State law will limit book bans

Kelli Makenna Kuttruff
Staff Writer

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1078 into law on Sept. 25. The new law ensures that students in California have access to a well-rounded, diverse and inclusive education. The law, authored by Assembly Member Corey A. Jackson, D-Perris, makes it more difficult for school districts to censor curriculum or ban books. 

“AB 1078 aims to protect students’ access to diverse educational materials and foster an inclusive educational environment,” Jackson said in a recent emailed interview. “This bill can empower educators and protect students from having their education limited by narrow ideologies.”

Book banning in schools has become increasingly common at school districts across the country. In many districts any individual can challenge a book, which can cause it to eventually be banned from classrooms and school libraries. 

A study by PEN America, a non-profit that raises awareness for freedom of expression, found that 1,648 books were banned at schools across the country during the 2021-2022 school year alone. 

“The motivation behind AB 1078 is due to the concerning trend of book banning and censorship in schools,” Jackson said. “Extremist ideologies, driven by misinformation and intolerance, have sought to control what students read and have available to them.”

The new law should mitigate this issue by forbidding any school board in the state from banning certain curriculum or material. This will prevent censorship that is based on content reflecting the examination of any particular group or individual including Latinx Americans, people of all genders, LGBTQ+ Americans, and members of other cultural, religious, and socioeconomic groups. 

Another large issue that this law is addressing is previous tendencies to “white-wash” curriculum by means of suppressing historically accurate information and concealing truths about events in our history. Book-banning and censoring materials that students are exposed to limits their chance to receive a historically accurate education. 

University of La Verne Associate Professor of Educational Studies Andy Steck has been in education for 47 years and is thrilled that this law will give teachers the academic freedom to teach what they need to. 

“We’ve white-washed our history for so long, and now we’re not going to do that anymore,” Steck said. “We need to hear the truth and what actually happened in history and not what textbook publishers have given us in the past, because a lot of that wasn’t the truth.”

The new law calls for more accurate portrayals of historical events by requiring lessons to include the history of multiple groups who made historical contributions. This also assists in fostering honest conversations about American history while including diverse viewpoints. 

President of the Claremont Unified School District Board Kathy Archer said that the board has their own policies for the selection of curriculum and books, and that she has observed the curriculum adoption process closely. She believes in the importance of students being able to see themselves in books and learn about the experiences of those around them. 

“CUSD takes pride in maintaining transparency and integrity when it comes to education,” Archer said. “The board believes, and the district believes, in providing diverse literature choices within our libraries as well.”

As citizens of a diverse country containing a plethora of cultures, ethnic groups, orientations, religions and viewpoints, representation of that diversity is vital in order to accurately portray all audiences. This accurate portrayal is vital not only in representation, but also in the chance to learn about the different groups that exist in our country and their history. 

Eden Donaldson, a senior at La Salle College Preparatory High School in Pasadena, has not experienced book banning or censorship in her time at the school. She believes that more people are opening their minds, and that opening ourselves up to different experiences even if they’re uncomfortable is necessary. Her class is currently reading “The Color Purple,” and in her experience, the school has been open to what students think and has been open to debate and discussion.

“People need to know about censorship so that we can have more bills to stop it,” Donaldson said. “If we’re censoring different things, it limits students in what they can learn about, and how they develop as they get older.”

Claremont High School librarian Jim Munsey has not experienced demands from any governing boards to remove books. If there have ever been concerns from parents, they have always been able to make arrangements for the student to read another novel instead, Munsey said. He added that students are depending on educators to provide a foundation of knowledge and information, which is then the foundation of their growth.

“Knowledge is power, and we don’t want to cut anyone’s power off,” Munsey said. “Our job is to create a foundation in young people. We want them to be able to read things and make their own decisions.”

By ensuring inclusive and broad curriculum for students, the new law protects the diversity that exists in our country and makes it so unique. It allows for students to learn from each other through open discussion, authentic historical teachings and representation of various groups. 

Steck believes that students cannot be supported if they are limited with what books they can read, because that also takes away their chance at the knowledge they provide.

“This (law) supports our kids to be learners, to be curious, to want to learn about the world and what has happened in the past, and what could happen in the future,” Steck said. 

The law is a strong addition to current laws in our state because it includes further protections by restricting censorship and ensuring inclusive educational materials are included and accessible for all students. 

Jackson believes that the provisions included in the new law strengthen it, and establish balanced education for students in California. 

“This bill is about preserving the integrity of our education system, protecting student’s access to diverse perspectives, and fostering critical thinking,” Jackson said. There is “importance of this legislation in upholding fundamental principles of education, diversity, and intellectual freedom.”

Kelli Makenna Kuttruff can be reached at kelli.kuttruff@laverne.edu.

Kelli Makenna Kuttruff is a senior communications major with an emphasis in public relations. She is the arts editor of the Campus Times, and is in her second semester as a staff writer.

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