California Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation on Monday to curb book bans by instituting fines for schools that prohibit books that discuss race or gender identity.
The new law, Assembly Bill 1078, will also charge districts for textbook replacements if they do not purchase material that complies with state anti-discrimination legislation.
That provision was included i the bill at the request of the Newsom administration earlier this year when the Democratic governor was battling a conservative school board in Southern California, according to Politico. Despite Republican and California School Boards of Education opposition, the bill was carried by a two-thirds vote.
“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 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,” Newsom said in a video of him signing the bill posted on X (formerly Twitter). “We want to do more than just push back rhetorically against that, and that’s what this legislation provides.”
The new law, which forbids schools from banning books because they depict members of a certain race, gender, or other identity groups, is an unusual occurrence as it relates to the autonomy of California school boards, according to Politico. Although anti-discrimination laws and legislation was required to be followed by boards, there were no accompanying financial penalties, which would now be applied.
Supported by public schools Superintendent Tony Thurmond, the new law will give the official the authority to investigate complaints that would previously have to go through county boards of education to decide whether a district has violated state curriculum laws.
Few other states have laws establishing penalties for book bans. The nation’s first law on book bans was passed earlier this year by the Democratic governor of Illinois, JB Pritzker. It would penalize public libraries for restricting content.