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A Ban on Book Bans: California Is Second State in Nation to Pass Law

Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media

Before Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1078, legislation prohibiting book bans in California, he told Assemblymember Corey Jackson (D-Riverside), who authored the bill, “I appreciate you and your leadership.”

“Remarkable,” continued the Governor. “We’re living in a country right now in this banning binge, in 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.”

Newsom said codifying AB 1078 into law shows that California isn’t just “pushing back rhetorically” against what he describes as a “banning binge” happening across America.

AB 1078 also makes it illegal to censor instruction material and it mandates schools to provide access to textbooks that educate students about diverse cultures and people, according to Jackson, who was with the Governor when he signed the bill.

Newsom said Illinois passed a similar bill that takes effect in January. California is the second state in the nation to make it illegal to ban books or restrict learning material that includes information about the LGBTQ+ community, or specific races or ethnic groups. However, AB 1078 takes effect immediately because the Legislature passed it with an urgency clause.

On Sept, .7, AB 1078 passed in both the Assembly (61 to 17) and the Senate (31 to 9).

“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 Jackson, a member of the California Legislative Black Caucus, that day.

AB 1078 requires school boards across the state to receive approval from the state Board of Education before stripping any instructional materials or books from classrooms and school libraries or “ceasing to teach any curriculum.”

AB 1078 now extends to cover school libraries, prohibiting any censorship or removal of books, instructional materials, or curriculum resources that state law requires be reflected in instructional materials.

The bill’s passage in both legislative houses demonstrates California’s commitment to preserving academic freedom, fostering diverse perspectives, and discouraging the practice of book banning, Jackson observed in an Aug. 21 statement.

Jackson introduced the bill after Temecula Valley Unified School District attracted attention when most of its schools barred a state-approved history textbook that features renowned politician and gay rights activist Harvey Milk.

Milk was assassinated along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone on Nov. 27, 1978, 11 months after he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

On Aug. 14, parent groups opposing AB 1078 voiced their opinions about Jackson Bill and AB 5, the “Safe and Supportive Schools Program” at a rally held on the southeast lawn of the state capitol.

“This is not about your rights as a parent. There is no such thing as a parental right,” said Nicolette Vochelle from Southern California and a member of BLEXIT, a conservative community organization co-founded by Candace Owens. Vochelle was one of the speakers that participated in the rally.

“This is about our decisions as parents to raise our children as best as we possibly can and to choose the village and environment that they are raised in,” said Vochelle, expressing her opposition to AB 1078 and AB 5.

AB 5, which Newsom signed into law on Sept. 23, requires the State Department of Education to finalize the development of an online training delivery platform and an online training curriculum to advance LGBTQ “cultural competency” training for teachers.

According to BLEXIT’s website, the organization promotes economic independence, individual freedom, strengthening the nuclear family, and fostering a deeper appreciation for patriotism in Black American culture.

Vochelle told California Black Media that “Gov, Newsom, (Attorney General) Rob Bonta, and (Superintendent of Public Instruction) Tony Thurmond have zero rights to our children and it is beyond time that we remind them of that fact. We don’t give them another inch or second of our time to strip our children’s innocence. They will not be victims and they will not be confused. They will be protected.”

Jackson disagrees with Vochelle and other opponents of the legislation.

The lawmaker, who is openly gay, said AB 1078 will keep the path open to understanding, trust, equality, and knowledge in the classrooms. He believes that the bill will build a strong bond between schools and parents.

“California is the true freedom state: a place where families — not political fanatics — have the freedom to decide what’s right for them. 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,” Newsom said after the Legislature approved AB 1078.

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