Temecula school board rejects new textbooks again over concerns about inclusion of Harvey Milk

Meanwhile, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he would be sending the district textbooks along with a bill and a $1.5 million fine.

Rob McMillan Image
Thursday, July 20, 2023
Temecula school board again rejects new textbooks once again
The culture wars are on full display in Temecula, with controversy erupting at several recent Temecula Valley school board meetings and the most recent meeting was no different.

TEMECULA, Calif. (KABC) -- The culture wars are on full display in Temecula, with controversy erupting at several recent Temecula Valley school board meetings.

The most recent meeting on Tuesday was no different.

The conservative block on the school board voted yet again to reject a new social studies curriculum for elementary school students, leaving children without textbooks that meet current state standards when school starts next month.

Governor Gavin Newsom has weighed in multiple times on the issues involving the Temecula Valley school board, and has now announced he will be sending the school district books 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.

"I'm worried about access to information and access to the latest social studies books that are being made available to hundreds of thousands of kids that are being denied to the kids of the Temecula district," said Newsom in a recent social media post.

At Tuesday's meeting, board president Dr. Joseph Komrosky indicated he would fight Newsom's attempts to intervene.

"Governor, you do you up there," said Komrosky. "We'll do us down here; parents and patriots at the local level. I've already instructed the superintendent that if books arrive at shipping and receiving to say no, we'll ship them right back. This is not your school district, this is ours."

The issue first blew up at a board meeting last month, when the school board majority questioned whether activist Harvey 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.

"We don't want perverts celebrated in the Temecula valley," said Pastor Tim Thompson from the 412 Church Temecula Valley, who spoke during the public comment section of the board's afternoon workshop on the proposed curriculum. "We certainly don't want it in our schoolbooks, reference materials, or anything at all."

Eyewitness News obtained a copy of the supplemental biographical material regarding Milk. Nowhere in the material included any discussion about Milk's relationships.

However, supporters of the board's decision said the allegations regarding Milk's relationship is enough to keep him out of the elementary school social studies curriculum.

"We need to erase his existence, erase his name, and erase the pedophilia that he did upon children," said activist John Amanchukwu, also during the public comment period.

Opponents to the board's decision said for them not to approve a curriculum discussing Milk with regard to his civil rights activism is a double standard.

"What is absolute fact is that Donald Trump was found legally liable for sexual assault," said Temecula resident Christine Massa, who spoke immediately after Amanchukwa. "Yet I've not heard any board member saying anything that someone who has perpetrated sexual violence against women should be excluded."

Before the board voted, they continued to argue whether including Milk in the context of civil rights activism when instructing 4th graders was appropriate.

"We're not going to sexualize our kids; we're not going to go where it's inappropriate, but we do want you to learn history," said board member Jennifer Wiersma, who was then interrupted by board member Allison Barclay, who wanted

Wiersma to clarify why she wanted Milk removed from the curriculum.

"The issue is, in 4th grade, we learn about California history, and that's a piece of California history," said Barclay. "So, what I'm hearing (you say) is 'Don't say gay.'"

The conservative majority said the larger issue facing the board was lack of parental involvement in the curriculum.

District officials said the materials were used in a pilot program involving approximately 1,700 students and there were very few complaints.

Board member Steve Schwartz said one of his concerns was that of the slippery slope created when board members try to remove discussion of historical figures simply because of their controversy.

"I don't want to get to the point where someone is going to come in and say that Lincoln wasn't a good guy," said Schwartz. "He could have let the slaves free earlier but he didn't do it when he could have."

"History is history," continued Schwartz. "We all have opinions on how things have developed. This curriculum was written and approved by the state, and now if we're going to start picking it apart, we're never going to come to any kind of conclusion."

District officials confirmed that students will have textbooks next fall, but they will be older textbooks that no longer meet current state standards.

Some have speculated that this might open the district up to a potential lawsuit.