California school board president who led conservative culture war loses recall vote

<span>Since Komrosky joined the school board in 2022, a district superintendent was forced out and a parent-notification policy was passed to inform on students using different gender indicators.</span><span>Photograph: Andreas Fuhrmann/AP</span>
Since Komrosky joined the school board in 2022, a district superintendent was forced out and a parent-notification policy was passed to inform on students using different gender indicators.Photograph: Andreas Fuhrmann/AP

Voters in Temecula, California, have ousted the local school board president who thrust the political body to the forefront of rightwing culture wars by seeking to eliminate discussions of race and gender identity from the classroom.

Joseph Komrosky on Thursday lost a recall vote with 51% of voters favoring his removal.

Temecula – a predominantly white city of 100,000 residents – was a hotbed of the culture wars that conservative Americans have mounted in an attempt to censure how schools teach racism, gender and American history.

In June of 2023, Komrosky presided over the Temecula school board’s banning of critical race theory – which examines how racism was embedded into American law – as well as attempts to purge elementary school textbooks of any reference to Harvey Milk, the gay politician from San Francisco who supported LGBTQ+ rights before his 1978 assassination.

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Komrosky first joined the board in November 2022. Since then, the school board has forced out the district superintendent and passed a parent-notification policy requiring schools to tell parents if students go by a gender different from what they were assigned at birth.

Komrosky has called critical race theory a “racist ideology” that uses “division and hate as an instructional framework in our schools”. He and fellow school board members then voted to reject California’s social studies curriculum over its inclusion of references to Milk, whom Komrosky described as a “pedophile”.

California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, threatened to impose a $1.5m fine on the district for not adopting the curriculum, though Komrosky and the school board vowed to find a way to circumvent doing so while adhering to state mandates. The board also initiated another controversial vote to limit which flags can be displayed on school grounds.

The unflattering public attention drawn by the controversies Komrosky’s actions ignited incited the recall election against him.

The recall vote was conducted on 4 June with final results released on Thursday. Among 9,722 ballots tallied, 4,963 supported the recall. The recall election turned out 45.1% of registered voters in Temecula.

Komrosky told the LA Times he is inclined to run for the school board again given his slim margin of defeat in the recall.

“Given the narrow margin, I will likely run again in the November 2024 general election,” Komrosky said. “If not, it has been an honor to serve the Temecula community, and I am proud to have fulfilled all of my campaign promises as an elected official.

“My commitment to protecting the innocence of our children remains unwavering.”