California State Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond holds the book "Red: A Crayon's Story" during a news conference at Nystrom Elementary School in Richmond, Calif., on May 17, 2022. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A California bill that would prohibit local school boards from excluding books that “accurately portray the cultural and racial diversity of our society” and contain “diverse perspectives”—including critical race theory and gender ideology—hangs in limbo after a recent state Senate committee vote.
The state Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously voted Aug. 21 to place Assembly Bill 1078 on the “suspense file,” which is a holding place for bills that require a significant fiscal expense.
The committee will reevaluate suspense bills Sept. 1 and choose to either advance them or keep them on suspense, effectively killing them, according to the state Senate guidelines
Assembly Bill 1078
, introduced in February by Assemblyman Corey Jackson (D-Perris), would ban school boards from excluding books due to topics related to race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. To exclude a book for any other reason, the bill requires a two-thirds supermajority vote by a school board.
The bill also requires audits of library and classroom books, with potential funding penalties for districts that have insufficient diverse instructional materials, according to California Department of Education’s standards.
In a July 5 state Senate Education Committee hearing, Mr. Jackson said the purpose of the bill was to address some school boards—such as Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified and Temecula Valley Unified in southern California—that have recently removed books “not based on character but because of race, because of someone’s sexuality.”
“These book bans deny students their right to access a broad range of stories and perspectives and they create restrictions on teaching and learning, which impacts our educators and librarians and silences authors, most of whom [are] from marginalized communities,” Mr. Jackson said during the hearing.
However, during the appropriations hearing Monday, Chino Valley Unified Trustee Sonja Shaw, along with Temecula Valley Unified Trustee Jennifer Wiersma, spoke in opposition to the bill.
Chino Valley Unified School District in Chino, Calif., in April 2021. (Google Maps/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)
Ms. Shaw called the bill a “blatant overreach and undermines the power of local boards and disfranchises the voters,” adding that it would “put California into more financial ruin and continue the process of edging parents out of their children’s education.”
Ms. Wiersma additionally raised concerns that the bill would put school boards at legal risk possibly by parents if they were not able to remove inappropriate books and materials.
“[Assembly Bill] 1078 prevents school boards from removing instructional materials which predisposes school districts to lawsuits by parents based upon curriculum containing sexual harassment and criminal obscenity,” Ms. Wiersma said.
Temecula Valley Unified School District Administration Center in Temecula, Calif., on Aug. 22, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
The bill passed the state Assembly floor on a 62–16 vote in May and the Senate’s Education Committee in June on a 5–2 vote, before being referred to the Senate’s Appropriations Committee, where it was placed on suspense.