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California School District Agrees to Inclusive Textbooks, Avoids $1.5M Fine

California School District Agrees to Inclusive Textbooks, Avoids $1.5M Fine

California Gov. Gavin Newsom

In Temecula, where a school board member called Harvey Milk a pedophile, the board has adopted a new social studies curriculum but will review and maybe rewrite materials about Milk and the LGBTQ+ rights movement.

The Temecula Valley Unified School District in Southern California has avoided a state fine by adopting a state-approved social studies curriculum it had rejected because it mentioned groundbreaking gay politician Harvey Milk.

Gov. Gavin Newsom had threatened the district with a $1.5 million fine if it did not adopt the curriculum, and he promised that the state would buy social studies textbooks for Temecula students if the district wouldn’t.

The school board had rejected the curriculum, which uses the textbook Social Studies Alive!, in May, with the board president calling Milk a pedophile because he began a relationship with a teenager, Jack McKinley, when Milk was in his 30s. However, McKinley had reached the age of consent. The board vote and President Joseph Komrosky’s comment led to protests by teachers, and eventually the board fired Superintendent Jodi McClay.

At its meeting Friday, the board decided to approve the curriculum, the Los Angeles Timesreports. The textbook it includes doesn’t feature anything about Milk, but he is mentioned in supplemental materials that teachers can use and on which they can base lessons. However, the district will withdraw the material that covers Milk and the LGBTQ+ rights movement “for further review and possible rewriting,” according to the Times.

Komrosky said the reversal “had nothing to do with Gov. Newsom,” but he acknowledged the board feared legal troubles. “We have a fiscal responsibility so that I cannot steer this district into more legalities,” he said at the meeting.

Under California law, public schools must teach about the contributions of LGBTQ+ people in their history lessons. Gov. Jerry Brown signed that measure into law in 2011, and Temecula Valley hasn’t updated its social studies curriculum since 2006, the Times reports.

Even though the district is reviewing the content about Milk, Newsom expressed relief that students will have new textbooks but pointed out that the California Department of Education is still investigating Temecula Valley for possible civil rights violations.

“Fortunately, now students will receive the basic materials needed to learn,” he said in a statement, adding, “Demagogues who whitewash history, censor books, and perpetuate prejudice never succeed. Hate doesn’t belong in our classrooms and because of the board majority’s antics, Temecula has a civil rights investigation to answer for.”

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