California lawmakers approve bill prohibiting book bans by school districts; Newsom expected to sign
California lawmakers passed a bill last week prohibiting books from being banned in public school districts because of content related to gender or racial diversity, and now, the governor is expected to sign it into law.
Last Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom showed his support of the bill, suggesting he plans to make it law.
'California is the true freedom state: a place where families — not political fanatics — have the freedom to decide what’s right for them,' he said. '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. All students deserve the freedom to read and learn about the truth, the world, and themselves.'
The state Senate passed the bill mostly along party lines last week; in May, it had no problem passing in the Assembly.
Under the bill, school districts would be fined for banning books.
The bill, which was introduced and authored by Assembly member Corey Jackson of Riverside, does not prohibit book banning, though it would impose a fine if books are banned because they contain 'inclusive and diverse perspectives.'
The bill also directly targets local school board control of curriculum and books that will be allowed in schools.
Around the same time the Assembly passed the bill in May, the Temecula Valley Unified School District (TVSD) voted to reject an elementary school curriculum for mentioning Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California.
In July, Newsom released a video blasting the school district for 'censoring' social studies materials simply because it mentioned Milk, adding that the state was 'stepping in.'
'We’re going to purchase the book for these students — the same one that hundreds of thousands of kids are already using. If these extremist school board members won’t do their job, we will — and fine them for their incompetence,' Newsom said.
Newsom also claimed the book was censored by the school board and he and others were worried about access to information.
Dr. Joseph Komrosky, the president of the TVSD Board of Education, said in a statement to Fox News Digital that the board did not 'ban' the textbook, rather, they chose not to adopt a new curriculum and the supplemental textbook material that included Milk. But that was just one of several objections, Komrosky said.
'But what the Governor has conveniently ignored is that members of the Board of Education expressed other significant concerns about the District’s process, including whether it had adequately engaged the community regarding the adoption of curriculum, as well as whether the proposed curriculum adequately addressed the needs of English learners and special education students,' Komrosky said at the time.
Still, Newsom threatened to fine TVSD $1.5 million, and the board eventually adopted the curriculum.
Jackson’s bill threatens financial penalties against school boards that restrict access to classroom and library materials because they feature LGBTQ people or were written by LGBTQ authors, the bill reads, 'discriminates against LGBTQ people and constitutes censorship in violation of California law and policy.'
The bill goes on to say, 'efforts to categorically exclude topics related to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristics, or of present or historical discrimination based on protected characteristics, from school library collections, curricula, or classroom discussions constitute censorship that violates California law and policy.'
This comes after a newly released report revealed that nearly 1,500 books were banned in the first half of the 2022-2023 school year. According to PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans lists, there were 1,477 instances of individual books banned during the first half of the 2022-23 school year.
PEN America recorded more book bans during the fall 2022 semester than in each of the prior two semesters.
PEN America also reports that 30% of the 'unique titles' banned are books about race, racism, or feature characters of color. They also note that 26% of unique titles banned have LGBTQ+ characters or themes.
PEN America claimed that they have tracked book-banning efforts for the past two years by documenting the growth of groups advocating for book bans, the widespread challenges to books across the nation, efforts on the local level such as school district policies and procedures, and the state-level policies.
The book ban issue has been prevalent in red states such as Texas, Florida, Missouri, Utah, and South Carolina, where it was addressed by local school boards.
Fox News Digital's Joshua Q. Nelson contributed to this report.
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