California Gov. Gavin Newsom Monday signed into law a bill that prevents school boards from banning or censoring textbooks that tackle racial or LGBTQ+ issues, as he delivered repudiation against ongoing efforts by right-wing groups and Republican leaders to ban such subjects from school curriculums and public libraries.
Newsom referred to Assembly Bill 1078 as a “ban on book bans…which is long overdue” and goes into effect “immediately” before signing it into law on Monday evening.
California’s Democrat-led legislature passed the bill earlier this month with a more than two-thirds majority, allowing for its immediate enactment.
The new law prevents school boards from banning books, curricular or other instructional material “on the basis that it contains inclusive and diverse perspectives.”
AB 1078 builds upon an existing California law which requires school boards to ensure their curriculum includes “materials that accurately portray the cultural and racial diversity…and the role and contributions of culturally and racially diverse groups.”
Newsom said: “From Temecula to Tallahassee, fringe ideologues across the country are attempting to whitewash history and ban books from schools. With this new law, we’re cementing California’s role as the true freedom state.”
California’s legislative action against book bans comes amid a growing push by Republican leaders and right-wing figures to ban books tackling civil rights topics including racism, LGBTQ+ identity and discrimination. Earlier this year, the issue came to a head in California after a Southern California school board attempted to block an elementary school social studies curriculum featuring San Francisco politician and gay right icon Harvey Milk. The board eventually relented after Newsom threatened to impose a $1.5 million fine. In June, Illinois became the first state to pass legislation that banned book bans. The law requires public libraries that receive state funding to challenge censorship efforts and prevents exclusion of materials “because of origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.” Despite being first to pass it, the Illinois legislation will only go into effect in January 2024.
40%. That is the percentage of all book bans in the country that occurred in school districts in Florida during the 2022–23 school year, according to a report published by PEN America.
Banned in the USA: The Mounting Pressure to Censor (PEN America)
Southern California school board OKs curriculum after Gov. Gavin Newsom threatened a $1.5M fine (Associated Press)
Illinois Becomes First State To Effectively Ban Book Bans (Forbes)