‘Pervasive pornography,’ vulgarity, profanity banned by California school board

Pervasive pornography, erotica and “inappropriate vulgarity or profanity” are banned from instructional materials under policy changes passed by Temecula’s school board Tuesday night, Dec. 12.

The Temecula Valley Unified School District board’s 3-2 vote followed discussion over the policy’s timing and criticism from residents who fear the policy will censor valuable lessons and classic literature.

The revised policy states that the district’s “education program, including all of its instructional materials “shall not include pervavsive (sic) pornography, erotica,” depictions of sexual violence and “inappropriate vulgarity or profanity, or other obscene material.”

The policy also calls for learning materials to be “educationally suitable.”

“The Board recognizes that determinations regarding appropriateness and compliance with this policy with respect to the program and instructional materials often must be made case-by-case and in context,” the policy states, adding that the board “encourages discussion amongst administrators, teachers, parents, and the Board itself to facilitate such determinations.”

A public copy of the revised policy does not include definitions for pervasive pornography or other banned content.

Board members Joseph Komrosky and Jen Wiersma, who voted for the policy with fellow conservative Danny Gonzalez, said more details will come by February and the changes won’t take effect until the new school year starts in August.

There will be “a rubric … that teachers will be able to look at (to) give them the guidance they need to say ‘If I’m bringing this in, does it meet all these important guidelines?’” Wiersma said.

She said the policy stems from a controversy earlier this year, in which parent Tracy Nolasco complained about her teenage daughter reading the play “Angels in America” for a drama class. The play, which examines the AIDS epidemic and homosexuality in the 1980s, contains graphic sex scenes, profanity and adult themes.

Temecula Valley High School drama teacher Greg Bailey offered “Angels in America” as part of a list of plays his students could read for an end-of-year assignment. Bailey, who said he warned students in advance of the play’s content, was placed on paid administrative leave in May before being allowed to return to the classroom in late August.

“That student (who read ‘Angels in America’) didn’t know what she was choosing,” Wiersma said. “We felt it very important to provide important policies and parameters that prevent obscene sexually explicit material and pervasive vulgarity.”

“Schools should be a beacon of light,” Wiersma said. “This isn’t about book banning.”

“We felt it important to end the year doing what we said we were going to do,” said Temecula school board members Jen Wiersma, seen Feb. 14, 2023. Her comments came Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023, before the board passed policy changes intended to bar pornography from learning materials. (File photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG) 

Komrosky, who was re-appointed school board president by a 3-2 vote Tuesday, said the policy is needed because “it prevents the normalization of the sexualization of our youth.”

“If you want pervasive pornography, erotica, profanity, obscenity and vulgarity, you’re in the wrong school district,” he said.

“This is an issue of morality, not political ideology. This is a moral issue. These are intrinsically evil and they should not be around our children, especially when they’re pervasive. People that want more of this, they’re called groomers.”

Some who spoke to the board, including Nolasco, supported the policy changes.

Under the prior policy, “you would never have known to expect that content” in “Angels in America,” she said. “How is my daughter … to know to expect that?”

Others, including Temecula progressive activist Julie Geary, spoke against the revised policy.

“By allowing students access to literature that addresses controversial topics, we empower them to develop a deeper understanding of the complexities of the world,” Geary told the board.

“It makes students come together so they can talk about things such as consent (in sexual activity). They can talk about where to get help if they’re being abused at home. If we censor this, these conversations will never happen. The abuse and trauma will continue and that will be on you.”

Board members Allison Barclay and Steven Schwartz, who often are at odds with the conservative majority, voted against the policy changes.

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