to the status of their cases can promote healing and counter the loss of self-determination that they often experience as the result of these crimes.”

“My sexual assault evidence kit collected dust for nearly a decade after I was raped and robbed at gunpoint,” said Natasha Simone Alexenko, Survivor – Natasha’s Justice Project/VOICE Amplified. “I was unaware of the fact that my rape kit had not been processed. In the interim, the man that assaulted me was on a nationwide crime spree, putting lives in danger. I am inspired by the relentless pursuit of justice and commitment to survivors of sexual violence demonstrated by the California Department of Justice and Attorney General Bonta. This new portal empowers survivors and acknowledges our importance in the investigative process. Survivors matter. Public safety matters.”

The new portal — launched as a result of the passage of Senate Bill 215 in 2021 — is an easy-to-use tool that enables survivors of sexual assault to privately, securely, and electronically track the status and location of their sexual assault evidence kit, following a forensic sexual assault medical exam. As a result of the new portal, survivors are now able to learn in real-time whether their sexual assault evidence kit has been received by a law enforcement agency, is in transit to a lab, has been received by a lab, is undergoing DNA analysis, or has had DNA analysis completed. The portal also provides information on resources available to survivors. Individuals are able to access their own kit information online by entering their kit number and the name of the investigating agency. In California, kit information is typically provided to survivors upon completion of a forensic sexual assault medical exam. The California Department of Justice's (DOJ) Victims' Services Unit also provides telephone support to help individuals access information regarding their kits where needed. As a safeguard against potential misuse, the portal, among other protection measures, only allows access to status and location data and limits the number of times an individual can query the system each day. The information available on the portal draws from the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Tracking (SAFE-T) database maintained by DOJ. The data maintained in SAFE-T is limited and does not include fields for personally identifying information such as names, addresses, or dates of birth.

In 2015, DOJ created the SAFE-T database to track the statewide collection and processing of victim sexual assault evidence kits. Sexual assault evidence kits are primarily used for investigative purposes to develop a DNA profile of a potential suspect and are generally collected from survivors of sexual assault during a forensic sexual assault medical exam. Law enforcement agencies that investigate cases involving sexual assault — and public crime laboratories that analyze the evidence — are required to enter certain information into SAFE-T in order to help ensure sexual assault evidence is tracked and timely processed. DOJ issues an annual report providing a statistical summary of the data, which includes general information on the processing of the kit, the date a kit is submitted for DNA analysis, whether a kit generates a potentially probative DNA profile, and, if necessary, the reason why a kit is not tested within 120 days. Law enforcement agencies and crime laboratories have been mandated to report information on victim sexual assault evidence kits to SAFE-T since 2018. In 2021 alone, California’s public crime labs completed DNA analysis on more than 5,900 sexual assault evidence kits statewide. However, according to a 2020 statewide audit primarily focused on kits collected prior to 2018, there was a reported total of nearly 14,000 untested sexual assault evidence kits at the local level across California. 

As part of the broader effort to assist law enforcement agencies, public crime laboratories, and medical facilities with addressing this challenge and ensuring sexual assault evidence is processed for DNA, DOJ's first-ever statewide-level sexual assault evidence outreach coordinator, Dr. Sarai Crain, will work to identify and remove barriers to testing, connect law enforcement agencies in need of testing assistance with public crime laboratories and private vendors, and promote awareness of public resources. The outreach coordinator position is part of DOJ’s overall strategy to increase support for survivors of sexual assault across California. Dr. Crain most recently served as the Deputy Chief for the City of Oakland’s Department of Violence Prevention. As Deputy Chief, she developed a citywide strategic plan for gender-based violence prevention and intervention programs. From 2016 to 2020, Dr. Crain served as the Executive Director of Bay Area Women Against Rape, the nation’s oldest rape crisis center where she became a California-certified Sexual Assault Counselor in 2003. Dr. Crain earned her Doctor of Ministry degree at San Francisco Theological Seminary where her research was focused on counseling and advocacy for survivors of sexual assault. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz and a Masters of Theological Studies degree from Pacific School of Religion.

Attorney General Bonta is committed to standing up for crime victims and survivors of sexual assault. Earlier this year, the Attorney General issued guidance to help survivors of sexual assault access resources and highlighted new efforts to support the timely processing of sexual assault evidence. Attorney General Bonta also shared information to help crime victims exercise their rights and access critical resources. In January, the Attorney General highlighted information and resources to support human trafficking survivors. Last year, he launched a matching grant aimed at assisting local authorities in reducing backlogs of unprocessed sexual assault evidence at the local level. The Attorney General also created the Office of Community Awareness, Response, and Engagement to work directly with community organizations, state and local elected officials, and members of the public as part of the office’s broader efforts to advance justice for all Californians.

General information on resources from the California Department of Justice to help address sexual assault and violence is available here. A copy of the 2020 SAFE-T annual report is available here. The 2021 SAFE-T report is forthcoming. Information on sexual assault forensic medical exams and how to obtain one is available here

The portal announced today is accessible online at Individuals without a sexual assault evidence kit number should contact the relevant law enforcement agency and, if necessary, may find additional information through DOJ’s Victims’ Services Unit.


Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Issues New Guidelines to Encourage Secure Sharing of Information Between Schools and Child Welfare Agencies to Better Serve Foster Youth

September 1, 2016
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SAN FRANCISCO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced that the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Children’s Justice (BCJ), the California Department of Education (CDE), and the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) have jointly developed statewide guidelines for school districts, county offices of education, and child welfare agencies to better assist them in the secure sharing of data and information that is critical to the success of students in foster care.

“Too many foster children in California are falling through the cracks, not meeting their full potential, and ending up in the criminal justice system. Schools and child welfare agencies must communicate effectively in order to provide children the services they need,” said Attorney General Harris. “This collaborative effort between the Bureau of Children’s Justice and the California Departments of Education and Social Services is a positive step toward improving the ways we support vulnerable children, particularly foster youth.”

Under the law, foster youth are entitled to a range of services, including enhanced academic counseling regarding graduation eligibility requirements and mental health counseling.  But many eligible youth are not receiving the services they need because schools don’t know which students should be receiving additional support.  This guidance makes clear that schools and child welfare agencies can share information to keep children on track.

The guidance will help local educational and county welfare agencies by providing clarity on the scope of information which can be shared under the law, including critical information that school districts, local county offices of education, and caregivers need to identify and coordinate supports and services for foster youth.  In addition to providing clarity on the state of the law, the guidance encourages local educational and child welfare agencies to collaborate with each other to create joint data systems for the continued sharing of information regarding foster youth between and within their respective agencies.

“Providing clear statewide guidance is vital for strengthening the relationship between foster children, caregivers and educators,” said Will Lightbourne, Director of the California Department of Social Services. “This allows the focus to shift away from administrative hurdles and directly to the educational needs of each foster child.”

"Foster youth are some of our most vulnerable students," said Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.  "I believe this will help better serve their needs. At the California Department of Education, we know that better data collection can help students and shed light on ways to improve our services to them.”

“I deeply appreciate the joint effort by the state social services and education agencies, and the Bureau of Children's Justice, to create this guidance,” said Martha Matthews, Directing Attorney of the Children's Rights Project at Public Counsel. “It will help school districts and county child welfare agencies here in Los Angeles County and statewide to share information and work together to support foster youths' educational success, while respecting their dignity and privacy.”

“The only way we can significantly improve education outcomes for children in foster care is through strong collaboration between schools and child welfare agencies, and that can only occur when they have the ability to share essential information,” said Molly Dunn, Senior Policy Attorney at Alliance for Children’s Justice.  “The joint guidance cuts through a labyrinth of federal and state laws to provide a clear path for the communication and collaboration necessary between agencies to support the education success of children in foster care.”

“The release of this guidance is huge step forward in California's efforts to close the achievement gap for students in foster care. It answers important questions about what data may and must be shared, who should be permitted to see what information and for what purpose,” said Michelle Francois Traiman, Director of FosterEd at the National Center for Youth Law. “Effective, thoughtful sharing of information across systems is critical to ensuring that the adults that are charged to support young people collaborate meaningfully, work as a team, and put the needs of each young person at the forefront of their practices and policies so they can succeed in school.”

In February 2015, Attorney General Harris formed the Bureau of Children’s Justice, a unit within the California Department of Justice that works to support and protect children and ensure they are on track to meet their full potential. The Bureau works to enforce California’s civil and criminal laws with respect to California’s foster care, adoption, and juvenile justice systems; discrimination and inequities in education; California’s elementary school truancy crisis; human trafficking of vulnerable youth; and childhood trauma and exposure to violence.

Earlier this year, the Bureau made public its active civil rights investigations on issues related to juvenile justice, the child welfare system, and education across the state.  More information is available at

Attorney General Harris’s office is leading the California Defending Childhood State Policy Initiative—a collaboration of state agencies including CDE and CDSS—in its work to address the impacts of violence and trauma on children across the state, including enhancing the secure sharing of data to inform supports and services. Under Attorney General Harris’s leadership, California was one of three states nationwide selected by the U.S. Department of Justice to be a part of its national Defending Childhood Initiative.

Attorney General Harris has pioneered the use of data to inform public policy and pushed for greater transparency and more effective collaboration and data-sharing between state agencies in order to better serve the public. She announced OpenJustice, a first-of-its-kind open data criminal justice initiative, in September 2015.  Since its launch, OpenJustice has published additional analysis and plans to release new juvenile justice data in the coming weeks.  Her office also is collaborating with the Children’s Data Network at the University of Southern California to link the administrative records of youth involved in the justice system in order to better understand their early experiences, trajectories through systems, and factors that may increase the of risk involvement, all with an eye toward preventing involvement altogether.

PDF icon FosterYouthGuidance_9_1_2016_0.pdf843.12 KB

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, 16 states, and the District of Columbia, Call for More Student Loan Debt Relief for Students Harmed by Predatory For-Profit Colleges

August 1, 2016
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

LOS ANGELES - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, along Attorneys General from 16 states and the District of Columbia today submitted official comments to the United States Department of Education, urging the Department to do more to create and implement fair, streamlined, and efficient processes to enable students harmed by predatory for-profit colleges to access student loan debt relief.  The Attorneys General also praised the significant strides already made by the Department of Education through its recently proposed borrower-defense regulations. 

“We must create rules that will prevent predatory for-profit schools from continuing to cheat and mislead our students and taxpayers,” said Attorney General Harris.  “Education goes hand-in-hand with the American Dream. With new and improved federal protections for students, both current and future students defrauded by for-profit companies will finally have a meaningful opportunity for federal student loan forgiveness and the chance to pursue a higher education.” 

Department regulations in place since 1995 allow borrowers to apply for discharge of federal student loans if their college violated state law in its conduct toward them, a right referred to as “defense to repayment.”  Until recent years, this right had been invoked only a handful of times. When Attorney General Harris and other law enforcement agencies exposed Corinthian Colleges, Inc. (“Corinthian”) for extensively falsifying its job-placement rates to potential and enrolled students, tens of thousands of students became eligible for full debt relief under this process.  Other for-profit institutions may have used similarly dishonest tactics in their dealings with students, so many more borrowers may need to utilize this defense in the future.

Existing regulations have proven inadequate for handling situations of extensive fraud like in the case of Corinthian.  The Department’s existing rules provide little guidance on who may be eligible, how they should apply, or how the Department will evaluate applications. 

On June 16, 2016, the Department published its new, proposed defense-to-repayment rules after a negotiated rulemaking session earlier in the year failed.  Attorney General Harris’ office, as the negotiator on behalf of attorneys general, advocated for a number of measures in the earlier sessions that have now been included in the Department’s proposed rules, including: (1) the creation of a group-discharge process that would allow the Department to grant automatic relief to wide swaths of students similarly wronged by a predatory school, like Corinthian; (2) limitations on schools’ use of binding pre-dispute arbitration agreements and class-action waivers, common devices that predatory schools employ to undermine the legal rights of students and prevent wrongdoing from coming to light; and (3) an expansion of the time frame during which defrauded students may seek full relief from the Department.  These hard-fought gains mark major steps forward in remedying the egregious mistreatment of students and holding predatory schools accountable to taxpayers, but more remains to be accomplished.

By submitting today’s comments, Attorney General Harris and the Attorneys General of Massachusetts, Illinois, Maryland, Kentucky, Connecticut,  Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, District of Columbia, and the State of Hawaii, Office of Consumer Protection now call on the Department to do more to protect students and taxpayers:

  1. Under the Department’s proposed rules, there is no formal process for a state attorney general to invoke the defense-to-repayment process when he or she has evidence a group of students was abused by a school.  As chief law enforcement officers of their respective states, state attorneys general are uniquely positioned to investigate school misconduct and bring it to the Department’s attention.  The final rules should recognize this expertise by allowing state attorney general referrals. 
  2. Under the current proposal, after establishing that his or her school violated the law, the student must then separately show that he or she is entitled to more than partial loan forgiveness.  This places an unfair and unnecessary burden on students.  The final rules should provide that once a student has demonstrated the kind of egregious conduct required to obtain debt relief in the first place, there should be a presumption that the student is entitled full relief—not the other way around.
  3. The final rules should expand the categories of school misconduct that would give rise to a defense to repayment.  Absent a litigated judgment, the current proposal limits students’ ability to seek relief from the Department to situations in which the school has either breached a contract or engaged in “substantial misrepresentations.”  This ignores other categories of rampant school misconduct that violate state law and render a student’s education worthless.  This is an unwelcome retreat from the Department’s 1995 regulations, which recognize violations of state law as a basis for defense to repayment.
  4. The Department’s proposed rules make significant strides toward eradicating mandatory pre-dispute arbitration provisions and class-action waivers in enrollment agreements.  But to give those measures the best chance of succeeding, the Department’s final rules should further clarify that schools cannot request at enrollment that students “opt out” of the bans on mandatory pre-dispute arbitration provisions and class-action waivers, and that the claims covered by these bans are broad.

The Department will publish final regulations by November 1, 2016.

In October 2013, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris led the charge against Corinthian Colleges, Inc. and its schools in California (Everest, Heald, and Wyotech colleges), seeking to put an end to abusive practices that left tens of thousands of students with useless degrees and tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

Attorney General Harris remains committed to protecting vulnerable students.  A copy of the letter is attached to the electronic version of this release at