Temecula Board OKs Policy Banning Pride Flags From Schools

Only U.S., California flags allowed unless a banner is used “solely for educational purposes”

The Temecula school board approved a policy to limit which flags can be flown on school property, a rule that some said is a way to ban pride flags, at its Tuesday night, Sept. 12, meeting.

similar policy was adopted by the Chino Valley Unified School District board in June.

The item passed 3-2, with the board’s conservative majority in favor and trustees Allison Barclay and Steven Schwartz voting no.

Tuesday’s Temecula Valley Unified School District board meeting drew a crowd similar in size to the one several weeks ago, when the board adopted a policy to inform parents if their child is transgender.

The proposal, which was adopted with some small language changes, contains two alterations to the district’s flag protocols.

The first is an addition to Pledge of Allegiance guidelines, which states that students not reciting the pledge “shall maintain a respectful silence.”

The second reads: “No flag other than the United States of America and State of California may be displayed on school grounds, including classrooms, unless it is a country, state, or United States military flag used solely for educational purposes within the adopted curriculum.”

Other flags would need the superintendent’s approval.

The document does not specify which flags are barred.

“It is not the intent of the Board of Education to deprive any person of his or her right to freedom of expression,” the agenda item states. “The intent of this regulation is to maintain a safe and orderly workplace for teachers, students, administrators, staff, parents/guardians and other members of the community.”

More than 100 people waited outside before the meeting’s open session. Some had American flags on their clothing. A few wore Donald Trump merchandise. Others sported pride flags.

Jennifer San Nicolas, a Temecula resident with two teenagers in Temecula Valley schools, said she’s concerned about board decisions she said remove diversity, equity and inclusion programs and cited December’s critical race theory ban — approved at the first meeting of the board’s conservative Christian bloc elected by voters — as an example.

“It’s just unreal, they way that they are chipping away at the humanity of kids of color, kids on the LGBTQ spectrum, anyone who isn’t their White evangelical, in their church — they other them.”

Murrieta resident Jen Reeves called the flag policy “worrisome.”

“I feel like it removes self-expression, and any sort of ability for teachers to say, ‘Hey, you’re welcome here, and we do support you, and we love you, and we want you here’,” Reeves said.

She said she believes the Temecula school board is following the agenda of other boards that have passed similar policies.

Ryan Waroff, who lives in the school district, said he supports the proposed flag policy.

Any flag can create a sense of division, Waroff said, “and I think that’s a problem we have in this country right now.”

In response to concerns about a ban on pride flags obscuring people’s identities, he said, “if you walk into a place and it takes a flag for you to feel comfortable about yourself, then we have a bigger problem than that.”

Waroff said people should be able to express their identities in any way they feel necessary, and maybe at one point, such flags were a good idea, but they’ve become politicized.

“And it is both sides,” he said. “It is a Trump flag. It is a pride flag. It is a BLM flag.”

“This isn’t anti-LGBTQ, this isn’t anti-trans,” he said. “We live in America, and in America, we’re allowed to be whatever we want, but let’s unite under the one unifying goal, that’s ‘We’re all Americans.’ I would like to see us come back to that.”

Daniel Molina spoke in favor of the policy, saying that “there is no pride flag” without also standing for the American flag.

Josh Schierling asked: “How delicate is your sense of democracy that it’s threatened by a pride flag?”

Schierling said everyone should be allowed to coexist, and that “taking down a pride flag is telling people they’re not wanted. How un-American is that?”

Board members discussed reasons for the policy, and potential pitfalls, including the definition of the word “flag.”

Danny Gonzalez said he thought the administration needed more time to work on the policy, and saw it “being potentially problematic” if not done the right way.

Schwartz said the “good intentions” behind the policy would open the district up to problems. He read aloud concerns of people who wrote to him, including that the policy “is an attempt to censor LGBTQ support” and that, according to the policy, flags for entities like colleges wouldn’t be allowed.

Barclay agreed that “a lot of things aren’t clear.”

She said that, if there’s a certain flag in question, “let’s just say it.”

Barclay said such policies make people nervous.

“They don’t want to break the rules, but they don’t understand the rules,” she said.

Board President Joseph Komrosky said that a school visit during which there were “at least 10 classrooms” that had no American flags showed him that the district needed the regulation. He  said he wants to “instruct the superintendent to add U.S. flags to every single classroom.”

Regarding flags for colleges and school sports teams, board members discussed whether they counted as “educational,” and whether, according to the policy, the superintendent would need to approve each one. Komrosky said that would be the case.

The meeting featured outbursts, applause and other interruptions from audience members. At least one person was removed, and some reacted to comments by holding up red, yellow and green cards, which Komrosky has done at previous meetings to convey warnings to audience members. At different points, both Schwartz and Komrosky asked for spectators’ cooperation.

“This would go a lot easier with no audience in here,” Komrosky said.

Other politically charged topics have been reviewed by the Temecula Valley school board in the past year.

After December’s critical race theory ban, a social studies curriculum was rejected by the board after some members cited its mention of slain gay-rights activist Harvey Milk in supplemental materials. After pushback from Gov. Gavin Newsom and others, the curriculum was approved in July — except for the unit mentioning Milk.

Last month, the board approved the transgender notification policy that some opposed because they felt it puts transgender students at risk by outing them. Such a policy also was previously approved by the Chino Valley school board.

Click here to read the full article in the Press Enterprise

California School Board Bans Critical Race Theory Right After Being Sworn In

A southern California school district voted to ban Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the new school board’s first meeting. 

California’s Temecula Valley Unified School District voted 3-2 to ban CRT just after a conservative majority had been sworn in. 

The resolution banning Critical Race Theory stated 

“​​The TVUSD desires to uplift and unite students by not imposing the responsibility of historical transgressions in the past and instead will engage students of all cultures in age-appropriate critical thinking that helps students navigate the past, present, and future.” 

The board condemned racism while also condemning CRT as “an ideology based on false assumptions about the United States of America and its population.” 

“Critical Race Theory or other similar frameworks will not be used as a source to guide how topics related to race will be taught,” the board added.

In addition, the resolution specifically banned many of the core tenets of the theory, such as the notion that: 

Racism is racial prejudice plus power, a concept that is often used to argue that (i) only individuals classified as “white” people can be racist because only “white” people control society and (ii) individuals in ethnic minorities cannot be racist because they do not control society.

The resolution also bans other tenets of the theory, such as the idea that “Racism is ordinary and the usual way society operates” as well as “The ‘voice-of-color’ thesis, the belief that minority groups are inherently better equipped to speak about race and racism.

The board’s resolution banned other teachings as well, including the idea that individuals, as a result of their race or gender, can be “inherently racist or sexist,” or may be “a member of either and oppressor or an oppressed class.”

Click here to read the full article in BreitbartCA

Back to school: California Republicans Bet Big on Local Board Races

When California Republicans gathered in Anaheim this spring, attention focused on candidate speeches and endorsement battles as the party tries to win its first statewide race since 2006. 

But a little-noticed, hour-long session in a small conference room at the Marriott could very well be more consequential for the state GOP this election.

The meeting focused on running for local school board seats, and it was led by Shawn Steel, a former party chairperson. Now, he’s one of the biggest evangelists for strengthening the GOP by recruiting new candidates and voters in what are, officially at least, nonpartisan races.

“When you’re a minority party, like Republicans in California … you have to think, ‘Well, what can we do as a party to make a big difference?’” Steel told CalMatters. “You see the schools are just in great freefall and chaos. Parents don’t want to send their kids there. So this is the time to get people that are otherwise angst-ridden, upset, powerless.” 

In California, Democrats have long used school boards as a recruiting and training ground for political candidates — with help from teachers’ unions. 

But while the state Democratic party isn’t amping up its school board efforts in 2022, the GOP is going in big with its “Parent Revolt” program — what party officials call their most tailored school board recruitment and training program ever. It includes virtual training sessions that detail how and where to run for office, plus tips for digital campaigns and going door-to-door. 

The goal: To capitalize on COVID pandemic frustrations and concerns over “critical race theory” and other issues among parents of school-aged children — and win not only school board seats, but also, eventually, legislative and congressional races by re-engaging core Republican voters and attracting independents. 

There are about 2,500 races for local school board seats in California in November — about half of the total 5,000 seats, according to the California School Boards Association. The filing deadline for candidates was Friday, though it was extended until today for seats held by incumbents not seeking reelection. While no statewide tally exists, of the nine seats up for election in the three largest school districts — Los Angeles, San Diego, and Fresno — three are open seats, where no incumbent is running.  

The Republican Party would not disclose its goals for recruited candidates, other than as many as possible. It also wouldn’t say how much it is spending on its “Parent Revolt” effort.

“We recognized early that education is going to be a major motivating issue for many Californians this year,” said Ellie Hockenbury, spokesperson for the state GOP. “Whereas it is often the case that top-of-the-ticket races help turnout for down-ballot races, we also believe that local races could be just as big a motivator for many to drive turnout. Having strong candidates in school board races could help our slate of candidates at every level.”

One candidate is Sonja Shaw, who is running for a seat on the Chino Valley School Board in the Inland Empire.

Shaw, a parent of an eighth grader and a 10th grader, used to volunteer in the classroom, but says that during the pandemic, the school board became less accessible and less transparent about its decision-making. “When they closed down, parents were exited out of the school system,” she said. 

Then the GOP provided a level of guidance on running a campaign that Shaw otherwise wouldn’t have had: “We were treading water, without knowing where we’re going,” she said.  

These local races are hardly low-stakes: School board members around the state will be at the forefront of determining how federal funding is spent and addressing labor shortages, teacher pay and inequities in education exacerbated by the pandemic.  

“I’m just trying — and the party is trying — to get the word out: There’s a whole lot of stuff going on in your backyard,” Steel said in an interview. “Don’t worry about the Ukraine, don’t worry about D.C. You can do something socially useful, and start showing up to your school board meetings.” 

Will the strategy work? Some political consultants think it could be a smart way to go. 

“It’s the one instance where the David really can defeat the Goliath — when David continues to be so arrogant,” said Sean Walsh, a GOP strategist. 

But Rusty Hicks, chairperson of the California Democratic Party, said he sees some within the Republican Party using “this really challenging moment in our history” to further divide the state for political gain.

“Ultimately I think parents want the best education for their kids,” he told CalMatters. “And is banning books and punishing teachers and those kinds of activities – is that top of mind for parents? No, I don’t believe so.” 

‘A logical outgrowth’ 

In California’s 2022 election, the big action on education isn’t in the statewide race for the superintendent of public instruction. That’s a departure from the last midterm election in 2018, when it was one of the state’s most hotly contested races. 

With the help of teachers’ unions, Tony Thurmond narrowly defeated school choice advocate Marshall Tuck. The two — both Democrats in the nonpartisan race — spent $60 million combined. This year, there has been little challenge to Thurmond, who won 46% of the vote in the June 7 primary, just shy of the majority he needed to win outright without going to November. 

His challenger on Nov. 8, Republican Lance Christensen, earned a top-two spot with only 12% of the vote. He has raised only about $55,000 so far, compared to nearly $1.7 million for Thurmond, who is also boosted by $2.3 million in independent expenditures on his behalf. 

The GOP’s lack of attention on the superintendent race is a reflection of the party’s record statewide and the daunting odds of unseating a Democratic-backed incumbent, given the 2 to 1 Democratic advantage in voter registration.

Instead, Republicans have “become a party that focuses on presidential politics and local campaigns,” said Dan Schnur, a politics professor at UC Berkeley, USC and Pepperdine. 

The focus on school board races, he said, “is a logical outgrowth of that strategy.”  

Party officials, consultants and candidates of both parties say school choice is not at the forefront of the election this year for a number of reasons, including the pandemic, the shift of the issue to the local level, and the passage of Assembly Bill 1505 in 2019, which changed how publicly funded charter schools operate in California.

This year, the GOP is seeking to capitalize on the increased political engagement of parents — which started with COVID policies, but has carried over to national issues such as “critical race theory” and sex education. 

“I think there’s a real demand that this power structure is challenged and overturned, and that’s what we’re seeing right now,” Steel said. “We don’t lead it. We don’t own it. But if we can help inspire people, particularly newcomers…”

But not every candidate running for school board as a Republican gets the party’s support. 

Jeffrey Erik Perrine, a member of the far-right Proud Boys seeking a Sacramento-area school board seat, was banned from participating in the Sacramento County Republican Party’s events after aggressive behavior, including threats to members, and derogatory comments about immigrants, said Betsy Mahan, chairperson of the county party. Mahan said Perrine’s removal was not strictly about his association with the Proud Boys, but about his behavior. 

“We don’t ask people what organizations they belong to,” she said. “We look at how they act and if they are supportive in general of our party platform.” 

The state party said it works closely with county parties on attendee lists for training sessions, and follows their decisions on candidates. “We will follow the county party’s lead against supporting this expelled Republican,” Hockenbury said.

Also, the state GOP says it doesn’t give directly to school board candidates, but said its training provides non-monetary support. The April workshop and virtual event in July had at least 100 attendees each. The party has also conducted one-on-one sessions with prospective candidates. 

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters