TEMECULA, CA — In a last-minute effort to avoid legal jeopardy and a $1.5 million state fine, the Temecula Valley Unified School District is holding a special governing board meeting Friday night to reconsider adopting a social sciences curriculum for grades 1-5 that it twice rejected over concerns of “sexualized topics” — namely, gay rights in California and the movement’s leaders.

But the TVUSD’s 11th-hour response may not satisfy state law.

According to the agenda for the 7 p.m. July 21 meeting, the board will consider a motion to approve TCI’s Social Studies Alive! curriculum, but with a caveat: A chapter for 4th graders would get pushed back to the end of the 2023-24 school year so the district can recommend a “substituted, age-appropriate curriculum that meets all state and federal standards, including the FAIR Act, but that is also consistent with this Board’s commitment to exclude sexualized topics of instruction from the elementary school grade levels.” Additionally, students would not be allowed access to online resources attached to the curriculum.

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In an emailed statement Thursday from TVUSD board president Joseph Komrosky, he said the district is not done with its work on curriculum for the 2023-2024 school year.

“We continue to engage our parents and work diligently towards finding the right solution for our community, and every day we make progress towards that goal,” he said. “We still have the time to continue this critical process and meet all state and federal mandates before the next school year begins.

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“While engaged in this process, I am confident that while reviewing any curriculum for use in this District, TVUSD will select the best material that emphasizes our mission of ‘High-Quality Teaching and Learning for All,’ but that also avoids any teacher-to-student conversations related to sex and sexual activity at the elementary school level. These conversations are better left to the parents and their children,” Komrosky continued.

During a July 18 workshop and subsequent meeting in which the TVUSD board again rejected the Social Studies Alive! curriculum, board member Danny Gonzalez expressed concern that a portion of the curriculum — Unit 12, which addresses gay rights and the contributions by California leaders — was not appropriate for 4th graders.

TVUSD board members Jennifer Wiersma, Komrosky and Gonzalez have argued the mid-20th-century persecution of homosexuals and the subsequent rise of the LGBTQ rights movement is sexual in nature and not appropriate for elementary school students.

However, California law passed more than a decade ago requires school districts to include instruction in history-social science about the role and contributions of people with disabilities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans; and other ethnic and cultural groups. Senate Bill 48, otherwise known as the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act, was signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011.

It’s not clear whether any “substitute” material that might be proposed by the district would meet the state’s FAIR Act standards. Komrosky, Wiersma and Gonzalez have not put forward any suggested text on the subject of gay rights, and it’s unclear how they might.

During the July 18 board workshop, Gonzalez said Unit 12 of TCI’s Social Studies Alive! curriculum went “a little bit off the rails” because it named the 1969-founded Gay Liberation Front. Gonzalez tried to draw a connection between the GLF and the widely condemned North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), which is known for promoting pedophilia.

Gonzalez’s rationale was that David Thorstad, who founded NAMBLA, was president of the Gay Activists Alliance during the mid-1970s, and the GAA was one of many grassroots offshoots of the GLF. That link, according to Gonzalez, should bar any mention of the GLF in textbooks.

During a May 16 board meeting in which the board also rejected the Social Studies Alive! curriculum, Komrosky and Gonzalez referred to slain California gay rights leader Harvey Milk as “a pedophile” and said it was inappropriate for his name to appear in any classroom discussion regardless of his historic role in paving the way for LGBTQ rights in the state.

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Komrosky, Wiersma and Gonzalez have held their ground in fighting against what they call the “sexualization” of TVUSD kids.

Rather than adopt the Social Studies Alive! curriculum that was approved by 47 TVUSD educators and piloted in the district with 1,300 families, on July 18 the board opted to instead spend $162,000 to buy additional outdated social sciences textbooks, currently in use, for the upcoming school year for grades 1-5. The curriculum dates back to at least 2006 and is not FAIR Act compliant. Read more: State Responds To TVUSD’s Decision To Use Outdated Textbooks For Kids

Following the July 18 decision that was vehemently opposed by board members Allison Barclay and Steven Schwartz, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office responded, saying the state would enter into a contract to secure textbooks so TVUSD students can begin the school year next month with up-to-date books and materials that comply with California law.

“The three political activists on the school board have yet again proven they are more interested in breaking the law than doing their jobs of educating students — so the state will do their job for them,” Newsom said. “California will ensure students in Temecula begin the school year with access to materials reviewed by parents and recommended by teachers across the district. After we deliver the textbooks into the hands of students and their parents, the state will deliver the bill — along with a $1.5 million fine — to the school board for its decision to willfully violate the law, subvert the will of parents, and force children to use an out-of-print textbook from 17 years ago.”

District officials reported the cost of the Social Studies Alive! curriculum is $1,601,723.41 for an eight-year adoption.

“We do not appreciate Governor Newsom’s effort to usurp local control and all that will apparently result from these tactics is a waste of the taxpayers’ money,” Komrosky said. “We sincerely hope he has a 14-day return policy with the publisher of the books he just purchased.”

Efforts are underway in the community to recall Komrosky, Wiersma and Gonzalez. They were elected to the TVUSD board in November.


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