California passes anti-book ban bill for schools: ‘The true freedom state’

California governor Gavin Newsom, who supported an anti-book ban bill, smiles as he wears a white shirt, blue tie and dark suit jacket

While some states are banning books left and right, California is set to enact a law that would penalise schools that ban any book reflecting the state’s diversity, including those that explore LGBTQ+ identities and race. 

The legislation, Assembly Bill 1078 (AB 1078), would prevent school boards from “refusing to approve or prohibiting the use of any textbook, instructional material or other curriculum or any book or other resource in a school library” on the basis that it includes topics related to LGBTQ+, Black, Latino, Asian and Indigenous people or other marginalised groups. 

School districts failing to comply with the bill would face a “fiscal penalty” that would see a decrease in state funds through changes in California’s school funding formulas. 

It extends California’s already existing education code, which requires schools to include the experiences of LGBTQ+ people and other groups in its curriculum. 

AB 1078 passed its final major legislative hurdle on Thursday (7 September) when the state Senate passed it 30-9. It then moved to governor Gavin Newsom’s desk. 

Newsom celebrated the bill’s passage in a statement on X, once known as Twitter, saying it proves California is the “true freedom state”. 

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“California is the true freedom state: a place where families – not political fanatics – have the freedom to decide what’s right for them,” Newsom wrote. 

“With the passage of this legislation that bans book bans and ensures all students have textbooks, our state’s Family Agenda is now even stronger.

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“All students deserve the freedom to read and learn about the truth, the world and themselves.”

Assembly member Corey Jackson, the bill’s author, also celebrated the state for taking a “stand against book banning” in schools and ensuring students have “access to educational materials that accurately represent the rich cultural and racial diversity of our society”.

The legislation came after a showdown over LGBTQ+ inclusive materials earlier this year in Temecula. 

The Temecula Valley School Board rejected a social studies curriculum with supplemental materials that referenced the late LGBTQ+ civil rights leader Harvey Milk. Two board members made the baseless accusation that Milk was a “paedophile”. 

In June, Newsom condemned the school board members’ “offensive statement”

Just a short while later, Newsom threatened to send textbooks to the schools and fine the district if the board didn’t approve the curriculum. The school board eventually adopted it. 

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