California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is about to sign a law that would forbid schools from banning LGBTQ+-inclusive books. The law also requires schools to have trained staff to help queer kids and reiterates protections against forcibly outing LGBTQ+ students to their possibly unsupportive parents.
The law, known as Assembly Bill 1078, is a direct rebuke to anti-LGBTQ+ book-bans, “don’t say gay” laws, and other nationwide efforts to discriminate against queer students. Newsom has long opposed anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in education and other areas. Once signed, AB 1078 will go into immediate effect.
“I believe that as Californians our strongest defense against the anti-trans agenda is just to tell the truth.”
“California is the true freedom state: a place where families — not political fanatics — have the freedom to decide what’s right for them,” Newsom wrote in a Twitter post announcing his intention to sign the law, known as Assembly Bill 1078. “With the passage of legislation to ban book bans & ensure all students have textbooks, our state’s Family Agenda is now even stronger.”
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The law prohibits “the governing board of a school district, a county board of education, or the governing body of a charter school” from “refusing to approve or prohibiting the use” of any book on the basis of an individual’s or group’s diverse racial or cultural characteristics. Any school that bans such books could lose state funding. Existing state law requires social sciences classes to include contributions of diverse groups, including, among others, LGBTQ+ Americans and members of other ethnic and cultural groups.
“Restricting access to classroom and library materials because they feature LGBTQ people or were written by LGBTQ authors discriminates against LGBTQ people and constitutes censorship in violation of California law and policy,” the law states. “Similarly, efforts to categorically exclude topics related to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristics, or of present or historical discrimination based on protected characteristics, from school library collections, curricula, or classroom discussions constitute censorship that violates California law and policy.”
Additionally, the law reminds state officials and agencies that they have the authority to enforce federal and state laws protecting students from unlawful discrimination and harassment that create an inequitable learning environment.
This reminder is likely connected to three California school districts — the Murrieta Valley, Orange, and Chino Valley Unified School Districts — which recently passed policies forcing educators to out trans and nonbinary students to their parents. California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) filed a lawsuit against the Chino Valley United School District, and a judge blocked its policy from going into effect.
The law also reiterates that schools may offer “peer support or affinity clubs and organizations, safe spaces for LGBTQ or other at-promise pupils, counseling services, staff who have received anti-bias or other training aimed at supporting these pupils or who serve as designated support to these pupils, health and other curriculum materials that are inclusive of, and relevant to, these pupils, [as well as] online training” and complaint procedures developed to assist LGBTQ+ students with their learning experiences.
Right-wing groups have said that anti-LGBTQ+ educational policies are needed to prevent schools from “secretly” encouraging students to change genders without their parents’ knowledge or to stop the “indoctrination” of “gender ideology” onto students. These policies are often promoted by anti-LGBTQ+ groups who also oppose the expansion of queer civil rights in other non-educational areas of public and private life.