The California Senate held a hearing last week on AB 1078, a bill to curb the control local school districts have over their own curriculum and allow the State to fine school districts if their curriculum isn’t “inclusive and diverse” enough. The legislation was in response to California parents protesting pornographic books found in K-12 libraries as well as school board members from Temecula who oppose Critical Race Theory (CRT) and refused to approve an elementary school social studies curriculum because it included an LGBT historical figure known for having sex with a teenager.
The controversy came to a head two months ago when, Temecula Valley Unified School District Board rejected a new social studies curriculum that included, among other things, material on gay activist Harvey Milk. School Board President Joseph Komrosky opposed the curriculum, calling Milk a “pedophile.” Board Member Danny Gonzalez added that the “inclusion of sexually based topics and the glorification of a known pedophile” would be “morally reprehensible and inappropriate.”
Governor Gavin Newsom and State Attorney General Rob Bonta publicly criticized Komrosky and issued a press release threatening “repercussions” and expressed “deep concern about the potential discriminatory intent.”
At a June news conference, Komrosky said his statements about Milk “were not based upon him being a homosexual, but rather based upon him being an adult having a sexual relationship with a minor.” This darker side of Milk is detailed in a popular biography, The Mayor of Castro Street, by Randy Shilts, a gay identified reporter who worked for the San Francisco Chronicle. He wrote a hold chapter on Milk’s sexual relationship with a 16 year old, while Milk was 33. (Read here)
In the wake of Newsom’s feud with Temecula school board officials, Assemblyman Corey Jackson authored AB 1078 to curtail the authority of school boards pick their own curriculum. The bill would raise the threshold for removing educational content to a ⅔ vote by the school board and enable the state to levy fines if the school district doesn’t have enough curriculum to “ensure the accurate portrayal of the cultural and racial diversity of our society.”
During the hearing for AB 1078 this past Wednesday, Republican Senator Ochoa-Bogh echoed Gonzalez’s concerns regarding Harvey Milk. After admitting she had voted repeatedly for the annual “Harvey Milk Day Resolution,” Ochoa-Bogh said she was ignorant of Milk’s relationship with a teenager. “It was surprising to me to know that, in his biography, he mentioned a relationship with a minor.” Jackson didn’t respond to Ochoa-Bogh’s comments on Milk.
Ochoa-Bogh also asked Assemblyman Jackson to respond to opposition testimony from Allie Synder, the mother of a 13-year-old who read verbatim a pornographic book found in her child’s junior high school library. This Book is Gay prides itself as an “instruction manual” for a “candid, funny, and uncensored exploration of sexuality” including instructions on how to download an phone app that connects minors with adults looking for sex. Despite repeated questioning from Republican Senators Ochoa-Bogh and Scott Wilk regarding the book, Assemblyman Jackson refused to answer, claiming, “I can’t comment on something that I haven’t read myself.”
Senator Ochoa-Bogh also expressed concern that we are “focusing so much on things other than character and contributions of people. … And when anyone expresses concerns, we vilify them instead of trying to understand why those concerns come to be.”
Tony Thurmond, California’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction, testified in favor of AB 1078, saying LGBTQ students in Temecula feel “threatened and attacked” and they just want access to “information that is proven to benefit them.” He also condemned “book banning” and said this bill would allow the state to financial penalize those districts that do so.
Thurmond said he values local control, but “local control doesn’t give anyone the right to threaten, bully, mistreat any of our students.” Yet he did not comment on concerns that some LGBTQ books are sexually obscene or whether its appropriate that elementary school kids are taught to admire a man known for having sexual relations with a teenager.
AB 1078 passed the Senate Education Committee with a vote of 5 to 2. Democrat Senators Cortese, Glazer, McGuire, Newman, Smallwood-Cuevas voted yes. Republican Senators Ochoa Bogh and Wilk voted no. It will not be considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee in August.
Watch the entire AB 1078 hearing in the Senate Education Committee below: