Book banning happens in every state, and California has now taken a major step forward in curtailing the rise in censorship. Assembly Bill 1078, proposed by Moreno Valley Assemblyman Corey Johnson, passed through the Senate last Thursday and is headed to Governor Newsom’s desk for signature. The bill would prohibit school boards from censoring or banning books, curriculum, or instructional materials.
“We’re taking a firm stand against book banning in California’s schools, ensuring that our students have access to a broad range of educational materials that accurately represent the rich cultural and racial diversity of our society,” said Johnson in a statement following the bill’s passage in both chambers.
Newsom, who has been an advocate against book bans, is expected to sign the bill. This would mark the second state this year to legislate against educational book bans, following the move in Illinois.
“California is the true freedom state: a place where families — not political fanatics — have the freedom to decide what’s right for them,” said Newsom. “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.”
Opponents to the bill claim it takes away the local control of schools; however, as has been seen over and over across the country, “local control” is code for right-wing board takeovers, with an agenda to implement conservative values, including removing of books about diverse people.
Despite being seen as a progressive state, California has seen several book challenges and bans over the last several years. These include the Temecula Valley Unified School District, whose board voted against implementing curriculum at the elementary level because it mentioned Harvey Milk; inclusion of information about the gay rights activist and San Francisco Board of Supervisors member was deemed inappropriate. The board, stacked with conservatives, has also taken aim at books they claim are pornographic in the district. Earlier this year, the Orange Unified School District banned student access to the Sora reading app, one of several schools to wholesale block entire libraries of content. Another district which grappled with book bans this year in the state is San Roman over Gender Queer. Huntington Beach’s city counsel has taken aim at the so-called pornography aimed at children.
Behind several of the conservative pushes in California school districts are members of megachurch Calvary Chapel Chino Hills.
Assembly Bill 1078 does not extend to public libraries nor to prisons, but it is a step forward. School boards are–and should be–apolitical, but as has been seen over and over, they have become the place for right-wing politics to thrive at the expense of students.
Indeed, Assembly Bill 1078 reaffirms the knowledge, experience, and expertise of trained professionals in educational institutions to do their jobs.