California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a bill that prohibits school boards from rejecting textbooks based on their teachings about the contributions of people from diverse racial backgrounds, sexual orientations, and gender identities. Newsom described the measure as “long overdue,” emphasizing that it ensures families, not political extremists, have the freedom to determine what is appropriate for their children. The legislation, which took immediate effect, comes amidst a nationwide debate over book bans and censorship in schools, particularly concerning representations of sexuality and LGBTQ+ history.
The California bill gained significant attention when a Southern California school board rejected a social studies curriculum that included material about Harvey Milk, a prominent gay rights advocate and San Francisco politician. In response, Newsom threatened the school board with a $1.5 million fine, leading to the board later approving a modified curriculum in compliance with the state’s requirements. The new law prohibits school boards from banning instructional materials or library books that provide inclusive and diverse perspectives, conforming to state law. It passed after intense debates on the role of the state in approving curricula and ensuring students have access to accurate portrayals of history.
In addition to the textbook bill, Newsom also signed legislation to increase penalties for child traffickers. The proposal had been blocked by Democrats earlier due to concerns that it could unintentionally harm victims. However, following Newsom’s expression of dissatisfaction with the bill’s failure, lawmakers revived it. Ultimately, Republican state Senator Shannon Grove, the bill’s author, amended it to safeguard victims from being criminalized.