California school districts should not ban books, curricula, or instruction materials that are required by law – including LGBTQ books -, Attorney General Rob Bonta warned in a memo sent this week to every school district, charter school board, and superintendent in the state.
“Every student deserves to see themselves reflected in the stories and lessons we teach within our classrooms,” Bonta said in a statement Tuesday. “Our legal alert serves as a guide for educational leaders to actively contribute to the creation of an educational landscape that embraces the rich tapestry of California’s diverse population.”
Bonta, Gov. Gavin Newsom, and State Superintendent Tony Thurmond sent a joint letter in June, cautioning against book bans.
A legal alert is an advisory of sorts, clarifying the law as the attorney general interprets it. The timing of the memo coincides with the school district targeting books and materials that they find objectionable, including ones about LGBTQ+ and race-related topics. In the summer, the Temecula Valley school district banned LGBTQ+ instruction materials, but then made an about face when the state said it would fine them.
Later, the right-wing school board banned Critical Race Theory, even though it’s only taught in college, and were sued. In December, Bonta filed an amicus brief supporting a challenge by teachers, students, and parents to Temecula Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees’ ban of inclusive curriculum.
Bonta joined a coalition of 19 attorneys general in an amicus brief in October in support of a Maryland board of education’s policy that permits schools to incorporate LGBTQ+-inclusive books into language arts curriculum to reflect the diversity of the school community.
Bonta sent a second legal alert on Thursday that warned school districts to not force staff to out transgender students to their parents.
The legal alert reinforces three state laws.
- AB 1078, enacted on Sept. 25, provides additional mechanisms to ensure standards-aligned textbooks and instructional materials, safeguarding them from being banned by governing boards.
- The FAIR Education Act, signed into law July 14, 2011, and went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012, amends the California Education Code to include the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful reference to contributions by LGBTQ+ people, among others, in educational curricula, particularly in social studies for grades 1-12.
- AB 101, signed into law October 2021, requires school districts offer a one-semester high school course in ethnic studies by the 2025-2026 school year.