A conservative-leaning California school board in Riverside County, California, held an emergency meeting on Friday to vote on the addition of contested LGBTQ content to the curriculum. In a unanimous decision, the Temecula Valley Unified School District’s (TVUSD) board approved a previously rejected elementary school social studies program rather than face a $1.5 million fine from Governor Gavin Newsom.
The textbook in question, an updated edition of Social Studies Alive!, was initially rejected for its inclusion of the life and legacy of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California. Milk is rumored to have had inappropriate relationships with teenage boys, resulting in accusations of pedophilia. Milk was murdered by a disgruntled former city supervisor in 1978.
The TVUSD voted 3-2 to remove Social Studies Alive! from the curriculum, citing concerns about teaching elementary schoolers about Milk. Additionally, the board was concerned that parents had not been consulted about the new version of the book prior to its introduction.
However, board members were forced to reverse the decision following the threat of a lawsuit from the Governor’s office. Had the ban on the textbook remained in place, the school would have reverted to a 2006 textbook instead, thereby failing to comply with a 2011 state ordinance requiring schools to teach about LGBTQ historical figures.
The Board’s approval included a provision for the district’s interim superintendent to review portions of the text discussing the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state, “substituting age-appropriate curriculum” where necessary to remain consistent with both state regulations and “the board’s commitment to exclude sexualized topics of instruction from elementary school grade levels.”
Board President Joseph Komrosky said that the new decision did not come out of fear of Newsom, but rather to avoid burdening the school with a lawsuit.
But on Governor Newsom’s side of the issue, the reason for the decision made little difference, and he celebrated this as a triumph over nationwide book-banning efforts. “Fortunately, now students will receive the basic materials needed to learn,” Newsom said in a statement Friday. “But this vote lays bare the true motives of those who opposed this curriculum. This has never been about parents’ rights. It’s not even about Harvey Milk – who appears nowhere in the textbook students receive. This is about extremists’ desire to control information and censor the materials used to teach our children.”