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California School Board Fires Superintendent Amid Uproar Over LGBTQ+ Curriculum

California School Board Fires Superintendent Amid Uproar Over LGBTQ+ Curriculum

Jodi McClay

The Temecula Valley Unified School District board recently rejected an inclusive textbook, and one member called Harvey Milk a pedophile.

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The Temecula Valley Unified School District board, in the midst of a controversy over LGBTQ+ curriculum materials, has fired the district’s superintendent.

The board voted 3-1 to fire Superintendent Jodi McClay from the Southern California district during a closed session Tuesday night, theLos Angeles Times reports. This is the same board that recently rejected an LGBTQ-inclusive textbook, with board members calling pioneering gay politician Harvey Milk a pedophile. No reason for McClay's firing was stated, but it may well be linked to the anti-LGBTQ+ uproar.

“In their minds they’re doing something good,” Allison Barclay, the only board member who voted against firing McClay, told the Times. “But Jodi has been nothing but an exemplary leader in this district. She has led this district to where we are today.”

McClay had worked in the district for 25 years. A coalition of former district officials wrote a letter expressing concern about her ouster, saying she has “established and maintained a solid record of instructional excellence.” She is a person of outstanding character and a leader of the most excellent caliber,” the letter added.

In May, the board voted to reject a social studies textbook and curricular materials designed for kindergarten through fifth grade. It included mention of the LGBTQ+ rights movement but no mention of Milk, the San Francisco city supervisor who was the first out gay elected official in California and was assassinated by a fellow supervisor in 1978. The accompanying materials for teachers do mention Milk.

During discussion of the program, Board President Joseph Komrosky called Milk a sexual predator. “Why even mention a pedophile?” Komrosky said.

He was apparently referring to a relationship between Milk and Jack McKinley, which began when Milk was in his early 30s and McKinley was 16. When the two met in New York, the age of consent in that state was 14, and McKinley had turned 18 when the pair moved to California.

Komrosky’s remark drew criticism from California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who tweeted that it was “an offensive statement from an ignorant person.” Newsom added, “This isn’t Texas or Florida. In the Golden State, our kids have the freedom to learn.” Indeed, state law requires that public schools teach LGBTQ-inclusive history.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta has denounced Komrosky’s statement as well, and the state’s Department of Education is investigating the district, although DOE officials haven’t said why.

Komrosky and the two other board members who voted to fire McClay, Jennifer Wiersma and Danny Gonzalez, are conservatives who were elected last year with the support of the Inland Empire Family PAC. “The PAC endorses candidates who are against critical race theory as well as ‘forced LGBTQ+ acceptance,’” the Times reports.

The Temecula board voted in December to ban critical race theory, an academic concept that informs higher education curricula but not what’s taught in K-12 schools. The term, however, seems to be used by right-wing activists as a catchall for all lessons about the U.S. legacy of racism — lessons they say are divisive and induce guilt in white students.

One board member, Steven Schwartz, was absent from the Tuesday meeting, so he did not vote on McClay’s firing. Former Assistant Superintendent Kimberly Velez will become superintendent on an interim basis.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.