Outrage after California School Board President Calls Harvey Milk a 'Pedophile'
Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 3 MIN.
Joseph Komrosky, president of the Temecula school board in California, drew condemnation and sparked outrage when he smeared LGBTQ+ civil rights icon Harvey Milk as a pedophile, UK newspaper the Guardian reported.
The article detailed that during "the school board's 16 May meeting," Komrosky "objected to an elementary social science curriculum that included Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, in its supplemental materials."
Local newspaper the Press-Enterprise relayed that Komrosky, who was elected to the board last November, remarked, "My question is why even mention a pedophile?"
Komrosky went on to add: "What does that got to do with our curriculum in schools? That's a form of activism."
"After Komrosky's words, members of the audience could be heard reacting in surprise," the Press-Enterprise recounted. When another school board member, Allison Barclay, attempted to correct the remark, protesting that Harvey Milk was not a pedophile, Komrosky doubled down, saying, "I beg to differ."
Komrosky offered no evidence for the assertion, which, the Guardian noted, "echo[ed] a conspiracy theory that falsely accuses gay people of molesting children at higher rates than heterosexual people."
The Press-Enterprise detailed that Komrosky, along with other "members of the board's new conservative Christian majority raised concerns about the materials that go with the book, which mention Milk in optional supplemental resources."
"Milk, the subject of a 2008 film starring Sean Penn, isn't in the actual textbook that children would have seen," the article noted.
That fact did not sway those opposed. "The board voted 3-2... against bringing the book into the district," the Press Enterprise reported. It's children's education that will be impacted; the Guardian detailed that the vote "leaves the district without a textbook for the coming year."
The smear against Milk drew condemnation from the local community as well as California officials, even as teachers "have called called upon trustees to 'respect the expertise of education professionals' and to approve the textbook," the Press-Enterprise detailed.
The newspaper account said that "Jorge Reyes Salinas, a spokesperson for Equity California, a LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, said there's no research to back up Komrosky's allegation."
Salinas told the newspaper, "It's absurd," and stated, "We reject that claim."
Salinas "said Komrosky's remark was hateful and called it an old tactic used by extremists to paint members of the LGBTQ community as pedophiles," the Press-Enterprise said.
Added Salinas: "That's the most disgusting claim we've heard in the last few months and they should be ashamed."
Salinas pointed out that "the U.S. government vetted Milk before he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 and in 2021, when the U.S. Navy named a ship the USNS Harvey Milk," the newspaper continued.
A rally is planned for June "from which teachers and supporters will walk to the school board meeting," the article detailed.
Meanwhile a petition is circulating that calls for Komrosky and one other board member to resign, the Guardian noted.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom took to Twitter on June 3 to call the remark "An offensive statement from an ignorant person," CBS News reported.
"This isn't Texas or Florida. In the Golden State, our kids have the freedom to learn," Newsom's tweet added. "Congrats Mr. Komrosky you have our attention. Stay tuned."
Milk was a fearless advocate for LGBTQ+ equality, and became the first openly gay person elected to public office when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in January of 1978. On Nov. 27 of that year, after 11 months in office, Milk was assassinated, along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone by a former fellow city supervisor who shot them both to death.
Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.