Would a Senate Bill Ban Schoolbooks from Mentioning ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’?

The disinformation around a piece of legislation in California in 2006 shows how what was once an imagined threat for right-wing blogs became the actual basis of right-wing political policy against LGBTQ+ Americans.

The blog “World News Daily” spun a post distorting the intent of SB 1437 at that time, claiming that it would ban the use of the term “mom” and “dad” in school textbooks, and also “force the accommodation of transsexuals on girl-specific or boy-specific sports teams.”

This was, of course, a lie. The bill, which passed in both the state Assembly and the state Senate in August 2006, actually expanded existing anti-discrimination statues, saying:

No teacher shall give instruction nor shall a school district sponsor any activity that reflects adversely upon persons because of their race or ethnicity, gender, disability, nationality, sexual orientation, or religion.

That bill was vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the measure returned the following year as SB777, leading to more disinformation pushing the idea that it would “ban” parents from being identified. The bill’s author, Sheila Kuehl, refuted that claim again in an op-ed for the San Diego Union-Tribune:

SB777 certainly would not ban reference to “mom” and “dad” in the curriculum. Because nothing in SB777 changes law that has been in place for eight years, you might have heard if such a ban had been put in place. In addition, if you did try to ban all reference to “mom” and “dad,” it would be promoting a bias against heterosexuality, which is prohibited undercurrent law, which means SB777, as well. Ironically, SB 777 actually makes it clearer that this type of discrimination is prohibited by spelling out the legal definition of sexual orientation (heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality) in the section of the Education Code that prohibits discrimination in school programs and activities.

This time, Schwarzenegger approved Kuehl’s measure in October 2007. But the fear-mongering around transgender Americans remained a pillar of right-wing disinformation campaigns, and part of the subtext of actual legislation banning instruction — or even discussion — on gender identity and sexuality in public schools. NPR reported in April 2022 that at least twelve states have been “considering” laws that impose such restrictions.

“When we segment children off and tell them that they don’t exist and that they don’t matter and effectively erase them from the classroom … we effectively erase them,” said Kathryn Poe, a spokesperson for Equality Ohio. “We alienate an entire group of young people who need our affirmation and support.”

Update 5/11/2022, 11:57 p.m. PST: This article has been revamped and updated. You can review the original here. — ag