LGBTQ+ allies and activists in California are noticing troubling developments in a local school district as conservative concerns enter the public discourse in the blue state regarding teaching LGBTQ+ existence to children.
There was outrage last month when the Temecula Valley School Board voted to reject a social studies textbook that’s teacher’s material mentions Harvey Milk, the iconic California gay rights activist who was killed because of his civil service, Los Angeles ABC affiliate KABC reports.
The board’s president even falsely asserted that Milk was a sexual predator before voting to ban the text. The measure passed by a vote of 3-2.
“My question is, why even mention a pedophile?” said Board President Dr. Joseph Komrosky. Again, the textbook itself doesn’t even mention Milk.
That decision will leave more than 11,000 students without a new social studies textbook.
“We’ve never experienced this before. I’ve never heard of a top performing district or any district say you know what we are going to withhold these materials,” Edgar Diaz, the president of the Temecula Valley Educator Association, told KABC.
Conservative parents have been whipped up into a frenzy by far-right extremists demanding limits on discussions about race and sexual orientation in schools, as witnessed in Temecula.
Republicans have framed the discussion around (some) parents’ rights to dictate what kids do or do not learn in school when it comes to topics those parents might find objectionable.
“I don’t want my 3rd grader studying an LGBTQ issue. I don’t want them going into gender ideology,” said Jennifer Wiersma, one of the board members who voted against the books.
Last summer, California Gov. Gavin Newsom appeared in a series of commercials in Florida critical of the state’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis has waged war on “woke” and implemented laws and policies that strip LGBTQ+ people of rights, their identity, and their ability to talk about their lives in all educational settings.
Newsom’s letter to school administrators expresses opposition to excluding LGBTQ+ experiences from public life. Additionally, California State Superintendent Tony Thurmond and Attorney General Rob Bonta issued a warning not to remove instructional materials.
“Access to books — including books that reflect the diverse experiences and perspectives of Californians, and especially those that may challenge us to grapple with uncomfortable truths — is a profound freedom we all must protect and cultivate,” the letter stated.
Some parents, including Los Angeles Unified School District parent Jenna Schwartz, have supported that message. She created the group Parents Supporting Teachers.
“I think that our governor and the AG are looking at what’s happening in these red states, and we can see the future,” Schwartz told CBS News. “We know what happens when you dilute education for children. They become uneducated adults. We can’t let that happen here.”
Over 1400 book bans across the country are cited as one reason the state warns districts against limiting classroom topics.
Allies and advocates point out that conservatives are trying to forcefully shove the LGBTQ+ community back into the closet as they claim that the mere discussion of the existence of somebody who is queer or trans is sexualizing children and thus inappropriate.
“Talking about families is not a sexual conversation,” Schwartz noted. “Talking about two moms or two dads — or a diverse family, none of that is sexual.”