Temecula Valley school board adopts textbooks that include Harvey Milk after warnings from Newsom

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Saturday, July 22, 2023
Temecula Valley school board adopts textbooks that include Harvey Milk
The Temecula Valley school board adopted a social studies curriculum that includes gay rights that was approved by parents and teachers after initially rejecting it.

TEMECULA, Calif. (KABC) -- The Temecula Valley school board on Friday adopted a social studies curriculum that includes slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk. The curriculum had been approved by parents and teachers after initially rejecting it.

"Fortunately, now students will receive the basic materials needed to learn," said Gov. Gavin Newsom in a statement following Friday's vote.

Newsom previously warned that the district could be sanctioned if it didn't use the state-approved curriculum.

The curriculum in question is titled "California's Cultural Contributions," board member Allison Barclay of the Temecula Valley Unified School District told CNN.

"Within the lesson, there are several sections, such as artists, architects, writers, educators, discussing Californians who made substantial contributions in these areas," she said. "Under the heading 'Protests,' one paragraph discusses gay rights in California and under the heading 'Court Cases,' there are two paragraphs that discuss the court cases that allowed gay marriage in California."

She said a supplemental resource lists Harvey Milk, a gay rights activist and politician who was assassinated in 1978, along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone. Milk was believed to be the first openly gay person elected to public office in California.

The board voted 3-2 on May 16 to reject the curriculum, with some board members claiming there was not enough parental involvement in the creation process and making comments attacking Milk.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is intervening in a controversy over textbooks with an LGBTQ reference in Temecula, saying the state will buy the books and fine the school district.

Parents at a June public hearing spoke against the rejection of the curriculum, which is for grades 1-5.

"This has never been about parents' rights," Newsom said. "It's not even about Harvey Milk - who appears nowhere in the textbook students receive. This is about extremists' desire to control information and censor the materials used to teach our children."

Newsom said the state's Justice and Education departments were investigating.

The school board president, Dr. Joseph Komrosky, said in a statement before Friday's meeting that it would focus on "the potential adoption of curriculum that meets all state and federal mandates."

During the meeting's public comment section, one woman took to the podium and said: "I wish I could say that the way this board has turned our district into a circus is laughable but it isn't, it is bad. It doesn't represent our community, it doesn't represent Temecula."

The meeting came just days after the board voted for a second time to block social studies curriculum that mentioned Milk.

The issue first blew up at a meeting last month, when the school board majority questioned whether Milk, who was the first openly gay man to hold public office in the state of California, should be included in supplemental materials when teaching civil rights to 4th grade students.

Their concern revolves around reports that Milk, when in his 30s, had a relationship with a 16-year-old boy.

"Instead of pushing filth on children, instead of pushing Harvey Milk on kids, give them the sincere milk of the word of God!" said activist John Amanchukwu during a recent meeting.

Newsom has weighed in multiple times on the issue and announced he will be sending the school district social studies textbooks that meet the state's requirements. He also said he would be sending the district a bill for the books, along with a $1.5 million fine.

"What we're hearing from our governor is, 'I don't care what the local people want. I'm going to step in and do what I want,'" said Pastor Tim Thompson of the 412 Church Temecula Valley. "That is called tyranny."

Komrosky pushed back at Newsom at a board meeting earlier this week, saying he's "already instructed the superintendent that if books arrive at shipping and receiving to say, 'No.'"

"We'll ship them right back," he said.

The CNN Wire contributed to this report.