Newsom Signs Law Prohibiting California Schools From Banning Books With 'Inclusive and Diverse Perspectives'

Newsom Signs Law Prohibiting California Schools From Banning Books With 'Inclusive and Diverse Perspectives'
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (L) signs a state bill prohibiting local school boards from excluding textbooks and instructional materials containing "inclusive and diverse perspectives," accompanied by the bill's author Assemblyman Corey Jackson (D-Perris) in Sacramento, Calif., on Sept. 25, 2023. (Courtesy of Office of Governor Gavin Newsom)
Katabella Roberts
9/26/2023
Updated:
9/27/2023
0:00

School boards in California will no longer be able to ban textbooks and instructional materials containing "inclusive and diverse perspectives" from the more than 10,000 schools across the state under a new measure signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 25.

The legislation, Assembly Bill 1078, prohibits schools from banning books on racial or LGBT teachings including the role and contributions of Native Americans, African Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Americans, persons with disabilities, and members of other ethnic, cultural, religious, and socioeconomic status groups.

Specifically, the legislation bans "the governing board of a school district or a county board of education from prohibiting the continued use of an appropriately adopted textbook, instructional material, or curriculum on the basis that it contains inclusive and diverse perspectives."

The measure will also allow the superintendent to determine whether a district has failed to comply with state curriculum laws.

School districts that fail to purchase books aligning with state law that "accurately portray the cultural and racial diversity of our society" will be subjected to a fine and will be charged for replacement textbooks, according to the bill.

The bill, which was passed by state senators earlier this month and is backed by state school Superintendent Tony Thurmond, takes effect immediately.

In a statement announcing the measure, Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, said the legislation was "long overdue" while praising California's efforts to clamp down on what he said was "censorship."

 A rack in the Barnes & Noble bookstore at the Tysons Corner Shopping Mall promotes "banned books" in McLean, Va., on Aug. 27, 2022. (Terri Wu/The Epoch Times)
A rack in the Barnes & Noble bookstore at the Tysons Corner Shopping Mall promotes "banned books" in McLean, Va., on Aug. 27, 2022. (Terri Wu/The Epoch Times)

California a 'True Freedom State'

"From Temecula to Tallahassee, fringe ideologues across the country are attempting to whitewash history and ban books from schools," Mr. Newsom said in the statement. "With this new law, we’re cementing California’s role as the true freedom state: a place where families — not political fanatics — have the freedom to decide what’s right for them."

Mr. Newsom also noted that California is one of the leading states making "tens of billions of dollars in strategic investments to improve education outcomes and literacy."

The state has mandated LGBT materials in schools, whereas many Republican states, including Texas, Florida, Missouri, South Carolina, and Utah, have been moving to remove such materials from education facilities amid concerns over pornographic, sexually inappropriate, and racially divisive materials.

"California outperformed most states — including Florida and Texas — in mitigating learning loss during the pandemic, and through historic levels of school funding, the state is building a cohesive structure of support for educators and students that reflects a focus on equity, inclusion, and academic success," Mr. Newsom said.

Assembly Bill 1078 was formed in direct response to some California school district boards voting to ban certain books containing references to LGBT activists such as politician Harvey Milk.

The Temecula Valley Unified School District was fined $1.5 million in August after the school board voted 3–2 in July against adopting the state's elementary school curriculum and the textbook "Social Studies Alive!" for a second time.
 Demonstrators gather to protest against banning books outside of the Henry Ford Centennial Library in Dearborn, Mich., on Sept. 25, 2022. (Jeff Kowalky/AFP via Getty Images)
Demonstrators gather to protest against banning books outside of the Henry Ford Centennial Library in Dearborn, Mich., on Sept. 25, 2022. (Jeff Kowalky/AFP via Getty Images)

Opposition to New Measure

The school board previously rejected the textbook featuring Mr. Milk, who was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, in May, citing concerns over reports that Mr. Milk had a sexual relationship with a teenage boy when he was 33 years old.

Along with the $1.5 million fine, the district was ordered to pay the $1.6 million shipping costs associated with sending the materials to the district, the governor said.

Following the threat of the fine, the school board later voted to approve a modified curriculum for elementary students that met state requirements.

Assembly Bill 1078 has faced opposition from Republicans who have branded it "heavy-handed."

In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, Troy Flint, a spokesman for the California School Boards Association, which represents nearly 1,000 K–12 school districts and county offices of education throughout the state, said there are concerns the legislation could set a precedent to allow the state to override local school decisions beyond textbook allocations.

"There are a lot of concerns related to implementation," Mr. Flint told the publication. "I think this bill, to a certain extent, was pushed forward without thinking about what could happen in a different scenario. Really, the best laws should make sense and be fair no matter what the political landscape is or who is in power at that particular moment."

Mr. Newsom on Monday also signed into law a bill requiring California K–12  schools to have a gender-neutral bathroom by July 1, 2026.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.