LGBTQ+ - Over a hundred students walked out of class at Great Oak High School in Temecula on Friday to protest a wave of anti-LGBTQ+ policies implemented by the local school board, despite warnings they’d be disciplined.
Well over a hundred students ignored the warning and left campus amid defiant chants.
“So I was worried that we wouldn’t have as much of the numbers, but we got a pretty big turnout.”
The Temecula students earned a shout-out from California Lt. Gov. Eleni Koulanakis, who tweeted, “Proud of these California students who refuse to standby while their peers are the subjects of hateful attacks. In California we will always stand for equality and acceptance.”
The latest policy among a slew of actions directed at erasing LGBTQ+ identity from the school district came earlier this month when the district voted to ban all flags except for the U.S. flag and the California State flags on any Temecula Valley Unified School District properties, including in classrooms.
“Having the trans and pride flag excludes all other groups, and shows favoritism toward those groups,” said one Temecula Valley resident at a recent school board meeting.
“Those flags represent the enemy, the devil,” another testified.
In July, the school board voted to require school officials to notify parents and guardians in writing within three days of their child’s request to use a name, pronouns, or bathrooms that don’t match the sex they were assigned at birth.
The contentious proposal passed the school board in Murrieta Valley in August by a vote of 3-2, after a marathon meeting that drew cheers and jeers from the overflow crowd. The copycat policy is modeled on new notification guidelines recently adopted by the nearby Chino Valley Unified School District.
And in June, the district caught the attention of California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) when it rejected a new social studies curriculum because a teacher’s guide for the textbook refers to slain San Francisco Supervisor and gay rights advocate Harvey Milk.
“My question is, why even mention a pedophile?” asked Temecula Valley School Board President Dr. Joseph Komrosky before the vote.
“An offensive statement from an ignorant person,” Newsom posted to Twitter. “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.”
After Newsom indicated the state would step in and fine the district, the board rescinded its earlier vote and moved forward to purchase the required textbooks and accompanying instructional materials.
“There’s a lot of support, but at the same time there’s a lot of hate,” said walkout organizer Childs. “People yelling things, yelling slurs, which is really frustrating to experience, especially in a place that’s supposed to be safe such as a school.”
Students were warned in advance of Friday’s walkout that their movements would be tracked and they would suffer disciplinary action if they left class and the “safety” of school grounds.
“Single period truancies will result in progressive discipline,” high school officials wrote in an email to parents warning of the planned, student-led walkout Friday.
In their letter to parents warning of the protest, school officials added, “There are other ways that students can participate in the democratic process and have their important individual voices heard without walking out of class or leaving campus and potentially putting themselves in danger.”
They provided no examples of what those “other ways” were.
(Greg Owen is a writer for LGBTQ Nation, where this article was featured.)