On August 2, parents, students, teachers and the Temecula Valley Educators Association (TVEA) filed a lawsuit against the Temecula Valley Unified School District’s (TVUSD) Board of Trustees for a resolution they passed in December 2022. In this resolution, the Board decided to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and similar concepts for grades K-12 in TVUSD. 

Since the passing of this resolution, it has raised concerns among students, teachers and the community of Temecula Valley, which resulted in the lawsuit. The press release from the nonprofit public interest law firm Public Counsel, which is partnering with Ballard Spahr, LLC and with support from the California Teachers Association (CTA) for this case, stated how the Board’s definition of CRT has raised confusion among educators, parents and students. The resolution points out CRT as “a divisive ideology that assigns moral fault to individuals solely on the basis of an individual’s race and therefore, is itself a racist ideology.”

Dawn Murray-Sibby is a teacher at Temecula Valley High School. Photo Courtesy of Dawn Murray-Sibby.

Dawn-Murray Sibby has been teaching for 29 years in the Temecula Valley and is a plaintiff in the case. She explained how her initial reaction to the resolution was to question how the Board defined CRT. Sibby said educators do not teach this concept to students.

“So my first reaction was, we don’t teach CRT, it is a law school concept, but their definition of CRT seems as though it wants us to erase parts of history and it wants us to leave things out,” Sibby said. “And I feel as an educator that I’m being asked to lie by omission and also tell a story that isn’t the full, accurate story.”

Ed Sibby, who is a former TVUSD teacher and Sibby’s husband, explained that the Board chooses not to discuss certain parts of history due to viewing the definition as placing historical guilt on one set of people.

However, Ed Sibby pointed out the problem with this. “Our history is replete with examples in which the majority held sway over a group of people, race or gender because they had the authority and power to do so,” said Ed Sibby. 

Ed Sibby is a retired public school teacher. Photo courtesy of Dawn Murray-Sibby.

In addition to the unclarity regarding the Board’s definition of CRT and overall resolution, the press release stated how the resolution has an impact on Temecula students, specifically students of color and those who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Currently, as a high school teacher, Sibby said her students will not be able to learn about themselves if they are censored from true and accurate history. With her students being of diverse backgrounds, Sibby explained the importance of teaching students real history and the impact this resolution can have on their learning.

“The initial harm is not being able to discuss racism, not being able to discuss diverse populations in a true and accurate representation,” Sibby said. “My students not seeing themselves in the lessons, my students are not learning the lessons of history, the hard lessons of segregation and what that cost our society and violence committed toward certain groups throughout history.”

As for Ed Sibby, he has seen the change in diversity among Temecula students as well and believes students need to be able to see themselves in history to make a change as a new generation. 

Along with students, the press release stated how teachers and staff are also being affected by the resolution. “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,” according to Public Counsel in the press release. 

Sibby explained how she can’t teach her class due to the restrictions teachers have to follow under the resolution. Her and other educators have become stressed and anxious about how to teach their students while still adhering to the ban’s rules.

People of the community of Temecula Valley at the December 13, 2022 board meeting where Resolution 21 was passed. Photo courtesy of Dawn Murray-Sibby.

“Well, first of all, there’s huge anxiety because of the ambiguity of the resolution itself. So that’s a concern, adding extra anxiety and stress for teachers. ‘What do I say? What do I not say?’ And then having to, after the fact, be subject to discipline because, again, it’s [the resolution] so vague. Because it’s so vague, it’s left up to interpretation,” Sibby said. 

Sibby also shared a situation that led her to become a plaintiff in the case. Sibby explained how a probationary teacher reached out to Sibby in distress after being told by the principal that there had been a complaint about photos she had on her classroom wall. However, this happened before going on a break, so the probationary teacher had to resolve the situation until school started again.

“So that poor little prob one teacher had to go for whatever the break was, a week or so and had to be thinking about it the entire time, which was stressful, I would imagine, because when your job is on the line, when you’re a prob one or two teacher, you can get non reelected for no cause. They have no due process to protect their jobs at all,” Sibby said.

The said photos were of different civil rights activists, one of whom was Harvey Milk, who was a gay political activist for the LGBTQ+ community. 

Sibby explained how this situation serves as an example of the type of additional stress and anxiety educators face. 

When it comes to the community of Temecula Valley, people are trying to make a change in this resolution in different ways. Currently, there is a recall movement for three school board members of TVUSD, Jennifer Wiersma, Danny Gonzalez and Dr. Joseph Komrosky, who are involved in the resolution. 

Also, Sibby shared how people in the Temecula community have written to the Board and how protesting continues to happen in their school board meetings. 

A student from Temecula Valley High School participating in the walkout against Resolution 21

Students are also taking part in this, such as by participating in a walkout that occurred when the resolution was passed last year. Ed Sibby pointed out how students are committed to speaking their minds on the resolution and its effect on them.

“In many ways, the students deserve the credit for organizing because it was their efforts to come together, determine on their own what they thought this was, and they’re absolutely right,” Ed Sibby said. “It’s white nullification. It’s an attempt to have their stories stymied or silenced. They saw it for what it was and they led the charge in the Spring.”

As for the outcome of the lawsuit, Sibby hopes for a review of the resolution and that there won’t be another resolution in the future that can affect them. “My hope is that nobody else is going to pass another resolution that prevents me from doing my job and from my students having the right to a free and public education and having the right to a true and accurate history,” Sibby said.

Jasmine Contreras is a freelance writer who grew up in Wilmington, Calif., and received a journalism degree at California State University, Dominguez Hills. She gravitates to news, features, and lifestyle...