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Temecula school board president, Gov. Newsom continue to trade jabs over book ban

Temecula school board president doubles down on controversial claims amid feud with Gov. Newsom
Temecula school board president doubles down on controversial claims amid feud with Gov. Newsom 04:33

Temecula's book ban continues to stir controversy in the Inland Empire and the state as the region's school board president and Gov. Gavin Newsom continue to trade rhetorical jabs.

"Governor Newsom, I'm glad I have your attention. Now, you have mine," said school board president Joseph Komrosky. "I assure you that I am anything but ignorant regarding what you said. Governor, you said it right when you said this isn't Texas or Florida as we could be so much better than these states if we had better leadership than the top levels of government..."

The political boxing match started last week when the Temecula Valley Union School District voted to reject an elementary school social studies book that mentioned Harvey Milk, California's first openly gay man elected to office. Before voting to ban the book, TVUSD President Joseph Komrosky referred to the assassinated politician as a "pedophile."

"My question is, why even mention a pedophile?" said Board President Dr. Joseph Komrosky. 

The vote and comment garnered the attention of Newsom as well as sparked protests in the Inland Empire. 

"In the Golden State, our kids have the freedom to learn - and there are consequences for denying that freedom," said Newsom. "California is closely watching the actions of malicious actors seeking to ban books, whitewash history, and demonize the LGBTQ+ community in Temecula and across the state. If the law is violated, there will be repercussions."

Gabriel Maldonado, head of the Riverside County-based LGBTQ organization TruEvolution, said this move and accusation is a step in the wrong direction for the community. 

"They are trying to change the minds of their own children — so that their children will not begin to see humanity, empathy or dignity in anyone who is not like them," said Maldonado. 

At the heart of the debate is the instruction of LGBTQ+ studies. The issue has sparked debate about whether parents should dictate when their kids learn about potentially sensitive subjects. 

"Obviously, I think that children need to be taught about the birds and the bees and everything that goes beyond that, especially in the society that we have today," said Jonathan Keller, president of the California Family Council. "There's a lot of different issues that kids do need to learn, but I think parents should be the primary driving force behind their kids' education when it comes to gender and sexuality."

Komrosky, who also holds a job as a professor, was joined Wednesday by fellow school board member Danny Gonzalez. The event was held inside a church and hosted by a conservative political group. The pair took no questions and Komrosky once again —without evidence — claimed Milk was a pedophile. He added that he's been under attack since being publicly criticized by the governor. 

"As I've received my first death threat, after your tweet and relentless attacks on my job as a well-standing-tenured professor," said Komrosky. "Quite frankly these attacks are ridiculous and unwarranted. My students are from all walks of life with many different gender identities and sexual preferences and I  treat them with love and respect in my classrooms."

John Rogers, director of UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education and Access, said that this debate seems to stem from a myriad of misinformation. 

"I think there's been a lot of misinformation," he said. "And part of this broad campaign against public schools has sought to use misinformation to challenge public schools and to rile up parents, to draw upon their frustration, their sense of not feeling comfortable with the way things are in society and to use that to undermine this very important institution of public education."

With so much ugliness playing out here in Southern California and across the country over LGBTQ curriculum the head of Temecula's teachers union has a simple message.

"I want to tell people that your teachers welcome you for who you are, and when you come to class, know that you'll be loved, and taken care of. And we really want to lead from our hearts and be able to reach out to all of you and feel that you are welcome to learn in our classrooms."

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