Standing up for parental rights over our children’s education is more than a campaign slogan; it is essential. As parents are taking action to regain control of their children’s education, we are seeing disinformation campaigns launched to upend their efforts. As a newly seated Temecula Valley Unified School District (TVUSD) board member, I’m compelled to address the inaccuracies perpetuated by Assemblyman Corey Jackson, author of Assembly Bill 1078 and the co-sponsor of the bill, Tony Thurmond, California Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Since the November 2022 general election, where two colleagues and I won seats on the TVUSD board, we have been in the crosshairs of those who are losing control over the state’s educational system. There are several bills working their way through the legislature meant to curtail school boards’ power; AB 1078 is chief among them.
Superintendent Thurmond recently implied that the TVUSD school board has engaged in:
- Threatening, bullying and mistreating students throughout the district;
- Banning books specifically designed to target LGBTQ+ and persons of color;
- Wielding local control to avoid inclusive education.
Yet, none of this is true. I have nothing but love, compassion, and concern for the families of our district who deserve the very best educational resources. As such, local school boards are uniquely positioned to engage with and obtain important insights about the educational experience of our communities. The law requires all students to have equal access to education, free of pervasive vulgarity, obscenity, pornography, and sexual harassment, which is not protected speech under the First Amendment. Recently, the play “Angels in America,” was assigned to a group of students in a TVUSD drama class. It included over 100 “F—words,” sexual violence and descriptions of explicit sex and drug use. (See highlighted pages 60, 61, and 63 below)
During Superintendent Thurmond’s June visit, he met with school activists, but neglected to speak with a family whose daughter was traumatized by this sordid material aimed at sexualizing our students. After alerting her parents, who testified at a TVUSD board meeting, this student suffered mistreatment and subsequent, retaliatory abuse on campus. She should have been Thurmond’s primary concern. State leaders, schools, teachers, and local board members should be making unbiased, ethical decisions in the classroom and designing policy to support and protect all stakeholders as per California Education Code, section 233.5:
“Each teacher shall endeavor to impress upon the minds of the pupils the principles of morality, truth, justice, patriotism, and a true comprehension of the rights, duties, and dignity of American citizenship, and the meaning of equality and human dignity, including the promotion of harmonious relations, …to teach them to avoid idleness, profanity, and falsehood… and foster an environment… free from discriminatory attitudes, practices, events, or activities.”
While evaluating our recent K-5 social studies pilot, my colleague and I noted the lack of parental and citizen involvement required by the Education Code section 51100, “Specifically, involving parents and guardians of pupils in the education process is fundamental to a healthy system of public education.” We initially paused the decision to adopt the curriculum because the district bypassed the requirement to “promote the involvement of parents and the other members of the community in the selection of instructional materials.” Sec. 60002. The curriculum committee was comprised of 47 teachers and zero parents.
Our primary focus was to seek a robust, collaboratively chosen history curriculum, rich in civics and geography. During this process we were given cause for concern upon discovery of Harvey Milk’s biography in the proposed supplemental material for 4th grade. We learned this controversial historical figure was an adult who engaged in an intimate, long-term sexual relationship with a minor. This was reported by Randy Shilts, an award-winning gay reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, who covered Harvey’s activism and political career.
After five months, we have finally received full access to the teacher’s edition to finish a comprehensive review of the curriculum. The board has both the right and responsibility to exercise authority and discretion when adopting materials that will be in circulation in the district for 7-10 years. This is how every district in the state curates books. It is not ”book banning” as Jackson’s bill lazily asserts. We are working diligently to provide the best educationally suitable materials for our community in our elementary school classrooms while adhering to Fair Act guidelines in the K-12 setting.
This school board was elected to protect and oversee the education of every student regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. I specifically voted to ban racism and supported a resolution disallowing Critical Race Theory to prevent students from being judged by the color of their skin instead of the content of their character. TVUSD is committed to education which learns from past injustices, racisms, and discrimination and rejects current discrimination threatening to undermine our shared humanity.
In a recent Supreme Court decision striking down racial discrimination in college admissions, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote, “The words of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are not like mood rings; they do not change their message from one moment to the next.”
AB 1078 is one bill of many designed to limit the authority and autonomy of school boards. Trustees are elected by constituents in their community as fiduciaries and are bound by law to make the best decisions in educating and protecting kids while upholding parent’s rights. If AB 1078 were to become law, it would use bullying techniques to threaten trustees who make good, but unpopular decisions, for their schools; this is how a democratic republic works. The bill would also levy fines, dox school board members, and seek to remove local control over curriculum decisions if they were to get on the state’s bad side for any arbitrary reason. This bill is flatly unconstitutional and will be challenged in court should the governor sign it. This bill proposal is also a direct attack on voters. Parents have a duty to connect with their legislative representatives and remind them that the school boards need to be protected from state control so they can provide the best content for their children’s education.
From Angels in America – WARNING: explicit sex and sexual violence
The views expressed herein are solely those of Ms. Wiersma and are not made or given on behalf of the TVUSD Board as a whole.