The Temecula Valley Unified School District board reversed course late Friday night, voting 4-0 to adopt the TCI Social Studies Alive! elementary social science curriculum for first through fifth grades. The vote came two days after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state had secured a contract to deliver the books to the district prior to the start of the school year.

“All I’m saying is [this meeting] had nothing to do with Gov. Newsom,” Board President Joseph Komrosky said during the meeting. “Our kids need an education, they need a curriculum. They need it, and we have to provide it.”

The meeting, as originally posted Thursday afternoon, included one item: to adopt the TCI curriculum in full, supplementary materials and all, with the caveat that the district’s curriculum design team would review Unit 12 of the 4th grade curriculum, which includes the optional activity Harvey Milk, and make a recommendation to the school district on how to move forward with that material.

“Unit 12 was of discussion at the last board meeting for fourth grade,” Komrosky said. “I’m recommending — this is a compromise for the district — the district moves together as a whole, the teachers, the parents and the community members and the staff. I’m going to urge [the board] to take a vote to where that gets pulled, it goes to subcommittee, it doesn’t face students just gets pulled, it gets evaluated.”

Late Thursday evening, Board Clerk Jennifer Wiersma placed a second item on the agenda that would have the board vote to keep the current curriculum from 2006 supplemented by the publisher’s 2019 online curriculum in order to come into compliance with state law. 

“I looked at this resource and the amazing job we’ve done with our students in this district, and saw that with an accommodating resource, not a brand new adopted curriculum, we can then with a 2019 stamp, take care of all the things that we needed to,” Wiersma said via Zoom.

However, the 2019 online curriculum was not piloted by the school district — it was rejected by teachers ahead of the pilot for being “unsuitable,” according to Board Member Steven Schwartz — and had not been provided to parents or community members to review. 

Wiersma previously said one of her top issues with the TCI curriculum was that not enough community input had been received on the curriculum.

Additionally, Board Member Allison Barclay pointed out that the 2019 curriculum Wiersma brought in front of the board for approval included many of the same items she had previously said should not be included in any curriculum for elementary school students, including a lesson for second graders about how families can include one parent, a mom and a dad, two moms or two dads that included definitions of gay and lesbian. 

“And then in fourth grade, it talks about gay rights,” Barclay said. “It shows a picture of the couple, the same sex couple, who was able to be married after the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, and in chapter seven in the book, in this online material you’re discussing, Harvey Milk is featured in the citizenship feature where his contribution to the LGBTQ movement is described, ‘Students are urged to reflect on the importance of honesty exemplified by Harvey Milk,’ so I’m excited to hear that you’re a proponent for this with this curriculum.”

Since the updated online curriculum had not gone through TVUSD’s standard adoption process, district attorney David Huff said the board would not only be going against its own board policy, but also breaking state law by adopting a new curriculum that had not been piloted or available for community input.

“I think you have a very clear mandate from the education code, as well as a well established board policy, that weighs heavily on this question and suggests that the district is not currently in position to lawfully adopt this curriculum augmentation,” he said via Zoom.

When it came time for a vote, Wiersma made the motion for the district to continue using the 2006 textbooks alongside the updated 2019 supplemental curriculum. Her motion died for lack of a second.

The board then took up the question of adopting the district-piloted, teacher-approved TCI curriculum. District staff clarified questions about the data Gov. Gavin Newsom published that showed 98.8% of parents and educators either supported or were impartial to adopting the new curriculum.

“[That data] was actually part of a presentation, a very short presentation for the June 27 board meeting,” Interim Superintendent Kimberly Velez said. “But we were unable to give that presentation because that agenda item was pulled at the beginning of the meeting.”

A review of that meeting video showed Board Member Danny Gonzalez made the motion to remove the item from the agenda. That motion was approved 3-2 with Wiersma and Komrosky joining Gonzalez.

The board also discussed the use of supplemental materials and the review of Unit 12 in the fourth grade curriculum by the district’s curriculum design team. With what appeared to be a consensus of the board, Komrosky made the motion to adopt the curriculum. 

With a second by Schwartz, the audience erupted in applause that only grew after the board approved the motion on a 4-0 vote. Gonzalez was absent.

Following the decision, Newsom issued the following statement:

“Fortunately, now students will receive the basic materials needed to learn. But this vote lays bare the true motives of those who opposed this curriculum. This has never been about parents’ rights. It’s not even about Harvey Milk – who appears nowhere in the textbook students receive. This is about extremists’ desire to control information and censor the materials used to teach our children. Demagogues who whitewash history, censor books, and perpetuate prejudice never succeed. Hate doesn’t belong in our classrooms and because of the board majority’s antics, Temecula has a civil rights investigation to answer for.”

The board majority’s actions are currently under investigation by the California Department of Education and the California Department of Justice has launched an inquiry into the district related to civil rights violations, the press release said.

The full meeting video can be found here on the district’s YouTube page.

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Alicia Ramirez is the publisher of TN News and the founder and CEO of its parent company TN News.