UPDATED: Vote to Reject Social Science Material Draws Comment from Governor

City News Service Pristine Villarreal

TEMECULA (CNS) – Temecula Valley Unified School District teachers are expected to take part in rallies Tuesday in response to a recent school board vote rejecting textbooks and curriculum for an elementary school-level social studies program, a vote that made headlines when the board president referred to slain gay-rights activist Harvey Milk as a “pedophile.”

During its May 16 meeting, the school board voted to reject a proposed curriculum and textbook for its kindergarten through fifth-grade social studies program, with a majority of board members concluding that it contained “morally objectionable material.” Board members Jennifer Wiersma and Danny Gonzalez joined board president Joseph Komrosky in voting to reject the materials.

The discussion partially focused on the inclusion of Milk in supporting materials for the curriculum.

“Why even mention a pedophile?” Komrosky asked during the meeting in reference to Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office in California, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

The comment earned a Twitter rebuke last week from Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“An offensive statement from an ignorant person. This isn’t Texas or Florida. In the Golden State, our kids have the freedom to learn. Congrats Mr. Komrosky you have our attention. Stay tuned,” Newsom wrote.

Komrosky has not responded to the governor’s Twitter post. He could not be immediately reached for comment.

The “pedophile” comment was an apparent reference to a biography of Milk that suggests he had a relationship with a 16-year-old boy when Milk was 33.

District staffers noted that the actual textbook for the curriculum makes no mention of Milk, but he is mentioned in supporting materials that would have been available to students in the upper grades.

The board’s vote to reject the curriculum could also put the district in some legal jeopardy with the state. Last week, state Attorney General Rob Bonta and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond sent a letter to county school superintendents, district superintendents and charter school administrators in California cautioning against book bans, while also outlining educational civil rights and legal mandates.

“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,” they wrote. “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 letter noted that schools or districts that ban materials from classrooms or libraries could be required to provide additional information to the Attorney General’s Office to justify the move.

The board’s vote has also thus far left the district without textbooks for K-5 social studies classes.

Members of the Temecula Valley Educators Association plan to hold rallies at elementary schools across the district Tuesday afternoon, followed by an after-school rally at the duck pond at the corner of Rancho California and Ynez roads. Additional protests are anticipated at upcoming school board meetings.

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.

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