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—is now headed to Gov. Gavin Newsom for approval after it passed the state Senate floor this week.
The fate of Assembly Bill 1078 hung in limbo last month after it was placed on the “suspense file,” which is a holding place for bills that require a significant fiscal expense.
The state Senate’s Democratic majority resurrected it with a 55–16 vote Sept. 7.
If signed by the governor, it will take effect immediately.
The bill, 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, per California Department of Education’s standards.
Children's books on gender identity and sexuality in Irvine, Calif., on Sept. 7, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Mr. Jackson previously said
the purpose of the bill was to address some local school boards that have recently removed books “not based on character but because of race, because of someone’s sexuality.”
Several Southern California school boards this year—such as the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified and Temecula Valley Unified—passed policies this year banning the teaching of critical race theory, an ideology that, in part, divides society into oppressors and oppressed based on race.
The latter school board also gained statewide attention this summer when it twice rejected, then ultimately approved, an elementary social studies textbook that its board president, Joseph Komrosky, deemed inappropriate for its inclusion of LGBT activist Harvey Milk.
Mr. Komrosky called the late activist a “pedophile,” saying he did not refer to Mr. Milk’s sexual orientation due to reports that he had a sexual relationship with a minor as an adult and said that his comment did not refer to Mr. Milk’s sexual orientation.
Mr. Komrosky’s comment gained attention from the governor, who threatened to send copies of the contested “Social Studies Alive” to Temecula students and to enact legislation that would fine the district $1.5 million if the board didn’t approve the textbook.
However, the board later voted to approve the curriculum in July with the recommendation that teachers swap the material that includes Mr. Milk with something more “age appropriate.”
Parents in support of the Temecula Valley Unified school board's decision to terminate the district’s superintendent amid controversy surrounding critical race theory and other school curriculum attend a board meeting in Temecula, Calif., on June 13, 2023. (Micaela Ricaforte/The Epoch Times)
Temecula Valley Unified Trustee Jen Wiersma spoke in opposition to AB 1078 during an Aug. 21 Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, along with Chino Valley Unified Trustee Sonja Shaw.
Ms. Wiersma 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.
Ms. Shaw additionally 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.”
The bill previously 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.