TEMECULA (CNS) – Teachers and parents in the Temecula Valley Unified School District are reacting Wednesday after the superintendent was fired over a contentious decision to remove a book and curriculum material from a social studies program.
The school board voted in a closed session Tuesday to fire Superintendent Jodi McClay. Her dismissal comes after the school board narrowly voted to remove a textbook that mentions gay rights and history from a kindergarten through fifth grade social studies program. The materials for the program contain the history of Harvey Milk, a county supervisor from San Francisco who was the first gay politician to be elected to office in California.
“I am horrified that teachers are being targeted for the basic work they do to provide students a safe space to be themselves,” educator Edgar Diaz told CBS 2.
Temcula Valley Unified School District board president Joseph Komrosky called Milk a pedophile in a recent meeting during discussions about the program.
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 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 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.
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.
“It’s our goal as brothers, sisters and family members to guard those children — to protect them with our very lives,” educator Andrew Enriquez told CBS 2.
Some parents supported to board’s decision to remove the material from the social studies program.
“Once you read that information and you take it into yourself, it’s not like you eat a bad meal you can throw it up. It’s in your brain now,” parent Tracy Nolasco told CBS 2.
The board’s vote to reject the curriculum could also put the district in some legal jeopardy with the state. Earlier this month, 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.
Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.