“My biggest fear in teaching this – which we’re going to do it because it’s the law – but you have kids who are extremely moldable at this stage, and if you start telling them that LGBT is OK and that it’s a way of life, well maybe you just swayed the kid to go that way. It’s so important for parents to teach these Judeo-Christian philosophies.” -Fresno Unified School Board President Brooke Ashjian
Brooke Ashjian made this comment to the Fresno Bee regarding the California Healthy Youth Act, a law requiring schools to teach unbiased and medically accurate sex education. He is a devout Mormon and Trump supporter who has been vocal about his stances on abortion, premarital sex, and LGBT relationships (spoiler: he's against all of them).
At a school board meeting on August 9th, the community came together to voice their concern at this derogatory comment. Ashjian responded:
“For you to come all the way down here, whether you agreed with me or didn’t, it’s truly in my heart an apology to you that you many have been slighted. That was never the intent. My position here is about the children. I’ve never distinguished between whether they were gay or this or that or white or from north Fresno, south Fresno, whatever. They were always children.”
First, that’s not an apology. He is only “apologizing” that feelings were hurt, NOT for what he said. His apology is really, “I’m sorry you were offended that I don’t want gay kids to exist.”
And second, he DID distinguish gay kids. In fact, he distinguished them as his “greatest fear.” His greatest fear is not an unplanned pregnancy, an STD, or a dead child (three of which could be prevented by this law), but a gay child (which would not be prevented OR caused by this law, as this law will not change someone’s innate orientation).
This is on top of a bizarre series of posts made on the site Ripoffreport.com about Gay Fresno (the former name for LGBT Fresno) that were tracked back to Ashjian’s computer (he did not use his real name in the posts). In a series of depositions, he admitted to making comments (he was upset that Gay Fresno was calling for a boycott due to him having donated to Prop 8), but couldn’t recall what they were (although they were only two years prior and he had clear memories of events that took place even earlier) or what language he used (only three comments regarding Gay Fresno were on the site, all were derogatory, and all were of a grammar level that one expects to find in the bathroom of a middle school that caters to sexually-repressed remedial English students with anger issues, not a school board president). All three comments were also of an oddly sexual nature. And finally, when attorneys were going to do a forensic examination of his computer, it was mysteriously stolen from his office (although, not the cash that was in there). Weird.
To sum it up so far:
• His biggest fear is a gay child (not a dead one)
• He said this out loud to a reporter (maybe thinking it was still 2008)
• It is 2017 (he may have missed the memo)
• He has admitted to being an internet troll, albeit not a very good one
In the last week, human rights organizations have called for Ashjian’s resignation. His response was to tweet “NO!!” His follow up was that he would never resign. “And second of all, I don't back up. I don't even have reverse in my car. I'm not backing up,” he stated.
Putting aside the ludicrous analogy of a car that cannot go backwards, is this how we go forward? We have a school board president that cannot see how his words will affect children in his schools, cannot see how stubborn and divisive he is being, and has no idea how to diffuse the situation. How do we go forward when he has pushed himself into a position and refuses to rethink it based on an admitted inability to do so (“I don’t back up”)? And, using his car analogy, how can he not see that he’s been going in reverse this whole time?
We need your help.
We are asking you to call, email or write (details below) Fresno Unified School District board trustees and demand that Brooke Ashjian be removed from the Fresno Unified School Board, both as president and as a member. He is toxic to our youth, both gay and straight. Between his obvious contention for the gay community (of which some of his students belong) and his inability to take either ownership for his words OR to learn from them, he has shown himself to be incapable of leading our youth towards the kind of world we all need: an honest, inclusive, and fair one.
We invite you all to show up on August 23, 2017 at 5:30 pm for the Fresno Unified school board meeting at 2309 Tulare St., Fresno, CA 93721. Bring small signs to show your support for his removal or resignation. Be emotionally prepared for anti-LGBT supporters.
We know. You’re tired. You’ve probably spent the last decade fighting about this and thought it was time to rest. Me, too.
But, I really, really don’t want to tell a Fresno Unified child who needs someone to talk to and, because the teachers at his school feel emboldened to share their homophobic views, doesn’t have anyone. I don’t want to tell any kid that.
Lastly, as many of you know, the LBGT center has recently closed. LGBT Fresno is stepping up to begin a referral/resource line, but we need to raise $2500 to get it going. This will be an important resource in an area that (while it’s come far) is lacking in LGBT resources. Your donation will provide us with the needed funds to open and maintain the line for one year. The IT provider fees that will allow us to offer multiple volunteers the connection to those who need help and resources. Imagine a teen will be able to call, text, facebook message and get a friendly and helpful reply to connect them to the resources they so desperately need.
Will you please chip in $5, $10, $50, anything you can, to help us make this new resource a reality?
Stand strong. Lean on each other. And keep going forward.
Reach out to Fresno Unified School District board
(trustee name), 2309 Tulare St., Fresno, CA 93721
August 23, at 5:30 pm for the Fresno Unified School Board meeting at
2309 Tulare St., Fresno, CA 93721 (3 min or less allowed per person)