California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) commented Saturday after three members of the Southern California school board managed to block formal approval of an updated social studies curriculum because it contained material about gay rights icon Harvey Milk.
Temecula Valley School board member Danny Gonzalez initially sparked objections from community members who gathered to watch the meeting by saying Milk’s “lifestyle choices” were “completely inappropriate” and calling him a “pedophile.”
School Board President Joseph Komrosky agreed with the characterization, claiming that Milk’s inclusion in the curriculum constituted “activism.”
“My question is, why even mention a pedophile?” Komrosky once asked.
“An insulting statement from an ignorant person,” Newsom later replied in a tweet along with a story about the incident.
“This isn’t Texas or Florida. In the Golden State, our children have the freedom to learn. Congratulations Mr. Komrosky, you have our attention,” the governor tweeted, adding, “Stay tuned in.”
The school board meeting took place on May 16th, however, only began with the reception Local news media attention this week. In an emotionally charged moment, Komrosky threatened to throw disrupters out of the room; Three women in the first row got up and left at the same time.
The 3-2 vote against the new state-approved curriculum leaves the Temecula Valley Unified School District a potential violation of California textbook compliance laws. The quarter said in a statement to KABCa local outlet, said it is expanding the window for parent feedback on textbook materials and communicating with county and state officials on the issue.
Milk, who was assassinated in 1978, became one of the first openly gay men to be elected to public office as a member of the San Francisco board of directors. It is only mentioned in supplemental materials, not in the main textbook.
Gonzalez said the materials are intended for fourth graders.
As candidates for the school board, Gonzalez and Komrosky and member Jennifer Wiersma received support from the conservative Christian Inland Empire Family PAC.
They are part of a conservative movement aimed at influencing what children are taught about race and gender in school, which critics say amounts to glossing over history and wiping out marginalized groups.
School board member Allison Barclay argued that Milk was part of the story because he “got the ball rolling” by championing government-protected classes of people.
“It’s history. If you look at a lot of historical figures, a lot of people that we all love and care about, they weren’t perfect,” Barclay said.
As per protocol, the district has already piloted the materials and distributed them to approximately 1,300 children to take home. Parents were also given the opportunity to respond to the new materials via a survey, but very few actually responded.
The pedophilia allegation against Milk, the subject of a critically acclaimed 2008 biopic, appears to stem from this a 1982 biography It states that Milk lived with a teenager in New York’s Greenwich Village in the 1960s when he was in his 30s.