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Newsom-threatened school board draws national attention, presents curriculum

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(The Center Square) – Governor Newsom doubled down on threats to the Temecula Valley Unified School Board for thus far refusing to adopt his preferred social studies textbook hours before it was scheduled to hold a workshop to present state-approved alternatives amid state and national furor from Democratic officials.

“The Temecula school board rejected the adoption of a widely used social studies curriculum—forcing students to use an out-of-print textbook that doesn’t meet requirements & breaks the law,” Newsom said the morning of the workshop.

In advance of the workshop, the school district, which maintains a contentious relationship with the elected school board, issued an agenda explaining its rationale for the proposed curriculum, one of the four State Board of Education adopted materials for “History/Social Studies.”

“A Social Science Pilot team consisting of 47 teachers from all grades, at all sites, came to a consensus of adopting TCI Social Studies Alive 1st-5th grade for an eight-year adoption. TCI Social Studies Alive 1st-5th will be the primary History instructional material for elementary students,” Temecula Unified School District said.

In the workshop meeting, board members clashed over well-worn American disagreements over whether power lies in the hands of local governments or centralized bureaucracies, or at what age certain lessons about the outside world should be taught to children, and how.

Board Member for Trustee Area 3 Jennifer Wiersma, who has opposed the TCI curriculum, said, “You have K-12 to talk about all these topics…when you are looking at a figure like Harvey Milk, you are looking at sexuality first because there is that civil rights movement, so you have to question some of those aspects in an elementary classroom. And if this is offered as a discussion for an eight- or nine-year-old, it isn’t educationally suitable…we aren’t going to go where it’s inappropriate. But we want our kids to learn history.”

“In fourth grade, we learn California history. And [Harvey Milk is] a piece of California history. What I’m hearing is ‘don’t say gay,’” retorted Board Member for Trustee Area 1 Allison Barclay.

Responding to concerns that the school district would be held liable under the FAIR Act, an educational law signed into law in 2011 that requires California schools to include contributions and roles of underrepresented racial, ethnic, and cultural populations in K-12 materials, Wiersma noted school boards ultimately have the power to interpret the manner in which these groups are represented in school materials to their students.

“Mr. Newsom, we have the power as local government here to decide what’s appropriate for our community. It’s not to censor, it’s not to ban books, it’s not to erase anyone,” Wiersma said.

Citing state approval of the TCI curriculum, “The State Board of Education has approved four curriculums. This is one of the ones they approved, which means it’s appropriate for our students,” Board Member for Trustee Area 5 Steven Schwartz said.

At the conclusion of the workshop, Board Member for Trustee Area 2 Danny Gonzalez, who also voiced a number of concerns about age-inappropriate content in the TCI curriculum, sought to find a middle ground.

“Based on legal opinion we got from our district’s general counsel…I believe that here in Temecula we can make a decision about what is age appropriate. In grades one through five, we can eliminate discussions about gender and sexuality and still do what is required, and possibly even keep and use the TCI curriculum that we know the teachers are very excited about using,” said Gonzalez. “I think that we can find a compromise here and that’s what I’m suggesting to move forward.”

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