Trouble In Temecula – The Sacramento Observer
By Robert J. Hansen | Special for OBSERVER
Brian Hawkins, left, confronts Troy Childs, wearing a brimmed hat, at the Temecula Valley Unified school board’s March 22 workshop on critical race theory. (Image by Brian Hawkins)
A San Jacinto council member who came between a black man and a black student at a Temecula school board workshop on critical race theory on March 22 is being threatened with a lawsuit.
Brian Hawkins intervened when Troy Childs confronted Jaunae Brown, 17, as the workshop, hosted by the Temecula Valley Unified school board, degenerated into a confrontation between some attendees and demonstrators, videos show.
“His whole premise was yelling at a kid,” Hawkins said. “The fact that he went to attack a child and the young woman went to stop him, my reaction was to make sure the child was safe.”
Childs has hired attorney Tracy Henderson, who sent a cease-and-desist letter to the council member threatening legal action if he doesn’t issue a public apology, remove “fake videos” and statements about Childs from social media, and obtain a media retraction. .
Troy Childs moves toward 17-year-old Junai Brown at the Temecula Valley Unified School District seminar on March 22. (Courtesy of Brian Hawkins)
Hawkins said in a telephone interview that he is not concerned about the potential lawsuit.
“It is [Childs] on video,” Hawkins said.
Henderson also accused Hawkins of coming to the meeting “with a group of activists, dressed as activists with the intention of disrupting it.”
Hawkins said he doesn’t know what Henderson meant by saying he was dressed as an activist or the significance of how he was dressed.
“I guess because I’m black,” Hawkins said. “I don’t even know what ‘dressed as an activist’ means.”
San Jacinto Council Member Brian Hawkins at the Critical Race Theory workshop March 22 in Temecula. (Photo courtesy of Brian Hawkins)
The Justice Reform Coalition, a Sacramento advocacy organization, is assisting Hawkins in his legal response.
“Mrs. Henderson’s letter is a sad attempt to intimidate and censor Councilor Hawkins, who is also a pastor, from coming forward and voicing his concern [over] racial climate and the Temecula school board plan,” on critical race theory, said Rachel Rodriguez, the coalition’s criminal justice chair.
Rodriguez said the letter recklessly cites and sidesteps the law to cover up Childs’ true intentions and avoid his responsibility.
“Tracy Henderson attempts to deflect blame by blatantly using stereotyping and racial profiling to paint Councilman Hawkins as a threatening black man with a hidden agenda,” Rodriguez said.
At the meeting, Hawkins rushed to stand between Childs and Brown as the man walked up and yelled at her.
“There shouldn’t be an adult in a kid’s face like that,” Hawkins said.
After Hawkins and Childs exchanged words and other attendees came between them, deputies escorted Childs from the meeting.
Brown said she was walking between Childs and another student protester when Childs yelled at her.
“It was a scary encounter for this man to tower over me. I just didn’t want it to escalate any more than it had,” Brown said in a phone interview, adding that the atmosphere was charged from the start.
“You can cut the tension in the room with a knife,” Brown said.
She said the resolution banning critical race theory was vague and did not clearly outline what was allowed to be taught.
“Therefore [students] he looked at her like [the school board] trying to censor our education and our history,” Brown said. “Whether it’s black or Latino or Asian, they’re just trying to censor minority history, and that’s not something we wanted to see.”
The dissent at the March 22 event also took aim at the board’s decision to ban critical race theory and the district’s hiring of an anti-critical race theory consultant.
The Temecula Valley Unified school board in December voted 3-2 to ban critical race theory, with newly elected members Jennifer Wiersma, Joseph Komrosky and Danny Gonzalez casting the votes in favor.
All three, whose campaigns were supported by the Inland Empire Family PAC, were sworn in on Dec. 13, three days before the vote.
In response, about 300 students, including Brown, from all three Temecula Valley Unified high schools staged a walkout on January 13.
A political action committee last week created a petition calling for the immediate resignation of Komrosky and Wiersma and to censure Gonzalez.
After the vote passed, the district board spent $15,000 to hire a Paso Robles attorney, Christopher Arend, as a consultant to give two days of lectures on critical race theory to the district’s teachers and administrators. The workshop was intended for Arend to “explain” critical race theory to parents and teachers.
Arend served on the board of the Paso Robles Unified School District from 2018 to 2022. During that time, the district became one of the first California school districts to ban critical race theory. Arend is a self-proclaimed expert on critical race theory and has no teaching credentials.
The Temecula Valley District has yet to comment.
Critical race theory is a body of legal scholarship whose main idea is that racism is not only a product of individual biases and prejudices, but embedded in American legal systems and policies.
The political conflict over critical race theory was sparked by conservative activist Christopher Rufo. In a September 2, 2020 appearance on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” he called for an immediate executive order from then-President Donald Trump “to stamp out this destructive, divisive, pseudoscientific ideology.”
About two weeks later, Trump told the nation that critical race theory teaches that the United States is “evil and racist.”
The campaigns and agendas of Temecula Valley’s newly elected conservative board members bear a striking resemblance to Trump’s messaging. The resolution passed by the Temecula school board calls critical race theory “divisive” and says it is “an ideology based on false assumptions about the United States of America and … that assigns moral blame to individuals based solely on race of an individual and is therefore itself a racist ideology.”
Brown and other students said they felt the ban was a form of accommodation for the district’s white students.
Brown, who is often the only black student in her classes at Temecula Valley High School, said some history teachers now fear being reprimanded for teaching about the civil rights movement or Reconstruction.
“They’re afraid they won’t be able to teach the more controversial historical figures like Malcolm X or the Black Panther Party without getting feedback from the district,” Brown said. “They want to learn the whole story.”
Temecula Valley is at least the third school district in California to ban critical race theory, following Orange County Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District in April 2022 and Paso Robles Joint Unified in August 2021.
The district did not respond to requests for comment on whether the ban will affect the curriculum, or whether changes such as removing some books from schools — as is happening in Florida — have already been done.
Temecula Mayor Zak Schwank also did not respond to requests for comment.
A demonstration and press conference at Temecula City Hall is scheduled for Saturday, April 8, with Council Member Hawkins, Temecula Valley Students and the Justice Reform Coalition.