Newsom signs book ban bill

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Tuesday September 26, 2023
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Governor Gavin Newsom, left, signed a bill by Assemblymember Corey A. Jackson, Ph.D. that prohibits book banning in California schools. Photo: Courtesy the Governor's office
Governor Gavin Newsom, left, signed a bill by Assemblymember Corey A. Jackson, Ph.D. that prohibits book banning in California schools. Photo: Courtesy the Governor's office

Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday signed a bill that is designed to stop book banning in California schools.

Assembly Bill 1078, by gay freshman Assemblymember Corey A Jackson, Ph.D. (D-Perris) takes effect immediately because the Legislature passed it with an urgency clause.

The new law is in response to what Jackson called the disturbing trend of book banning that is taking place not only in California but across the nation. It prohibits school districts from banning books in classrooms and libraries because of their LGBTQ content or covering topics like race. Newsom's office worked closely with Jackson on the bill.

As the Bay Area Reporter has previously reported, Newsom has been out front this year in pushing back against a rollback of LGBTQ progress in the state's public schools. His threatening a major fine against the Temecula school district in Riverside County led to its elected board's reversing course on banning instructional materials that covered the late gay San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk.

In a statement, Newsom said the bill builds on his family agenda to promote educational freedom and success.

"From Temecula to Tallahassee, fringe ideologues across the country are attempting to whitewash history and ban books from schools," Newsom stated. "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."

The new law also prohibits censorship of instructional materials, and strengthens California law requiring schools to provide all students access to textbooks that teach about California's diverse communities, according to Newsom's office.

Jackson was with the governor as he signed AB 1078, according to a video released by Newsom's office. In the video posted on X (formerly Twitter), Newsom noted California was the second state to pass such a law; Illinois adopted similar legislation, he said.

"It is the responsibility of every generation to continue the fight for civil and human rights against those who seek to take them away. Today, California has met this historical imperative, and we will be ready to meet the next one," Jackson stated.

Jackson's office noted that "California boldly leads the fight against those who seek to harm others through censorship. With the rise of extremist groups actively trying to ban books that challenge their narrow agenda, our state's commitment to diversity and inclusivity in education shines ever brighter.

"The signing of Assembly Bill 1078 reaffirms our collective resolve: we will not tolerate the erasure of history or the suppression of diverse voices. We stand united, holding accountable those who seek to divide our communities, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to a future that celebrates knowledge, values, and the rich tapestry of our society," the statement read.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, who announced Tuesday that he's running for governor in 2026, also supported the legislation. Thurmond has been fighting for LGBTQ students and was ejected from a school board meeting in Chino Hills after he spoke against the district's forced outing policy for trans students. (That policy, which the school board adopted, has been put on hold by a judge who earlier this month issued a temporary restraining order after Attorney General Rob Bonta filed a lawsuit.)

"AB 1078 sends a strong signal to the people of California — but also to every American — that in the Golden State — we don't ban books — we cherish them," Thurmond stated in the release from Newsom's office. "This law will serve as a model for the nation that California recognizes and understands the moment we are in — and while some want to roll back the clock on progress, we are doubling down on forward motion. Rather than limiting access to education and flat out banning books like other states, we are embracing and expanding opportunities for knowledge and education, because that's the California way."

Newsom's wife, first partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, spoke in support of the new law.

"When we restrict access to books in school that properly reflect our nation's history and unique voices, we eliminate the mirror in which young people see themselves reflected, and we eradicate the window in which young people can comprehend the unique experiences of others," stated Siebel Newsom. "In short, book bans harm all children and youth, diminishing communal empathy and serving to further engender intolerance and division across society. We Californians believe all children must have the freedom to learn about the world around them and this new law is a critical step in protecting this right."

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