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Tyrant Gavin Newsom To Ban Book Bans, Like A Tyrant
Oh no, a new history's greatest monster.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Monday aimed at fighting school censorship. The new law, AB 1078, allows the state to impose fines on school boards that remove textbooks or library materials because they portray LGBTQ+ people or other marginalized groups. The bill is a response to censorship attempts pursued by rightwing California school board members who’ve been itching to join Republicans’ national book banning craze.
Newsom earlier this year threatened to fine the school board in Temecula, California, after it voted to get rid of a state-approved social studies curriculum that included references to Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay elected official, who was assassinated in 1978 after refusing to be invisible on the San Francisco City Council. Milk wasn’t actually named in the textbook, but supplementary materials for teachers mentioned him, which we guess the school board members thought might somehow infect children with gay cooties.
Yes, that’s the case where the school board president, Joseph Komrosky, baselessly slandered Milk, asking at a board meeting, “My question is, why even mention a pedophile?” After a few months, the board eventually did approve the curriculum.
Politico points out that the Temecula episode led the Newsom administration to request another provision in the law that will “charge districts for replacement textbooks when they fail to purchase curriculum aligning with state anti-discrimination laws.”
In video posted to Xitter, Newsom signed the bill and thanked its sponsor, Assemblymember Corey Jackson, saying,
“Remarkable that we’re living in a country right now in this banning binge, 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. We want to do more than just push back rhetorically against that, and that’s what this legislation provides.”
The new law makes California the second state to ban book banning, after Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signed a similar bill in June. The Illinois law will withhold state funding from public libraries that restrict access to materials “because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” Unlike several red states’ attempts to make censorship more common, the Illinois law doesn’t threaten to put anyone in jail.
As Politico explains, California school boards have always had to comply with the state’s anti-discrimination laws and curricular guidelines, but those laws lacked the teeth of a financial penalty for noncompliance.
Backed by state schools Superintendent Tony Thurmond, the new law will allow the superintendent to determine whether a district has failed to comply with state curriculum laws, giving the official power to review complaints that would have first had to go through county boards of education in the past.
That perceived interference from the state led the California School Boards Association to oppose the bill, claiming it “authorizes unfettered state intervention before a school district is made aware of a complaint” or has a chance to address the problem itself. Considering that the censorship attempts have mostly been coming from the school boards themselves, we aren’t sure that’s a serious objection.
So hooray for Gavin Newsom, and yes, for Gov. Pritzker in Illinois, and let’s hope other states take action to protect the freedom to read, please!
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