Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law that prohibits the state’s over 10,000 schools from banning or censoring books due to concerns related to racial or LGBTQ+ themes. Schools that violate this law will face fines.
Assembly Bill 1078, which took effect immediately, claims to “safeguard the right to an accurate and inclusive curriculum” and Democrats are calling the legislation a “ban on book bans.” The bill explicitly prohibits school boards from removing or censoring textbooks or library books even if they contain contentious material that express support for critical race theory or LGBTQ+ identities, ideology, and behaviors. However, the bill does not prevent or inhibit school boards from removing pornographic or age-inappropriate sexually explicit material.
In Newsom’s announcement celebrating the signing of AB 1078, he uses different language to describe the bill, stating AB 1078 “prohibits school boards from banning instructional materials or library books on the basis that they provide inclusive and diverse perspectives.” The bill’s legislative legal analysis said the bill prevents a school board from removing “any book or other resource in a school library on the basis that it includes a study of the role and contributions of any individual or group.” Those groups include, “people of all genders and the role and contributions of Latino Americans, LGBTQ+ Americans, and other ethnic, cultural, religious, and socioeconomic status groups,” states the bill text.
It also grants the authority to the state superintendent of public instruction and county superintendents to determine if there is an insufficient number of inclusive textbooks within a school district. If there aren’t enough books, then the superintendents can buy materials and charge the district or impose fines on school boards that fail to provide these books.
California Assemblyman Corey Jackson, who introduced the bill, celebrated its passing, saying, “It is the responsibility of every generation to continue the fight for civil and human rights against those who seek to take them away… Today, California has met this historical imperative and we will be ready to meet the next one.”
During one of the years in the Senate on AB 1078, Jackson was asked what he thought about prohibiting “This Book is Gay,” a book that encourages students to use a phone app to find adults for sex. Jackson refused to answer the question. (Watch below)
Newsom helped shape the legislation after an incident in which a California school board declined course materials that celebrated Harvey Milk, a renowned San Francisco politician and LGBT figure, who was called out as a “pedophile” by Dr. Joseph Komrosky, the president of the Temecula Valley school board. (Read more about the Harvey Milk issue here.)
Meg Kilgannon, senior fellow for Education Studies at Family Research Council, said, “The fact that the California legislature is running bills like this proves that the educational establishment is concerned enough about parental activism to try to eliminate any possible actions on the part of the elected school boards in California in favor of parental rights. They do not want resolutions to involve parents in their own children’s education to be passed at the school board level. They are essentially trying to make the address of parents’ concerns illegal.”
Similarly, in response to the bill signing, Arielle Del Turco, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council, said “In California, it increasingly seems like all viewpoints are acceptable to shape public institutions except for those informed by a Christian worldview. This is extremely dangerous, and Christians and conservatives in California cannot be passive about this.”
Kilgannon and Del Turco are absolutely right. This is an authoritarian move to shut down the concerns expressed by parents regarding racist CRT curriculum, sexually explicit literature, and LGBTQ+ activism in public schools. The legislation also strips parents of their religious liberty to raise their children based on their own sets of values. Such a law has no place in a state that ought to uphold educational freedom and parents’ rights for the sake of children’s well-being.