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California to Fine School District $1.5M Over Rejecting Harvey Milk Textbook Materials

California to Fine School District $1.5M Over Rejecting Harvey Milk Textbook Materials

Gov. Newsom Fines School District Opposed to Textbooks

The Temecula Valley School District’s president called Harvey Milk a “pedophile” during a board meeting in May.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state has levied a $1.5 million fine against the Temecula Valley Unified School District after it refused to carry a textbook whose teaching materials contain a reference to the late gay politician Harvey Milk. One of the school board members had objected to the reference, calling Milk a “pedophile” during a school board meeting.

Newsom said in a press release earlier this month that he would fine the district and buy the textbooks. “If the school board won’t do its job by its next board meeting to ensure kids start the school year with basic materials, the state will deliver the book into the hands of children and their parents — and we’ll send the district the bill and fine them for violating state law,” he said.

He added, “Cancel culture has gone too far in Temecula: Radicalized zealots on the school board rejected a textbook used by hundreds of thousands of students and now children will begin the school year without the tools they need to learn.”

“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,” Newsom said in a statement Wednesday.

In addition to the fine, the district will be billed an estimated $1.6 million for the purchase and mailing of the textbooks.

The dispute began on May 16 when TVSD Board President Dr. Joseph Komrosky objected to the reference to Milk during a heated debate about the social studies textbook and curriculum Social Studies Alive! According to the Temecula Patch, board members objected to supplemental materials for grades 4 and 5 that mentioned Milk.

“My question is, why even mention a pedophile?” Komrosky asked at the meeting. “What does that got to do with our curriculum in schools? That’s a form of activism.”

Newsom later called Komrosky “an ignorant person” in a post to social media.

Komrosky was not alone in his opposition to the rider and textbook, however. Board Member Danny Gonzalez expressed similar sentiments about Milk appearing in an elementary school curriculum.

“I find the inclusion of sexually based topics and the glorification of a known pedophile, who happened to be an advocate for gay rights, to 10-year-olds morally reprehensible and inappropriate,” according to the East Bay Times.

The board subsequently fired Superintendent Jodi McClay, who had supported using the textbooks, and opted to instead use an outdated textbook while it ran a pilot program to develop its own curriculum.

The California Department of Education quickly announced an investigation into the incident, saying it was “particularly concerned” about the use of the word "pedophile," which it called “a long-standing, but discredited, trope designed to demonize members of the LGBTQ community” and “likely to contribute to creating (if not intended to create) a hostile environment for LGBTQ students and staff, in violation of their civil rights.”

Meanwhile, board member Steven Schwartz, who opposed rejecting the textbook, lamented the district’s decision.

“It was a mistake to reject the curriculum,” he told NBC News.

Milk was elected to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors — its city council — in 1977 and assassinated along with Mayor George Moscone by Dan White, a disgruntled former supervisor, in 1978. He was a pioneering civil rights leader in many ways; for instance, he campaigned against a California ballot initiative that would have barred gay men and lesbians from teaching in the public schools, and it was ultimately defeated. His story has been told in books, onstage, and in films.

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