California City Caught In National Controversy Over Critical Race Theory
Authored by Brad Jones via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
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.
All of the panelists opposed CRT being taught in K-12 schools and told the audience that banning it is not a ban on teaching black history or ethnic studies, contrary to the signs and claims of protesters.
Audience Members Removed
The meeting got off to a raucous start with the public comment portion, as Deon Hairston, a local black pastor, gave a fiery speech against racism and the CRT ban.
“Your continued blatant, willful ignorance of the black experience in this country is not only shameful, but also detrimental to the education and growth of our children,” he told the board and panelists who were invited to speak on the issue.
As he walked away from the podium, Hairston said a woman in the audience told him that, “If I feel that way, why don’t I get out of the country?” and he shouted the alleged comment to the crowd.
Hairston continued yelling and was warned twice before Komrosky told sheriff’s deputies to escort him out of the school auditorium.
As Hairston left the building, some protesters surrounded the woman and pointed at her, chanting “get that woman” and “kick her out,” and she was also later escorted out.
Gonzalez later told The Epoch Times the woman could be heard saying something, but he could not confirm what she said. The alleged comment was inaudible on recordings.
Komrosky suspended public comments and called a recess, but before order was restored, a student protester draped in a Pan-African flag confronted a parent. She walked towards the man and put her hand on his chest.
When the man said, “Don’t touch me,” San Jacinto City Councilor Brian Hawkins moved toward him, grabbing his arm and shouting repeatedly “That’s a child!” over the crowd until the man said “Shut up!” and walked away.
Deputies asked the man to leave and escorted him out.
The man, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, told The Epoch Times he has retained legal counsel and is prepared to sue anyone making false accusations against him.
A narrative being spread that he sought out the girl with the flag and got in her face is “is a complete lie,” he said.
Jenn Reeves, a local activist, recently posted video clips on TikTok of the incident between the man and the girl with the flag from the March 22 meeting, claiming Hawkins prevented the man from “assaulting” the girl.
But, several videos show the girl with the flag jumping in front of the man and putting her hand on his chest.
“I didn’t know what happened, and then I looked down. I saw it was a person, and I pointed at my chest. … I just said ‘Don’t touch me,’” the man said.
Hawkins, who was wearing a Black Panther Party hoodie under his open suit jacket, ran unsuccessfully for Congress as a Republican in 2022 and adamantly opposed CRT during his campaign.
He later told The Epoch Times he has changed his mind about CRT and left the GOP at the end of last year before registering as a Democrat in February.
The immediate solution for unity in the district is to repeal the CRT ban, Hawkins said.
“This piece of paper has caused more harm than good,” he said.
A San Diego parent who goes by the pseudonym Ben Richards and advocates for parents’ rights, told The Epoch Times that Temecula is now “the tip of the spear” in the national fight against critical race theory.
Richards claims there is a coordinated effort by educators and activist groups such as Fight Back Collective to portray those who oppose CRT as “white Christian nationalists” and “foment, coordinate and support leftist student walkouts,” in the district, Richards said.
Fight Back Collective states on its website that school boards across the United States “are being infiltrated by far-right white supremacists running on a campaign of ‘parents’ rights.’ Usually endorsed by hate groups such as Moms for Liberty and backed by dark money, these school board members are banning ‘CRT,’ attacking trans youth and LGBTQ+ kids, and running smear campaigns on teachers who support inclusivity.”
Students are being told they are either a racist, or an anti-racist and that in order to be the latter, they must become an activist and support CRT, Richards said.
“CRT seeks to create student activists and that is exactly what you’re seeing in Temecula,” he said.
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