California Parental Rights Battle Gets Louder

It was a tale of two opposing events on parents’ role in California schools — though one was postponed because of Tropical Storm Hilary.

In one corner was the California Family Council, a nonprofit, religious organization rallying at the state Capitol on Monday with pastors, attorneys and Sonja Shaw, Chino Valley Unified School District board president, to protest a series of bills they argue prevents parents from caring and overseeing their children.

Many of the same people showed up at a similar rally last week; several Southern California school boards have been battling with Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Rob Bonta and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond over book bans and other culture wars in the classroom.

“The majority of Sacramento politicians are programmed and the political cartel of Newsom, Bonta and Thurmond have a stronghold on California’s public education and use that to push their ideology — but not for long,” said Shaw. “All the wicked, low-class politicians following their lead, listen to us. This is from us. Today we stand here and declare in His almighty name that it’s only a matter of time before we take your seats.”

Shaw specifically called out two measures she says “silence us, the parents:” Assembly Bill 1078, which would raise the threshold for school boards to ban books, from a simple majority to two-thirds; and Senate Bill 596, which would fine individuals who “substantially” disrupt a school board meeting or harass school employees. (The bill joins a number of other bills that were placed in the suspense file last week.)

In the other corner was supposed to be Thurmond, a potential 2026 gubernatorial candidate, hosting an online panel at the same time about “inclusive education” with a handful of Democrats from the Legislature’s women, LGBTQ+, Black, Latino and Jewish caucuses. In June, the education department launched a Task Force on Inclusive Education focused on diversifying textbooks.

The event, which would “highlight efforts to create safe, supportive learning environments” for students, was canceled “out of respect for the individuals and locations impacted by the tropical storm,” according to the Department of Education. (Monday’s legislative floor sessions were also canceled due to the storm, reports KCRA.) A Thurmond roundtable about combating antisemitism is still on for Wednesday, however.

But Shaw was apparently unaware about the cancellation and called out Thurmond’s panel: “This is a spiritual battle. This is a warfare.”

This “battle” between Shaw and Thurmond is a familiar one: In July, Shaw successfully pushed a Chino Unified policy to require district teachers and staff to notify parents if a student requests to identify as a different gender or otherwise identifies as LGBTQ+. (It’s similar to a bill that was blocked in the Legislature this year.) Thurmond showed up at the meeting to oppose the policy and was ultimately escorted out by security after saying the measure would put “students at risk.”

The other bills the Family Council and Shaw are pushing back against are:

AB 5: Require the Department of Education to develop a training course for school employees on “LGBTQ cultural competency” (currently in the suspense file);

AB 665: Allow children 12 and older to receive “mental health treatment or counseling on an outpatient basis” without parental consent;

AB 957: Require judges to consider a parent’s affirmation of a child’s gender identity or expression when it comes to granting custody.

Lynn La is a reporter with CalMatters.


  1. It could be “woke” plus Bonta’s own brand of Cal AG activism are “triggering,” beyond whatever the legislature might attempt.

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