‘Pervasive pornography,’ vulgarity, profanity banned by Temecula school board

“This is an issue of morality,” board President Joseph Komrosky says after 3-2 vote

Pervasive pornography, erotica and “inappropriate vulgarity or profanity” are banned from instructional materials under policy changes passed by Temecula’s school board Tuesday night, Dec. 12.

The Temecula Valley Unified School District board’s 3-2 vote followed discussion over the policy’s timing and criticism from residents who fear the policy will censor valuable lessons and classic literature.

The revised policy states that the district’s “education program, including all of its instructional materials “shall not include pervavsive (sic) pornography, erotica,” depictions of sexual violence and “inappropriate vulgarity or profanity, or other obscene material.”

The policy also calls for learning materials to be “educationally suitable.”

“The Board recognizes that determinations regarding appropriateness and compliance with this policy with respect to the program and instructional materials often must be made case-by-case and in context,” the policy states, adding that the board “encourages discussion amongst administrators, teachers, parents, and the Board itself to facilitate such determinations.”

A public copy of the revised policy does not include definitions for pervasive pornography or other banned content.

Board members Joseph Komrosky and Jen Wiersma, who voted for the policy with fellow conservative Danny Gonzalez, said more details will come by February and the changes won’t take effect until the new school year starts in August.

There will be “a rubric … that teachers will be able to look at (to) give them the guidance they need to say ‘If I’m bringing this in, does it meet all these important guidelines?’” Wiersma said.

She said the policy stems from a controversy earlier this year, in which parent Tracy Nolasco complained about her teenage daughter reading the play “Angels in America” for a drama class. The play, which examines the AIDS epidemic and homosexuality in the 1980s, contains graphic sex scenes, profanity and adult themes.

Temecula Valley High School drama teacher Greg Bailey offered “Angels in America” as part of a list of plays his students could read for an end-of-year assignment. Bailey, who said he warned students in advance of the play’s content, was placed on paid administrative leave in May before being allowed to return to the classroom in late August.

“That student (who read ‘Angels in America’) didn’t know what she was choosing,” Wiersma said. “We felt it very important to provide important policies and parameters that prevent obscene sexually explicit material and pervasive vulgarity.”

“Schools should be a beacon of light,” Wiersma said. “This isn’t about book banning.”

Komrosky, who was re-appointed school board president by a 3-2 vote Tuesday, said the policy is needed because “it prevents the normalization of the sexualization of our youth.”

“If you want pervasive pornography, erotica, profanity, obscenity and vulgarity, you’re in the wrong school district,” he said.

“This is an issue of morality, not political ideology. This is a moral issue. These are intrinsically evil and they should not be around our children, especially when they’re pervasive. People that want more of this, they’re called groomers.”

Some who spoke to the board, including Nolasco, supported the policy changes.

Under the prior policy, “you would never have known to expect that content” in “Angels in America,” she said. “How is my daughter … to know to expect that?”

Others, including Temecula progressive activist Julie Geary, spoke against the revised policy.

“By allowing students access to literature that addresses controversial topics, we empower them to develop a deeper understanding of the complexities of the world,” Geary told the board.

“It makes students come together so they can talk about things such as consent (in sexual activity). They can talk about where to get help if they’re being abused at home. If we censor this, these conversations will never happen. The abuse and trauma will continue and that will be on you.”

Board members Allison Barclay and Steven Schwartz, who often are at odds with the conservative majority, voted against the policy changes.

Schwartz said the board should not vote on the policy pending a “final decision” from a committee working on the policy that includes Komrosky, Wiersma and administrators. He also took issue with a sentence that barred “depictions of violence” from learning materials.

“If you take violence out of (teaching about) World War II, what is it you’re going to teach?” Schwartz asked. “If you take out the slaughter of millions of civilians … What is it you’re teaching about history? You cannot cleanse violence from history.”

Komrosky agreed, and the final policy changes deleted the phrase “depictions of violence” while keeping language that bars depictions of sexual violence.

Barclay said that, while she agreed “with much of what has been said” and opposes pornography in schools, she also wanted to wait until the committee’s work wrapped up.

“Any decision made in this district has 1,000 ripple effects and so many things that have been rushed so far in this last year have created ripple effects,” Barclay said.

Click here to read the full story in the Press-Enterprise

Here’s What’s in the New Temecula Curriculum That Concerns Some Board Members

Review of book, optional materials shows what conservative majority wants reviewed before fourth graders use it

The Temecula Valley school board made national headlines when, in May, its conservative majority blocked a social studies curriculum that mentions slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk.

Then, in the face of a state investigation, a potential state fine and a feud with Gov. Gavin Newsom, trustees rejected the curriculum again in late July before approving it days later — with an important exception.

RELATED: Temecula school board sued for critical race theory ban

The board placed the teaching of one unit in the fourth-grade curriculum on hold while it’s reviewed.

Board President Joseph Komrosky’s report to the board called for “age-appropriate curriculum” that is “also consistent with this Board’s commitment to exclude sexualized topics of instruction from the elementary school grade levels.”

So what exactly is in Lesson 12 of the Teachers’ Curriculum Institute’s “Social Studies Alive!” curriculum?

A review of the the textbook lesson, “California’s Cultural Contributions,” shows it does not mention gay rights, the LGBTQ+ community or Milk, nor does the book’s glossary and index. Optional online materials — which teachers could choose to use in class — include a biography of Milk and a mention of gay rights in the context of marriage equality and gay rights organizations, which board member Jen Wiersma cites in a video in which she addresses what is under review.

The book’s Lesson 12 discusses the entertainment industry, including early video games, movie studios, Disneyland and notable artists and writers. The chapter also covers the history of education in California, mentioning public schools and their eventual desegregation, and higher education. The chapter also mentions the contributions of Martin Luther King Jr.

In the optional online materials, Milk’s eight-paragraph biography summarizes his upbringing, his time in the Navy, his jobs while living in New York City and his life in San Francisco. It also chronicles Milk’s efforts to help the LGBTQ+ community, his election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and his assassination.

In a video posted to her Instagram account, Wiersma addressed the board’s July 21 decision, calling it “a win for local control.”

“We decided to remove a module that’s centered on a controversial historical figure of activism, Harvey Milk, who had sexual relationships with minors. We decided to remove groups like the Gay Liberation Front, who had ties to NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association), communism, and even Jim Jones and the massacre that happened. We believe, 4-0, that this is not educationally suitable for the fourth-grade classroom.”

Wiersma said the curriculum will go to a subcommittee “with teachers at the helm,” and later, “we can infuse it with the things that are right.” She mentioned astronaut Sally Ride and athlete Billie Jean King as potential “LGBT figures” to teach about.

Milk had a known relationship with a minor, Jack Galen McKinley, who the biography “The Mayor of Castro Street” says was 16 at the time, though there is evidence McKinley was 17 or 18 when they met.

Outside of the Milk biography, there appear to be two places in which the unit’s supplemental online materials mention the LGBTQ+ community.

In a section about court decisions, two paragraphs examine rulings about gay marriage.

“For many years, it was illegal for gay couples to marry in the state of California. In 2008, voters in California decided to limit marriage to be between one man and one woman. Many gay couples were unable to marry,” part of the section reads. The text then mentions Hollingsworth v. Perry, a case that legalized marriage equality in California, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which secured marriage equality across the U.S.

A section about protests and organizations that fight for rights mentions early gay-rights organizations:

“In the 1950s, gay men and women did not have many people to speak for them… Until the 1970s, many gay people were barred from working in some places. Gay rights groups successfully defeated a ballot initiative that would have banned gay man and women from being schoolteachers. Organizations formed to speak for them. Over time, groups like the Gay Liberation Front and the Human Rights Campaign fought for the civil rights of gay people. Groups like these were able to organize protests and hire lawyers to help gay people get their civil rights.”

It was not clear how much material could be omitted or replaced by the committee, or whether Lesson 12 in the textbook is included in the “Unit 12” referenced in Komrosky’s report. It could not be determined who is on the committee, if it has begun its work or its timeline to reach conclusions.

Komrosky and Wiersma could not be reached to answer questions about the review process on Thursday, Aug. 3, or Friday, Aug. 4. Komrosky responded Wednesday, Aug. 2, to questions about the curriculum and its review with a news release about legal action against district’s critical race theory ban that was announced that day.

Temecula Valley school district spokesperson James Evans said Monday, July 31, that, because of the state Fair Act, the district “can’t just cut out the whole unit” without replacing the material. Evans could not be reached later in the week to address questions about the curriculum and its review.

Though the curriculum is now adopted, its initial ban, and other actions by the board — including firing Superintendent Jodi McClay and banning critical race theory — have sparked a recall effort against Komrosky,  Wiersma and the other member of the board’s conservative Christian bloc, Danny Gonzalez.

Jeff Pack, co-founder of One Temecula Valley PAC, said Friday that recall backers will stage a kickoff event Saturday, Aug. 5.

Monica La Combe, a Temecula resident of more than 20 years, supports the effort and said on Friday that the three board members don’t value the voices of Black and non-White community members.

“They make it very clear how they feel about Black people (and) people of color,” she said.

La Combe said her older son, who is autistic and bi-racial, faced bullying that included racial slurs during his time at Great Oak High School, where he played water polo and swam.

“Those sports don’t really have Black people in them,” she said, adding that he is now in college.

La Combe’s younger son is a senior football player at Great Oak.

“They’re not us,” she said of the board members.

“They try to say they were voted in by the majority,” she said. “No. They snuck in through the back door during an off-season election.”

Pack said in an email Friday that “it was clear to us that you had a board majority working in cahoots with political operatives and local church leaders to steer this district in a direction that would cause irreparable harm to the district, and ultimately to the City of Temecula,” Pack wrote. “And nothing was going to stop them from doing that — we had to get them out.”

Saturday’s kickoff event for the recall effort will feature members of the PAC, community members and Grandparents For Truth, a program within People for the American Way.

According to its website, the group is for grandparents and their allies “who are fighting for the next generation’s freedom to learn, and who are resisting authoritarian attacks on the freedom to teach the full truth about our history and culture.”

Alana Byrd, national field director for People for the American Way, said her mother was an early member of the group and the child of a Holocaust survivor who has “heard firsthand how this kind of Authoritarianism happens.”

Book bans and limits on what can be taught are warning signs, Byrd said.

Temecula resident and former teacher Holly Hall is another member of the grandparents group who will speak Saturday. She said she has been alarmed by similar events in schools in Florida and Georgia.

“This is California. We’ve got all races, and religions, and sexual orientations and special needs,” she said.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

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