California school board’s curriculum rejection spurs letter from Attorney General Bonta

Temecula’s school board president fired back Wednesday, June 7, at Gov. Gavin Newsom, explaining why he voted to reject a curriculum that mentioned gay rights leader Harvey Milk and why he called the slain activist “a pedophile.”

Komrosky said during an afternoon news conference at a Murrieta church that he was not referring to Milk’s sexuality, but to reports that Milk had a relationship with a teenager.

RELATED: Temecula teachers, parents protest rejection of curriculum that mentions Harvey Milk

“I’ll ask you one simple question, governor,” Komrosky said. “Do you approve of a 33-year-old person, regardless of their gender identity or sexual preference, having a sexual relationship with any 16-year-old, regardless of their gender identity or sexual preference?”

As Komrosky and board colleague Danny Gonzalez addressed the news media and more than 50 supporters who cheered at the end of their speeches, a statement from Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta was released. It announced that the state wanted answers from the Temecula Valley Unified School District about the blocked textbook with supporting materials that mention Milk.

In a Wednesday letter, a lawyer in Bonta’s office asked the district for documents, policies and other material related to the board’s 3-2 vote to block the history textbook during a May 16 meeting in which school board Komrosky and Gonzalez referred to Milk as a “pedophile.”

“Restricting what our children are taught in school based on animus or ideological opposition contradicts our societal values,” Bonta said in a news release.

“The board needs to explain its decision making, and moving forward will need to ensure students have access to a wide range of ideas and perspectives,” Bonta said.

School district spokesperson James Evans could not be reached Wednesday afternoon for comment.

The back and forth between the trustees — members of a new conservative Christian majority elected in November — and Newsom has its roots in the May school board meeting.

District officials proposed the adoption of a social studies curriculum that would have given updated textbooks to the district’s 18 elementary schools, solving the issue of the lack of material due to the book being out of print and being a one-time-use workbook.

Anna Tapley, Temecula Valley Unified’s director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, told the board that the mention of Milk was in optional supporting materials and not in the textbook that would be given to children in first through fifth grades.

Komrosky replied by asking, “My question is why even mention a pedophile? What does that got to do with our curriculum in schools? That’s a form of activism.”

Gonzalez also called Milk a “pedophile,” saying “I find the inclusion of sexually based topics and the glorification of a known pedophile, who happened to be an advocate for gay rights, to 10-year-olds morally reprehensible and inappropriate.”

Responding to a television news report about the meeting that cited Komrosky’s comment, Newsom took to Twitter over the weekend to call Komrosky’s comment about Milk “offensive” and to describe Komrosky as “an ignorant person.” Newsom ended the tweet with “Congrats Mr. Komrosky you have our attention.”

The news conference was at 412 Church Temecula Valley, the church of Pastor Tim Thompson, who is closely linked with the Inland Empire Family PAC. The Christian conservative group endorsed seven candidates — including Komrosky, Gonzalez and Jan Wiersma — for southwest Riverside County school boards last year.

In his remarks, Komrosky paraphrased part of the governor’s post.

“Gov. Newsom, I’m glad I have your attention, now you have mine,” Komrosky said.

He said that, as a philosophy professor at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, he has students from all walks of life, from different gender identities and sexual “preferences.”

“I treat them with love and respect, because we don’t talk about those things in class,” Komrosky said, turning to his comment about Milk.

Komrosky said his comment that led to Newsom’s tweet was based on what he called Milk’s relationship with a teenager.

“My remarks on this note were not based upon him being a homosexual, but rather based on, indeed, an adult having a sexual relationship with a minor,” Komrosky said.

A 1982 biography of Milk, “The Mayor of Castro Street,” by late journalist Randy Shilts describes a relationship he said Milk, then 33, had with a 16-year-old named John Galen McKinley.

Gonzalez echoed Komrosky’s argument that Milk was a pedophile and said misinformation is being reported by news outlets and the teachers union about the need for a new curriculum.

“I suggested that we get permission to print the necessary materials as the books we currently use are out of print,” Gonzalez said, adding that officials met Tuesday with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, who said the district “absolutely can do that.”

“The factually inaccurate charges that if we don’t approve this specific curriculum right now we will be in violation of the Williams Act and that going forward we will have no social science curriculum in the fall is patently false.”

After their news conference, Gonzalez and Komrosky declined to answer questions from the media.

In Bonta’s news release, Newsom said: “In the Golden State, our kids have the freedom to learn — and there are consequences for denying that freedom.”

“California is closely watching the actions of malicious actors seeking to ban books, whitewash history, and demonize the LGBTQ+ community in Temecula and across the state. If the law is violated, there will be repercussions.”

While the letter does not specifically threaten a lawsuit, it “emphasizes that local educational agencies have a legal obligation to implement a social sciences curriculum highlighting the contributions of various groups, including gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans,” the news release states.

“Furthermore, it highlights that a decision to remove or reject curriculum materials reflecting these identities may constitute unlawful discrimination.”

A copy of the supporting materials provided by the Temecula Valley Educators Association show that Milk is mentioned at least four times in the 842-page “History Social Science Framework for California Public Schools, Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve.”

The first mention first appears on page 90 of the chapter, “California: A Changing State.”

“(Students) learn about the contributions of immigrants to California from across the country and globe, such as … Harvey Milk, a New Yorker who was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 as California’s first openly gay public official,” the passage read.

Another passage refers to “California activists such as Harvey Milk and Cleve Jones (who) were part of a broader movement that emerged in the aftermath of the Stonewall riots, which brought a new attention to the cause of equal rights for LGBT Americans.”


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