California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law four separate LGBTQ+-inclusive measures on Monday impacting schools across the state, widening a gap between conservative and liberal-leaning states in how they serve and include LGBTQ+ students.
Together, the laws will require the state Department of Education to create a LGBTQ+ task force, require schools to provide LGBTQ+ training for staff serving grades 7-12 as well as equitable access to all-gender restrooms, and prohibit school districts from banning books or instructional materials based on their inclusive and diverse perspectives.
The measures stand in stark contrast to those passed in conservative-leaning states, some of which prohibit transgender students from using restrooms aligning with their identities, discourage schools from including LGBTQ+ related classroom materials, and censor diversity and inclusion training materials.
The measures Gov. Newsom greenlit also require the state to implement inclusive resources and supportive policies in schools.
“Dangerous trends have emerged recently," said California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, who backed the legislation, in a statement Monday. "These measures will protect all members of the LGBTQ+ community and provide the resources needed to support all California students.”
Policymakers in conservative states, however, have argued that anti-LGTBQ+ measures bolster the rights of parents to raise their children according to their beliefs and protect students from age-inappropriate materials.
The 2022-23 school year saw a 33% increase in the number of book bans, according to PEN America, a free expression advocacy nonprofit. Of those bans, 30% were related to LGBTQ+ content.
Some of these book bans had cropped up in California despite state leadership taking an LGBTQ+ inclusive approach.
"A small group of extremists have continued to levy attacks on California’s schools, targeting LGBTQ+ students," Thurmond said.
In June, Temecula Valley Unified School District banned an elementary school social studies book mentioning Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office in California. The decision was met with pushback from Newsom.
Such book bans have also prompted LGBTQ+ inclusive measures Newsom recently signed into law.
“From Temecula to Tallahassee, fringe ideologues across the country are attempting to whitewash history and ban books from schools," Newsom said in a statement Monday. "With this new law, we’re cementing California’s role as the true freedom state: a place where families — not political fanatics — have the freedom to decide what’s right for them.”