California governor slams ‘ignorant’ school board president who called Harvey Milk a ‘paedophile’

Harvey Milk

California governor Gavin Newsom has condemned the “offensive” statement from an “ignorant” school board president who called Harvey Milk a “paedophile” during a book ban debate. 

The bigoted remark occurred when the Temecula Valley School Board in California voted to reject a social studies textbook with supplemental materials that contained information about Milk, who was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the state and a pioneering LGBTQ+ rights activist. 

The school board voted 3-2 on 16 May to reject the books, but it only began receiving attention this week after local news outlets reported on the members’ remarks. 

During the vote, two members of the school board said they opposed any mention of Milk in the textbook’s supplemental material and made the baseless accusation that the LGBTQ+ rights icon was a “paedophile”, the Los Angeles Times reported.  

Another member who voted against the inclusive book denounced the discussion of LGBTQ+ people in a book meant for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. 

Temecula Valley School Board president Dr Joseph Komrosky was among those who voted against the materials and made the bigoted accusations against Milk, a local CBS news affiliate reported. 

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“My question is, why even mention a paedophile?” Komrosky said. 

Newsom, the Democrat governor of California, condemned the school board president’s “offensive statement” and said kids should have the “freedom to learn” in a post on Twitter. 

“An offensive statement from an ignorant person,” Newsom wrote. “This isn’t Texas or Florida. In the Golden State, our kids have the freedom to learn.”

“Congrats Mr Komrosky you have our attention. Stay tuned,” he added. 

Harvey Milk made history as the first openly gay man in the US to be elected to public office when he was voted onto San Francisco’s board of city supervisors in 1977.

Tragically, a year later, he was assassinated by Dan White, another city supervisor who had lost his job. 

His legacy as an LGBTQ+ rights advocate has been celebrated in books, an opera, an Oscar-winning film and a postage stamp. There’s even a Navy ship that was named in his honour

The decision not to go with the new curriculum could leave 11,397 students without a textbook next year, KABC reported. 

“We’ve never experienced this before,” the president of the Temecula Valley Educator Association, Edgar Diaz, said. 

“I’ve never heard of a top performing district or any district say you know what we are going to withhold these materials.” 

The school district told the local news outlet that it was extending a window for community and parental feedback on textbook materials.

A black and white photo of Harvey Milk, who is wearing a suit and tie, as he speaks to people off camera
Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man in US history to be elected to public office when, in 1977, he was elected to San Francisco’s board of city supervisors. (Getty)

Conservatives across the US have cracked down on LGBTQ+ inclusion in schools. 

Several states – including FloridaAlabama and Iowa – have passed laws limiting discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, also known as ‘Don’t Say Gay’ laws. Similar pieces of legislation seeking to prohibit discussions on LGBTQ+ topics have been introduced by Republican lawmakers across the country. 

Right-wing lawmakers and conservative groups also sought to ban books featuring LGBTQ+ characters or topics from schools.