July 14, 2024
The policy will, among other things, require school staff to notify parents or guardians if their student asks to be treated or identified as a gender other than what’s listed on the student’s birth certificate or other official records.

The Temecula Valley school board voted early Wednesday, Aug. 23, to approve a policy to notify parents if their students are transgender, becoming the latest Southern California district to do so.

The 3-2 vote came after midnight, capping a meeting that began Tuesday night, Aug. 22.

The board’s conservative Christian majority — Joseph Komrosky, Jen Wiersma and Danny Gonzalez — voted yes. Trustees Steven Schwartz and Allison Barclay voted no.

Like earlier sessions across the region, it was another crowded, contentious, school board meeting. By 5 p.m., 50 to 100 people waited in the parking lot outside the Temecula Valley Unified School District office and the crowd gradually grew. Half a dozen sheriff’s deputies looked on.

Most of the crowd was divided into two groups. Those with rainbow pride flags and clothing were scattered across one. Those holding American flags, “Protect Family Bonds” signs and “Leave Our Kids Alone” T-shirts were mixed into the other.

Several people said entry tickets were to be handed out at 4:30 p.m., but were instead passed out about 3:45 p.m. The change resulted from the crowd’s early arrival, Jason Vickery, the district’s safety and security director, said.

“For safety reasons, we had to sign them up early,” he said.

The Temecula Valley Unified School District’s policy is similar to those approved respectively in July and August by boards of the Chino Valley and Murrieta Valley school districts. Both those policies were part of the the agenda item as supporting documents.  Also, last week, the Orange Unified School District board began discussing such regulations.

The policy, proposed by board President Komrosky and Wiersma, will, among other things, require school staff to notify parents or guardians if their student asks to be treated or identified as a gender other than what’s listed on the student’s birth certificate or other official records, or uses facilities or participates in a sports program different from the one corresponding to their birth gender.

Komrosky and Wiersma, along with Gonzalez, form a conservative board majority and were elected by voters in November. There is currently a recall effort underway seeking to remove the trio.

Discussion of the item has resembled what occurred in the other districts: Supporters spoke about parents’ rights, while those against the policy voiced concern for students’ safety and privacy.

Temecula resident Ryan Ramirez arrived about 4 p.m. to get a ticket, but they had run out. His kids attend district schools, he said, and he showed up to support the parental notification policy.

“There’s been a lot of added, extra things on top of just the parental notification that people are trying to make this about,” Ramirez said. “I think all it really is, is that parents just want to be informed of what’s going on in their kids’ lives. And that’s it.”

“To be able to tell us that we don’t have, we can’t be a part of something that might happen in our child’s lives is wrong.”

“A lot of people on our side get called homophobes, transphobic, and this phobic and that phobic, and that’s actually not the truth,” he said. “Many of us are Christians. We love everybody, and we have respect for everybody,” even if “we may not agree with someone’s lifestyle.”

A group of four district high school students sat amidst the crowd, doing homework and drawing LGBTQ+ support signs. They opposed the policy.

“It’s not fair to (students),” said Topaz Cook, 15, who is transgender. “We have a right to choose when we want to come out.”

Cook said their mother is supportive, but that’s not the case for everyone.

Cook considered speaking at the meeting, but said “if I speak, it’s not gonna make any difference.”

“They know it’s illegal,” Cook said of the policy and of board members. “They don’t care.”

Sophomore Zoe Sullivan-Douglass said “school isn’t about parents,” but “about students and learning.”

“I think teachers are pretty amazing people,” she said. “To feel like I can say anything to them and still feel safe, is a pretty big deal.”

Topa Black Calf, 15, said students’ mental health would be affected if they have to suppress “a very integral part of their identities.”

He said it’s detrimental to a school system that “supposedly wants the best for their students’ mental health.”

“It just kind of does the opposite.”

The public portion of the meeting began about 6:30 p.m., in front of a packed room of about 120 people.

Nearly all who spoke during public comment focused on the parental notification policy, though a few mentioned previous board decisions such as trustees’ decision to ban critical race theory and its discussions about keeping obscene and pornographic material away from children. Some speakers cited their support for either Komrosky, Wiersma and Gonzalez or for Schwartz and Barclay, who often vote against the board’s conservative bloc.

“I really don’t want to be up here right now, but I feel compelled to support the three newest board members,” said Ted Rivenbark, who has two students in the district.

“We all agree that CRT and sexually-inappropriate materials do not have a place in our classrooms.”

Eric Tomlinson asked the board a question.

“Who decided that we, as parents, are to remain uninformed when our child clearly needs us?”

Christopher Bout said that the current climate has emboldened Democrats and the LGBTQ+ community.

“These are schools, not social petri dishes,” he said.

Bout said Schwartz and Barclay “oppose everything that is righteous,” and said he couldn’t wait for the 2024 election so that they could be replaced.

He concluded by quoting a Bible verse, from Mark 9:42, which, in the New International Version, reads:

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“If anyone causes one of these little ones — those who believe in me — to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.”

Komrosky warned audience members after they reacted loudly to Bout’s comments.

“I’m the scary tyranny they all warned you about,” said Love Bailey, a stylist and artist.

“This is supposed to be a country that celebrates diversity,” she said.

Bailey spoke against the policy and the “outing” of students.

“No one groomed me to transition,” she said.

Temecula resident Julie Geary, a member of Temecula Unity, said students have constitutional rights, and that the Supreme Court ruled that students’ rights don’t end at school.

“This policy is discriminatory, and puts queer students under the microscope,” Geary said, adding that their behaviors and relationships will be scrutinized at school as a result.

Several who spoke against the policy, and the risk they said it would cause for students, mentioned the Friday, Aug. 18, killing of Laura Ann “Lauri” Carleton, 66, who was shot to death in the San Bernardino County mountains after a dispute about a pride flag flown at her Cedar Glen store.

Mary Meredith, a Temecula district teacher, said that she’s kept up at night by a “growing concern for our children.”

“I’m challenging all of us to step back, and take a deep breath, and refrain from shouting over each other, and figure out how we can move forward,” she said.

The public comment portion of the meeting ended about 8:45 p.m., at which point there was a recess.