The Temecula Valley Unified School District will face a $1.5 million fine after three conservative school board members rejected implementing curriculum covering LGBTQ figure Harvey Milk, per California governor Gavin Newsom.
Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the state, was assassinated in 1978.
The district will also be directed to pay another $1.6 million in shipping costs associated with sending materials to the district.
Newsom previously warned that board members Dr. Joseph Komrosky, Jennifer Wiersma, and Danny Gonzalez had his attention after voting 3-2 against the curriculum in June.
“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 Wednesday in a statement. “The three political activists on the school board have yet again proven they are more interested in breaking the law than doing their jobs of educating students — so the state will do their job for them.”
“California will ensure students in Temecula begin the school year with access to materials reviewed by parents and recommended by teachers across the district.”
California Gov. Newsom announces a $1.5M fine against the Temecula Valley Unified School District less than a day after conservative board members voted to reject state-endorsed curriculum that includes a short biography of gay rights leader Harvey Milk. https://t.co/fbtWnwFcwM
— NBC News (@NBCNews) July 20, 2023
“It was a mistake to reject the curriculum,” said fellow board member Steven Schwartz, per NBC News. “When you play with fire, sometimes you get burned.”
Board member Allison Barclay similarly remarked, “It is devastating to receive news of a fine of this magnitude.”
“Our students deserve the best, and I believe that this new curriculum that was piloted by 47 teachers and 1,300 students is an excellent resource for our district,” Barclay continued in an email. “I am hopeful we can work with the state to come into compliance and avoid any undue financial burden on our district that, in the end, will only hurt our students.”
Komrosky, who previously referred to Milk as a “pedophile” in regards to his alleged relationship with a 16-year old boy, repeated the sentiment in a Tuesday night board meeting.
“In a 1982 biography of Milk, The Mayor of Castro Street, the late journalist Randy Shilts describes a relationship he said Milk, then 33, had with a 16-year-old named John Galen McKinley,” per Press Enterprise.
Supporters of the curriculum note Milk’s importance as a “champion of underrepresented communities,” arguing the educational material would be limited to a brief biography of the former Californian politician.
“The state having to step in to provide curricular materials that adhere to state law underscores the fact that the extremist board majority is not fit to govern,” said Temecula high school English teacher Jennee Scharf, who claimed the conservative board members “only [listen] to outside agitators instead of local parents and teachers.”
Scharf, along with other educators and district residents, are seeking a recall of the conservative board members who took office late 2022.