Ending Censorship of Public School Curriculum by Temecula School Board
In December 2022, the Temecula Valley Unified School District school board passed a resolution that bans the teaching of a sweeping and ill-defined range of content referred to as “Critical Race Theory and other similar frameworks,” censoring what students learn about American history and their own identities. While the Board claims that its ban targets critical race theory, Board members have used the resolution’s vague provisions to eliminate from Temecula’s classrooms any concepts that conflict with their ideological viewpoints, including the history of the LGBTQ rights movement and the existence of racism in today’s society. The resolution’s lack of clarity has chilled many teachers into silence and led to large-scale protests by students who say that their constitutional rights to learn and to be free from discrimination are threatened by the ban.
To fight back against this censorship, students, parents, and individual teachers filed a lawsuit on August 2, 2023, against the Board of Trustees of the Temecula Valley Unified School District (Board) over the enactment of its resolution banning the teaching of concepts with which Board members disagree. The suit is a first-of-its-kind case in California and seeks to invalidate the unconstitutional resolution in Temecula, creating a legal precedent that affirms students’ right to comprehensive, fact-based education in California’s K–12 public schools.
The plaintiffs came together to defend the right to learn for all students; however, their lawsuit highlights that the ban is particularly harmful to students of color and LGBTQ students, whose identities, histories, and cultures it stigmatizes and sidelines. And the ban jeopardizes the jobs and well-being of teachers across the District, who have to square the resolution’s restrictions with the content they are mandated to teach under the State’s academic standards.
The Temecula students, parents, and educators are represented by Public Counsel and Ballard Spahr LLP, with the support of the California Teachers Association (CTA). Ballard Spahr is working on the case as part of the firm’s Racial Justice and Equality Initiative, a pro bono plan of action dedicated to combating racial injustice and inequity through litigation.
Superior Court of The State Of California, County Of Riverside
Case Developments and Key Developments
Filing of Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Fact/Expert Declarations
Plaintiffs file motion for preliminary injunction seeking to bar enforcement of school board policies that censor state-mandated curriculum and require teachers to “out” LGBTQ students to their parents, regardless of potential harms the students may face at home. The filing is supported by 12 preeminent experts in the fields of education and health.
- Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction
- Fact Declaration of Rachel Dennis
- Fact Declaration of Amy Eytchison
- Fact Declaration of Katrina Miles
- Fact Declaration of Dawn Sibby
- Fact Declaration of Jennifer Scharf
- Fact Declaration of Gwen S.
- Fact Declaration of Mae M.
- Fact Declaration of Carson L.
- Fact Declaration of Susan C.
- Fact Declaration of Rachel P.
- Fact Declaration of Inez B.
- Fact Declaration of Edgar Diaz
- Expert Declaration of Rita Kohli and Marcos Pizarro
- Expert Declaration of Sabra Katz-Wise and Sari Reisner
- Expert Declaration of Tyrone Howard
- Expert Declaration of Thomas Dee
- Expert Declaration of Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
- Expert Declaration of Prudence Carter
- Expert Declaration of Uma Jayakumar
- Expert Declaration of Jeremy Goldbach
- Expert Declaration of Mary Helen Immordino-Yang
- Expert Declaration of John Rogers
Amended Complaint Filed
Since the filing of our lawsuit, the Board has intensified its attacks on LGBTQ students. A week into the school year, the Board passed a coercive outing policy that targets students who identify as transgender or gender nonconforming. The policy requires TVUSD teachers and staff to out transgender and gender nonconforming students to their parents or guardians, regardless of whether students consent, and it mandates the official documentation of these forced disclosures.
Students, parents, and individual teachers filed suit against the Board of Trustees of the Temecula Valley Unified School District (Board) over the enactment of its resolution banning the teaching of concepts with which Board members disagree. The suit is a first-of-its-kind case in California and seeks to invalidate the unconstitutional resolution in Temecula, creating a legal precedent that affirms students’ right to comprehensive, fact-based education in California’s K–12 public schools.
Students, parents, individual teachers, and the Temecula Valley Educators Association came together to file a lawsuit against the Board of Trustees of the Temecula Valley Unified School District.
- Edgar Díaz, president of Temecula Valley Educators Association
“TVEA decided to join this lawsuit because of the real-world impacts on our members: the educators of Temecula. In the months following the resolution’s implementation, we’ve seen its sweeping and vague language used as a weapon against educators. Teachers are being removed from the classroom for weeks at a time based on claims made anonymously or at Board meetings. Teachers have had their reputations irreparably harmed just for allowing students to use books available in our school libraries.” –Edgar Díaz
- Amy Eytchison, teacher at Temecula Elementary School
- Katrina Miles, teacher at Temecula Middle School
- Jennifer Scharf, teacher at Great Oaks High School
- Dawn Sibby, teacher at Temecula Valley High School
“As a teacher, my role is to introduce my students to a broad range of viewpoints so they can learn to think critically and form their own opinions about the world. This ban has created a climate of fear in our classrooms, and it is preventing my students from learning about the history and diversity of our nation. I’m proud to be a plaintiff in this case to fight for my students, who deserve an education not censored by Board members’ ideological beliefs.” –Dawn Sibby
- Mae M., senior in Temecula Unified
- Susan C., senior in Temecula Unified
- Gwen S., junior in Temecula Unified
- Carson L., senior in Temecula Unified
- David P., third-grader in Temecula Unified
- Violet B., third-grader in Temecula Unified
- Stella B., seventh-grader in Temecula Unified
- Rachel P., parent in Temecula Unified
- Inez B., parent in Temecula Unified
The unified voice of educators in California’s public schools and colleges, CTA is a powerful and passionate advocate for students and public education. Its 310,000 members support and nurture all students in classrooms every day, preparing them to be the leaders of tomorrow. And, as the largest affiliate in the 3-million member National Education Association, its voice is heard in the halls of our Capitol in Washington, D.C. Together and throughout our history, CTA has worked to improve the conditions of teaching and learning in California. Its members include teachers, counselors, psychologists, librarians, Education Support Professionals and other non-supervisory certificated personnel in our public schools and colleges.
- Mark Rosenbaum, Senior Special Counsel for Strategic Litigation
- Amanda Mangaser Savage, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney
- Kathryn Eidmann, Vice President, Chief of Litigation and Legal Programs
- Isaac Filat, Justice Catalyst Fellow
- Ash Rojo, Paralegal/Organizer
- Suzanne Castillo, Paralegal/Organizer
- Yi Li, Stanford Law Fellow, Opportunity Under Law
- Niki Nguyen, Summer Clerk, UCLA Law School
Ballard Spahr LLP was founded in 1885. It focuses on litigation, securities and regulatory enforcement, business and finance, intellectual property, public finance, and real estate matters. The firm currently employs more than 600 attorneys in 15 offices throughout the United States, and includes a nationally recognized media and entertainment law practice group specializing in First Amendment litigation. For more information, visit www.ballardspahr.com.
- Temecula Students, Parents, and Teachers Seek to Halt Enforcement of the School Board’s Discriminatory Policies, November 30, 2023
- Educators, Students, and Parents Sue Temecula School Board for Violating Constitutional Rights After Curriculum Censorship, August 2, 2023
- KCAL/CBS, “Temecula’s ban on critical race theory and gender notification policy faces legal challenges,” 11/30/23
- KNX, “Temecula schools’ censorship could be struck down by court order,” 11/30/23
- The Press-Enterprise, “Court order sought to bar Temecula schools from enforcing LGBTQ policy, critical race theory ban,” 11/30/23
- CNN, “California school district at center of earlier controversy is sued over critical race theory ban,” 8/3/23
- Fox News, “California school board once in Newsom’s crosshairs now sued by parents, teachers union challenging CRT ban,” 8/3/23
- Temecula Patch, “Temecula Valley USD Sued By Teachers, Union, Parents, Students,” 8/3/23
- Fox26 News, “Parents sue California school board over CRT ban: ‘Climate of fear‘” 8/3/23
- Law & Crime, “School board that called Harvey Milk a ‘pedophile’ faces civil rights lawsuit for banning critical race theory and LGBTQ+ curriculum,” 8/3/23
- LA Times, “Public Counsel sues Temecula school district over its ban of critical race theory,” 8/2/23
- Politico, “California lawsuit seeks to end critical race theory bans statewide,” 8/2/23
- EdSource, “Temecula Valley Unified CRT ban has created a hostile school environment, lawsuit says,” 8/2/23
- The Press-Enterprise, “Temecula school board sued for critical race theory ban,” 8/2/23
- ABC7, “Temecula school district facing lawsuit over ban on critical race theory,” 8/2/23
- NBC4, “Temecula school district board sued over ban on teaching of critical race theory,” 8/2/23
- Fox11, “Temecula school district sued over ban on critical race theory,” 8/2/23
- NBC7 San Diego, “Temecula school district board sued over ban on teaching of critical race theory,” 8/2/23
- Valley News, “TVUSD Board sued by teachers union, parents and students over CRT ban,” 8/2/23
- Courthouse News, “Southern California school district sued over ban on teaching critical race theory,” 8/2/23
- The OC Register, “Southern California school board sued for critical race theory ban,” 8/2/23