No one on Temecula’s school board disputed the right of students to learn in a setting free of harassment and discrimination.
But a resolution affirming that right for LGBTQ students in the Temecula Valley Unified School District fell short by a 3-2 vote Tuesday night, Sept. 12, with the board’s conservative majority questioning its necessity, focus and wording.
“We’re not here to be socially justice warrior-ed all the time,” said board member Jen Wiersma, who joined fellow conservatives Joseph Komrosky and Danny Gonzalez in voting no.
“We have to fight for equality in the classroom and I think we do that differently,” she added. “It’s why we’re having these honest conversations and we don’t always speak to it just right. But we’re trying because we want everyone to know that they’re important and they’re valued.”
Board members Steven Schwartz and Allison Barclay voted for the resolution.
The resolution vote came the same night the board voted 3-2 to restrict non-U.S. and non-California state flags from being displayed on school property. LGBTQ community advocates condemned the move as targeting pride flags in classrooms.
LGBTQ issues have been front and center in the Temecula school district since Komrosky, Gonzalez and Wiersma won a majority of school board seats in November with the backing of a local Christian conservative political action committee.
Besides the flag policy, the majority voted last month to require district staff to notify parents if their child identifies as transgender. Citing the possible harm to transgender students, California Attorney General Rob Bonta is suing to stop a similar policy in Chino Valley and a judge last week issued a temporary restraining order against Chino Valley’s policy.
The board majority also rejected an elementary social studies curriculum with supplemental materials that referenced LGBTQ civil rights leader Harvey Milk, whom Komrosky and Gonzalez called a “pedophile.” The board eventually adopted the curriculum after Gov. Gavin Newsom threatened to send textbooks to Temecula and fine the school district.
Sponsored by Schwartz, the two-page resolution declared the district “has a responsibility to ensure that all students who reside within its boundaries, regardless of gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation, can safely access a free public K-12 education.”
“Temecula Valley Unified School District remains committed to inspiring equity, celebrating diversity, and establishing safe and socially just environments in our school communities for all students,” the resolution read.
Another paragraph declared that the district “prohibits discrimination against all persons, whether student, family/caregiver of a student, or district employee, on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression of their associates.”
Schwartz on Tuesday night said he offered the resolution for two purposes.
“One was to protect students who have come to me and say they don’t feel safe and (the other was) to see how we all stand on this,” he said.
Schwartz said by phone Thursday, Sept. 14, that his resolution used the same wording as one passed by the Corona-Norco school board in August in support of that district’s LGBTQ students and staff.
Barclay said: “We sat here and saw one of our students literally have a panic attack in this room when we voted on LGBTQ issues in the past.”
“When we don’t affirm (LGBTQ students) in a visible way and in a direct way, we’re just reaffirming to them that we’re not supporting them,” Barclay added.
“And it just breaks my heart because if we truly mean what we say, we need some action behind it and there has been no action supporting our LGBTQ kids this year.”
Responding to Barclay, Gonzalez said: “It is heartbreaking to see that that is what these young people are feeling and understanding.”
Gonzalez said he would be “all for drafting a policy that wasn’t so directed just at one subset of people … But I just think the language within (the resolution), because it is already covered so widely under each existing board policy, it’s potentially problematic.”
Komrosky said the “concept” of a safe space for LGBTQ students is covered by existing board policy.
“The other problematic part … is the ‘socially just’ part” of the resolution, Komrosky said.
“For me, it is subjective. It steers away from objective truth,” he added. “I want less social activism in the district and more back-to-the-basics education. It’s a clear-cut line for me. It’s why I was voted in.”
Wiersma said all district students “deserve an amazing education. They deserve, with whatever journey they’re on, to be recognized and supported.”
Later, she said: “We’re not bigots or homophobic,” prompting scattered laughter from the audience.
Source: Orange County Register