Newsom Vetoes Bills Requiring Ethnic Studies and Journalists Protest Protections

Governor Gavin Newsom

California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed two bills late last Wednesday, Sept. 30, one of which would have made ethnic studies a high school requirement and another that would have set up protections for journalists covering protests. 

Proposed by Assemblymember Jose Medina, a Democrat from Riverside, the ethnic studies bill, which would have made a one-semester ethnic studies course a high school graduation requirement, has been controversial in the educational sphere. Its associated curriculum faced criticism in 2019 from Jewish groups who argued that it was anti-Semitic. Other groups described a glossary that would have included the words “hxrstory” and “cisheteropatriarchy” as jargon-filled and impenetrable for high schoolers. Though the curriculum has been redrafted, Newsom felt it was not yet ready to be signed into law. However, the governor said he saw the value of thinking critically about ethnic studies—he signed a bill making the course a requirement for all California State University (CSU) students earlier this month. Medina released his own statement calling the veto “a disservice” to students, according to the LA Times. The state board of education will redraft the curriculum once more, this time by March of next year. 

The governor also vetoed a bill that would have protected a journalist from citation over “the failure to disperse, a violation of a curfew or a violation of other, specified law” (resisting, obstructing or delaying a first responder) while reporting in an area closed to the public. Newsom said the language in the bill was not specific enough and might let “white nationalists, extreme anarchists or other fringe groups” count under the bill’s protections. The LA Times reported that the “bill … gained attention … following news of several arrests of and assaults on journalists in the wake of protests and city curfews over the killing of George Floyd.” 

Videos of police arresting KPCC and LAist journalist Josie Huang gained widespread attention on social media in mid-September. In the videos, police can be seen shoving Huang to the ground despite her loudly saying she was a member of the press and wearing press credentials.