Heightened tensions among opposing sides regarding the teaching of critical race theory—or its underlying tenets—in K–12 schools erupted into chaos at a local school board meeting in Temecula, California, last week, creating deeper rifts in the community.
The otherwise sleepy city tucked away in southwest Riverside County known best for its wineries has become the latest crucible in the heated war of words over critical race theory, or CRT.
The Temecula Valley Unified School District fell under the national media spotlight in December when a slate of newly elected conservative school trustees—Joseph Komrosky, Jen Wiersma, and Danny Gonzalez—were sworn into office. The trio shifted the balance of power on the school board and voted to ban CRT at the board’s first meeting after the Nov. 8 election.
The other trustees, Steven Schwartz and Allison Barclay, opposed the resolution banning CRT, both claiming that the topic isn’t taught in district classrooms.
The special meeting on March 22, which lasted nearly five hours, was billed as a workshop to inform parents about CRT and why the school board banned it from being taught in classrooms.
“We’re not debating whether we should have [CRT] or not. It is condemned. It is gone,” Komrosky said at the meeting. “We have local control here as school board members. We can make it explicitly clear what we condemn. Racism is morally reprehensible, and CRT is racism in disguise.”
Dozens of activists, including parents, politicians, teachers, and students, showed up at James L. Day Middle School to protest the ban, while a few hundred others gathered to hear the presentations of six expert panelists.
The panelists were Dr. Joe Nalven, a professor of cultural anthropology, peace and justice, and indigenous religions at the University of San Diego; Walter H. Myers, an adjunct faculty member at Biola University and Master of Arts, Science, and Religion; Wenyuan Wu, director of Californians for Equal Rights, who spoke via Zoom; Esther Valdez-Clayton, an immigration attorney and former school board president; Brandy Shufutinsky, director of education and community engagement at the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values; and Chris Arend, former Paso Robles Joint Union High School District board member, who played an instrumental role in drafting the CRT ban resolution.
By Brad Jones