Temecula Valley school board votes 3-2 to reject new curriculum over Harvey Milk inclusion

The decision could leave more than 11,000 students without a social studies textbook.

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Saturday, June 3, 2023
Temecula Valley school board votes to reject Harvey Milk curriculum
The Temecula Valley school board has voted 3-2 against the proposed elementary school social studies curriculum due to its inclusion of Harvey Milk.

TEMECULA, Calif. (KABC) -- A Temecula Valley school board meeting last month ended in frustration for educators and community members in attendance.

"You're not qualified! You're not qualified!' shouted one audience member at the board.

The frustration was over the 3-2 vote opposing the adoption of new social studies curriculum for Temecula Valley Unified School District elementary schools. The decision could leave 11,397 students without a textbook next year.

"We've never experienced this before. I've never heard of a top performing district or any district say you know what we are going to withhold these materials," said Edgar Diaz, the president of the Temecula Valley Educator Association.

School board members, Dr. Joseph Komrosky, Jennifer Wiersma and Danny Gonzalez opposed the inclusion of gay rights activist Harvey Milk in the supplemental material used by teachers, even though Milk is not in the 4th grade textbook himself.

Milk, who was one of the first openly gay elected officials in the country, was assassinated while serving on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

The three board members were elected last year with the backing of the conservative Inland Empire Family PAC.

"I don't want my 3rd grader studying an LGBTQ issue. I don't want them going into gender ideology," said board member Jennifer Wiersma.

The social studies curriculum was vetted by 47 Temecula Valley teachers who taught the material in 18 elementary schools as part of a pilot program this past year. The material, which is also approved by the California Department of Education, will replace outdated textbooks.

"It was piloted, we followed every policy, and procedures. The options were out there for parents. Thirteen-hundred family's kids learned from this curriculum. We did not receive any complaints," said Board Member Allison Barclay, who voted to approve the new curriculum.

The three member majority also cited the lack of parental input for opposing the curriculum. According to officials at the meeting, Temecula Valley Unified School District and all 18 of the school sites did try to solicit input from parents with a survey, but less than a dozen answered it.

"Parents didn't respond. Whose fault is it that parents didn't respond? It's their fault. Not our fault and not the teacher's fault," said School Board Member Steven Schwartz.

Schwartz and Barclay voted to approve the new curriculum noting the current books were no longer in print and did not meet the Fair Act standards. They also warned failing to approve the new social studies curriculum would put the school board in violation of the Williams Act, which requires students to have equal access to school materials.

Eyewitness News reached out to board President Dr. Joseph Komorosky, who did not answer our request for a comment.

Temecula Valley Unified School District released this statement:

"The district is currently extending the window for viewing and feedback on textbook materials that were piloted and recommended by our teachers. We will continue to gather additional community and parent feedback for the board. At this time, we are not looking at changes with the publisher since TCI is a CDE approved curriculum that complies with the FAIR Act. TCI is also our approved Social Studies textbook at the middle school level. We are working with TCI and our pilot teachers to provide additional parent/community nights to share the materials again and provide an opportunity for additional questions. We want to ensure that parents and community members have as much information as possible and are able to provide even more feedback.

We are also working with the Riverside County Office of Education and CDE to explore next steps if the curriculum is not adopted. Our goal is to ensure we are compliant with the Williams Act and ensure the high quality instruction for students in TVUSD continues."

In the meantime, the Temecula Valley Educator Association and district are doing what they can to address one of the issues.

"The district has now reopened the survey so that way they can capture more input from parents," said Diaz.

On June 6 and June 13, Temecula Valley Educator Association will hold rallies in support of adopting the new social studies curriculum.