LOS ANGELES, AUGUST 2, 2023—In a first-of-its-kind case in California, the Temecula Valley Educators Association (TVEA), students, parents, and individual teachers today announced they are suing the Board of Trustees of the Temecula Valley Unified School District (Board) over its enactment of a resolution banning the teaching of concepts with which Board members disagree.
The Board passed the resolution, which bans the teaching of a sweeping and ill-defined range of content referred to as “Critical Race Theory and other similar frameworks,” in December 2022, 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.
“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,” said Dawn Sibby, teacher at Temecula Valley High School. “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.”
“The ideal of public education is to open the minds and hearts of students to the experiences and insights of communities beyond their own,” says Mark Rosenbaum, Director of Public Counsel’s Opportunity Under Law project. “It is to build powers of exploration, imagination, critical thinking, and empathy. The Temecula school board resolution that is the subject of this lawsuit seeks to subvert this ideal by stifling teachers from promoting these values and instead imposing an ideology that introduces insidious racial and gender stereotypes into the classroom. If permitted to stand, the resolution will replace education with indoctrination, open-mindedness with bigotry, truth with falsehoods.”
“A healthy democracy depends on classrooms that serve as a marketplace of ideas,” says Amanda Mangaser Savage, Supervising Attorney of Public Counsel’s Opportunity Under Law project. “The Board’s censorship is antithetical to the constitutional values of free speech and freedom from discrimination that are the foundation of this nation’s civic life. The resolution deprives Temecula’s students of the ability to think critically, act empathetically, and distinguish fact from fiction.”
“We’re proud to partner with Public Counsel on this case about the Temecula school board’s unconstitutional attempt to control what our students learn and silence the voices and perspectives of marginalized communities,” says Scott Humphreys, a Partner in the Litigation Department at Ballard Spahr. “Students, educators, and parents have bravely stepped up to fight for what is right and ensure that their community’s public schools are able to educate students free from censorship.”
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.
While hurting all of Temecula’s schoolchildren, the ban is particularly harmful for students of color and LGBTQ students, whose identities, histories, and cultures it stigmatizes and sidelines. And the ban jeopardizes the jobs and wellbeing of teachers across the District, who are having to square the resolution’s restrictions with the content they are mandated to teach under the State’s academic standards.
“TVEA joined this lawsuit to guard against the negative impacts in the classroom, to educators and students of Temecula” said Edgar Díaz, TVEA President. “In the months following the resolution’s implementation, we’ve seen its broad and vague language used as a weapon against educators. Educators are identified on social media and targeted through their profiles and classroom voicemails with horrible accusations that go against the nature of our service to the students of Temecula. Teachers have had their reputations irreparably harmed; one for incorporating a school library book in a project, others for serving as student advisors to clubs and guiding students to focus on school attendance while balancing student’s First Amendment rights. Educators need a strong foundation to stand on when providing a classroom environment for students to learn and succeed.”
This lawsuit 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 Temecula students, parents, and educators are represented by Public Counsel and Ballard Spahr LLP, with the support of the California Teachers Association (CTA).
For more information on the case and to view the legal documents, visit temecularighttolearn.org.
For media inquiries, email Alex with Rise Strategy Group HERE.
About Public Counsel
Public Counsel is a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to advancing civil rights and racial and economic justice, as well as to amplifying the power of our clients through comprehensive legal advocacy. Founded on and strengthened by a pro bono legal service model, our staff and volunteers seek justice through direct legal services, promote healthy and resilient communities through education and outreach, and support community-led efforts to transform unjust systems through litigation and policy advocacy in and beyond Los Angeles. For more information, visit www.publiccounsel.org.
About Ballard Spahr LLP
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.
About the California Teachers Association
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.