On June 1, Governor Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Rob Bonta, and State Superintendent Tony Thurmond sent a joint letter to all county school superintendents, district school superintendents, and charter school administrators cautioning against book bans. The letter outlines pertinent educational civil rights and corresponding legal mandates school administrators are required to follow to preserve freedom and ensure access to diverse perspectives and curricula.
“In the first half of this school year alone, 1,477 books were banned nationally, with teachers and librarians threatened with prison time for shelving the wrong book,” said Governor Newsom, Attorney General Bonta, and Superintendent Thurmond. “As state leaders elected to represent the values of all Californians, we offer our response in one shared voice: Access to books – including books that reflect the diverse experiences and perspectives of Californians, and especially, those that may challenge us to grapple with uncomfortable truths – is a profound freedom we all must protect and cultivate.”
The joint letter sent today highlights case law and constitutional precedent that restricts the removal of books from libraries and schools; the responsibilities of school administrators to provide students exposure to various world views; and the legal mandates that require school administrators to provide an unbiased curriculum to students and preserve freedom of speech. Additionally, the joint letter informs local educational agencies that if they remove or ban instructional materials from classrooms or libraries, they may be requested to provide information to the Attorney General’s Office for analysis.
While other states ban books, California is improving education outcomes and investing tens of billions of dollars to improve literacy. California outperformed most states — including Florida and Texas — in mitigating learning loss during the pandemic, and through historic levels of school funding, the state is building a cohesive structure of support for educators and students that reflects a focus on equity, inclusion, and academic success.
A copy of today’s joint letter is available below.