SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A Southern California school district will receive social studies books from the state to replace the texts canceled by three far-right school board members over a mention of a gay rights activist, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday.
The Newsom administration’s announcement about the Temecula Valley Unified School District follows Twitter scoldings from the governor and a civil rights investigation into the district by the California Department of Education.
This latest development extends a feud between state Democrats and three board members backed by the religious right who are now facing recall efforts and palpable parent outrage. It follows state protocols laid out in pending legislation — framed as an “anti-book ban bill” by its proponents, including the Newsom administration.
“Cancel culture has gone too far in Temecula: radicalized zealots on the school board rejected a textbook used by hundreds of thousands of students and now children will begin the school year without the tools they need to learn,” Newsom said in a statement.
A spokesperson for the school district could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.
Privately, Newsom aides have been working with state Superintendent Tony Thurmond to pass legislation that was recently amended to target the school district. Assembly Bill 1078 would fine districts for failing to provide textbooks or learning materials that align with state rules — including requirements that curricula include “inclusive and diverse perspectives.”
The bill would also have the state buy textbooks for districts that don’t comply at the schools’ expense, and make it harder for school boards to remove books and other content.
The administration hopes to charge the district for the books after getting the bill through the Legislature — an urgency measure would take effect immediately after being signed.
“If the school board won’t do its job by its next board meeting to ensure kids start the school year with basic materials, the state will deliver the book into the hands of children and their parents — and we’ll send the district the bill and fine them for violating state law,” the governor said.
The bill has already encountered opposition from the California School Boards Association, which takes issue with the financial penalties, its perceived infringement on local school governance and other provisions. But the path to passage became clearer Thursday, as state Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) came out in support.
“The antics of the Temecula Valley Unified School District are intolerable and damaging to its students’ opportunities to grow, prosper, and succeed,” Rivas said.
The district board has yet to approve replacement textbooks after rejecting the curriculum because optional supplementary materials for a fourth-grade history textbook included a half-page bio of Harvey Milk, a San Francisco supervisor and gay-rights activist who was assassinated in 1978.
Two of the board’s majority members — who came to power with backing from a local evangelical pastor and support from Republican officials — called Milk a “pedophile” before casting their votes. Their repetition of the disputed claim has galvanized state Democrats and continues to attract state scrutiny.