Temecula, CA school board fires superintendent after rejection of curriculum including Harvey Milk

Who is Harvey Milk? 1st openly gay person to be voted into public office, later assassinated

ByRob McMillan KABC logo
Wednesday, June 14, 2023
Temecula Valley school board fires superintendent amid curriculum ban
Hundreds of teachers in the Temecula Valley Unified School District continue to protest over the board's decision to block a curriculum that mentioned gay rights leader Harvey Milk.

TEMECULA, Calif. -- The Temecula Valley school board in California voted to fire the district's superintendent, Jodi McClay, as hundreds of teachers continue to protest the board's decision to block a curriculum that mentioned gay rights leader Harvey Milk.

The board voted to hire former Assistant Superintendent Kimberly Velez to fill in as interim.

Many of the teachers said they're upset with the board's recent decision to not approve a social sciences textbook for elementary school students because of material some board members found objectionable.

Now, some of those board members will be facing recall.

"In fourth grade, we're required by law, by state ed code, to teach the California state standards, and those standards include Civil Rights legislation for all people, and so there's a brief mention of somebody who fought for those Civil Rights and that's what they're upset about" Carolyn Thomas said.

Milk was the first openly gay person to be voted into public office and was later assassinated.

At a Temecula Valley Unified School District board meeting last month, a majority of the board did not think it was appropriate to discuss Milk, one of them even referring to him as a pedophile.

RELATED: ACLU fought for historic Pride parade in 1970 and continues to fight today

Gov. Gavin Newsom stepped into the controversy, calling the remark offensive. Those school board members responded to the governor at a town hall meeting last week.

"I'll ask you one simple question, governor, do you approve of any 33-year-old person, regardless of their gender identity or sexual preference, having a sexual relationship with any 16 year old?" asked Board President Joseph Komrosky last week.

The decision not to include the book now puts the district in potential violation of the Williams Act, which requires all students to have equal access to proper instructional materials. Some parents who spoke at Tuesday's meeting expressed their support for the board's decision.

"We are talking about an elementary school curriculum," said one speaker. "I feel like parents are being dismissed when some people stand up and say, 'I'm not comfortable with my kids talking about sex or gender ideology,' or anything like that in an elementary school setting."

But others point out that nowhere in the supplemental material does it discuss Milk's relationship at all, saying the board's actions are only adding to tensions in the community.

"We get upset when people call people Nazis," said one man. "It is the same thing when somebody chooses to call somebody a groomer, and to hear it used in our community is disrespectful to the men and women and family that work for this organization."

Outside Tuesday's morning, the school board had dozens of supporters. Many said the bigger issue is that the school district didn't give parents adequate time to review the materials themselves.

"It's a big ruckus about something that really shouldn't be," said John Leonard of Temecula. "They're just trying to do their jobs and follow the ed code and parents appreciate that. Parents need very much to be involved in their kids' lives and it's difficult to do but you have to find time to do it, and so I'm out here supporting the school board."