Why Gavin Newsom, State Leaders are Paying Attention to Temecula’s School Board

Temecula Valley schools are in Sacramento’s spotlight after board blocked textbook

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“Congratulations Mr. Komrosky you have my attention. Stay tuned.”

That’s how California Gov. Gavin Newsom ended a tweet calling Temecula school board President Joseph Komrosky “an ignorant person” for calling slain LGBTQ civil rights icon Harvey Milk “a pedophile” in a debate over a social studies curriculum.

The governor’s words proved prophetic.

California’s attorney general and Department of Education are now scrutinizing the Temecula Valley Unified School District, where a conservative school board majority has delighted supporters and outraged critics by its actions since taking power in December.

Member of the pro-LGBTQ group Temecula Pride picketed school district headquarters Friday, June 9, to denounce school board members’ Milk comments. More protests are expected at the Tuesday, June 13, school board meeting.

While Temecula is no stranger to culture war fights, Sacramento’s focus on its school district marks an escalation in a long-running fight between the city’s Christian conservatives and a vocal progressive movement in the traditionally red city in southwest Riverside County.

It’s also a fight with implications beyond Temecula, especially for an unabashedly liberal Democratic governor determined to take on Republicans nationwide.

The school board showdown in the latest chapter in Temecula’s history of clashes over sexuality and religion. In 1995, Residents protested the showing of the NC-17-rated movie “Showgirls” in a Temecula movie theater and, in 2008, criticized a charity performance of the play, “The Vagina Monologues.”

In 2010, Temecula’s City Council approved plans to build a new mosque after a public hearing that ended after 3 a.m. and protests at which mosque opponents brought their dogs to antagonize Muslims.

Last September, the council rejected a pro-life resolution that would have declared Temecula a sanctuary city for the unborn. Months earlier, Councilmember Jessica Alexander, the resolution’s sponsor, blasted a council proclamation honoring LGBTQ Pride Month.

In January, the council voted 3-2 to stop issuing citywide proclamations recognizing months like Black History Month that celebrate cultural diversity, women’s history or the LGBTQ community, instead deferring to the city’s diversity commission to designate such months.

Other than California Attorney General Rob Bonta warning Temecula’s council the pro-life resolution might be illegal, Sacramento has generally avoided intervening in Temecula, which is almost 500 miles away.

That changed when the school board in May voted 3-2 to reject a social studies textbook because its supplemental materials referenced Milk.

“My question is why even mention a pedophile?” Komrosky said at the May 16 meeting. “What does that got to do with our curriculum in schools? That’s a form of activism.”

Board member Danny Gonzalez also called Milk a pedophile. At a Wednesday, June 7, news conference responding to Newsom, Komrosky said he was not referring to Milk’s sexuality, but to reports that Milk had a relationship with a teenager.

Bonta’s office on Wednesday sent a letter to the district seeking documents related to the board’s decision to reject the textbook.

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

In addition, the state education department is investigating the district, although it’s unclear why. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond visited the district Tuesday.

The scrutiny comes as the term-limited Newsom, who survived a GOP-led recall in 2021 and cruised to re-election last year, is spearheading an effort attacking Republicans and Donald Trump supporters as threats to democracy, abortion rights and LGBTQ Americans.

He’s visited red states and taken out billboards and full-page newspaper ads in red states while publicly taunting GOP governors Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida. Newsom, who is scheduled to appear on conservative commentator Sean Hannity’s Fox News TV show Monday night, June 12, also proposed a constitutional amendment to enact gun control.

“Newsom relishes fights with right-wing culture warriors,” Jack Pitney, a professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College, said via email. “He won’t make any converts, but he will earn points with progressive Democrats for taking the fight to the opposition.”

Newsom’s and Bonta’s comments “appear to be warnings to other (school) districts as much as they are targeted towards Temecula,” Marcia Godwin, a professor of public administration at the University of La Verne, said via email.

“The timing of the Temecula (school board’s) action, during (LGBTQ) Pride Month, was bound to attract the attention of elected officials,” Godwin said. “For Newsom, this issue ties into his early advocacy for LGBTQ rights and also his aspirations to be relevant on a national stage.”

As San Francisco’s mayor in 2004, Newsom directed the city to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in defiance of state law.

Newsom’s involvement could also rally conservatives to the embattled school board majority.

Komrosky and Gonzalez’s press conference responding to Newsom took place in the church of Pastor Tim Thompson, a conservative activist who helped get the Temecula board majority and school board members in Murrieta and Lake Elsinore elected.

Julie Geary, of the progressive group Temecula Unity, welcomes Sacramento’s involvement.

Click here to read the full article in the Press Enterprise

Comments

  1. Paint Brush says

    Congrats to Temecula School Board. Too many people out there do not want to face facts. If a person is not against Pedophilia, then they must be for it. Until real, factual science proves there is more than two sexes of humans, male and female, then those are the facts. Fantasies and morbid desires to be seen or make a “splash” on TV or elsewhere should be dealt with as just that, fantasy, not reality.
    Reality and facts need to be returned to the school system, and to society in general.

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