Temecula students and teachers sued their school district Aug. 2 over curriculum restrictions they claim are unconstitutional.
The restrictions, all based around race or gender, were adopted as part of a resolution Dec. 13.
The resolution says that critical race theory is a divisive and racist ideology that violates the fundamental principle of equal protection under the law and assigns generational and racial guilt for policies that are in the past.
The plaintiffs claim that the resolution stifles free inquiry and is making teachers afraid to lose their jobs by following state curriculum.
Follow Our Courts reached out to the school district for comment.
Five students, four teachers and the teachers’ union brought the suit. The Temecula Valley Unified School District, its board and three members of the board are defendants.
The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction to cease the resolution’s implementation. It claims the resolution violates the due process clause and the freedom of speech clause of the California Constitution, as well as a state anti-discrimination law.
The resolution, unanimously approved by the school board Dec. 13, precludes 13 messages from being taught in schools:
- That racism is racial prejudice plus power
- That racism is ordinary and the usual way society does business
- That the incentive to move away from racist policies depends on the self-interest of oppressors
- That the dominant society radicalizes different minority groups at different times
- That minorities are presumed to be competent to speak about race and racism
- That an individual is inherently racist or sexist, whether consciously or not, based on their race and sex
- That individuals are either of an oppressor or oppressed class because of race or sex
- That a person is inherently morally or otherwise superior to another because of race or sex
- That a person should receive adverse or favorable treatment due to race or sex
- That a person bears responsibility for actions committed by others of the same race or sex
- That a person should feel discomfort, guilt or anguish based on their race or sex
- That ideas of a meritocracy, a hard work ethic or the scientific method were invented to oppress members of a race
- That United States history began with slavery, or that the continuation of slavery was a reason for independence from England
The complaint claims that the resolution stifles student inquiry, factual investigation, discussion of ideas and the development of critical thinking skills.
It also claims that the resolution violates the California Constitution and state laws.
The suit seeks an order declaring that the resolution is unconstitutional.
“Courts have thus struck down school officials’ attempts to restrict access to information ‘in a narrowly partisan or political manner,’ deeming it obvious that students’ rights would be infringed, for example, ‘(i)f a Democratic school board, motivated by party affiliation, ordered the removal of all books written by or in favor of Republicans,’ or ‘if an all-white school board, motivated by racial animus, decided to remove all books authored by blacks or advocating racial equality and integration,’” the complaint says.
The complaint goes on to claim the resolution follows an ideological campaign by Christians and conservatives. The three defending school board members were elected with support by the Inland Empire Family PAC, an organization the plaintiffs claim is led by 415 Church Pastor Tim Thompson.
The resolution is causing families to move away to other schools, teachers to work in fear of losing their jobs and curriculum to be delayed, the complaint said.
The resolution could end the career of teachers who bring up ideas that could be seen as questioning the board members’ viewpoints, the complaint claims.
The complaint says that accepted discussions and questions described in California’s history-social science standards are being called into question by the new resolution. The complaint listed four examples:
- Can a history teacher facilitate a discussion on whether the Civil Rights Movement succeeded?
- Can a history teacher draw parallels between 19th century nativism and efforts to repatriate Mexican-Americans during the Great Depression?
- Can a government teacher, when asked about the role of race in police officer’s use of excessive force, talk about the history of police violence against African-Americans and its impact on the Civil Rights Movement?
- Can a government teacher discuss evidence of anti-Japanese sentiment in the court case regarding the American placement of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps?
A chief issue with the resolution according to the complaint is that it is too vague, allowing the school board latitude to arbitrarily decide what teachers violate it.
The complaint says that the resolution caused the board to preclude teachers from discussing assassinated San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, who was the first openly gay elected official in California.
More recently, the complaint said board members are discussing removing books like “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison and “Looking for Alaska” by John Greene.
Amy Eytchison, Katrina Miles, Jennifer Scharf and Dawn Sibby are the teachers who have brought the suit.
Eytchison said in the complaint that the resolution prevents her from having honest questions with her students based on questions they ask her.
Two of the plaintiff students participate in the school’s Black Student Union. The complaint reports them being harassed by students and adults and threatened with violence following their public opposition to the resolution.
The complaint says that each student is concerned that the resolution will halt discussions of colonialism, the slave trade and books.
The students reported in the complaint that teachers decided not to read “Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry,” by Mildred B. Taylor with their sixth-grade classes as they usually do, and discussions around “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee have dwindled.
Case No. CVSW2306224
The case is assigned to Riverside Superior Judge Raquel Marquez.
Read the complaint here.[/wlm_private]