California passes law to ensure no LGBTQ+ books are removed from schools

California governor Gavin Newsom wears a suit and tie as he gestures off screen.

California governor Gavin Newsom has officially placed a “ban on book bans” under new legislation.

School districts in the state of California will now face heavy fines and risk losing state funding if they’re found attempting to ban books that discuss gender identities or racial history.

The bill, known as Assembly Bill 1078, was introduced in response to attempts by school boards in Republican-leaning districts to ban materials from classrooms and public libraries that they believed were divisive or sexually explicit.

In particular, Temecula’s school board in Southern California sparked controversy when attempted to block an elementary school social studies curriculum that featured gay rights figure and San Francisco politician Harvey Milk. The board eventually reversed the decision when Gov. Newsom threatened to impose a $1.5 million fine.

California governor Gavin Newsom, who supported an anti-book ban bill, smiles as he wears a white shirt, blue tie and dark suit jacket
Governor Gavin Newsom has passed a ban on book bans in California school districts. (Getty)

 AB 1078, which takes effect immediately, will fine school boards that attempt to block the distribution and availability of textbooks and library books for discriminatory reasons, such as the representation of a certain race, gender, or other identity group.

School districts that fail to invest in curriculum aligning with California’s anti-discrimination laws be fined.

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This will add to an existing California law that requires school boards to provide access to “materials that accurately portray the cultural and racial diversity… and the roles and contributions of culturally and racially diverse groups.”

Newsom’s “ban on book bans” comes as a new report from PEN America finds that school book bans in the US have increased by 33 per cent in the 2022-2023 school year.

Introducing the bill on Monday (25 September), Governor 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: a place where families – not political fanatics – have the freedom to decide what’s right for them.”

California governor Gavin Newsom
Governor Newsom officially introduced the bill on Monday (25 September). (John Nacion/WireImage)

In a video posted to X (formerly Twitter), Gov. Newsom described this new ban as “long overdue.”

He said: “Remarkable that we’re living in a country right now in this banning binge, this cultural purge that we’re experiencing all throughout America, and now increasingly here in the state of California, where we have school districts large and small banning books, banning free speech, criminalizing librarians and teachers.

“We want to do more than just push back rhetorically against that, and that’s what this legislation provides.”

The bill passed despite some pushback from both Republican groups and the California School Boards Association (CSBA).

Tony Flint, a spokesperson for the CSBA has said that while most officials are supportive of offering an inclusive education and “understand the motivation” behind the bill, they worry that it might be “heavy-handed”.

“There are a lot of concerns related to implementation,” Flint told the Los Angeles Times.

“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.”

This marks the latest move from Governor Newsom to introduce new protections for LGBTQ+ youth.

Other measures passed over the weekend include AB 5 (an implementation of timelines for LGBTQ+ cultural competency training for public school teachers and staff), SB 407 (an amendment to the foster care vetting process to protect LBTQ+ youth from anti-LGBTQ+ foster homes), and SB 857 (an introduction of an advisory task force to identify LGBTQ+ pupil needs).