Fresno Unified School District board of education president, Brooke Ashjian,
Ashjian has caused a great amount of controversy not only within the LGBT community in Fresno, but also nationally with the Human Rights Campaign, who demanded that Ashjian be removed from his current position. What is the crossing line for someone in a certain position to have their personal beliefs interfere with requirements of the law? Given the status of our national government, it may just be seen as another lawful debacle within a community. Why should this issue not be taken so lightly? Here’s why. Ashjian refuses to support the California Healthy Youth Act, a law requiring schools to provide lessons on abortion, birth control and LGBT relationships. As some citizens may see it as implementing these lessons into the students, it is no designed to do so. It simply provides students with an outlet of information rather than excluding those students who may benefit from those given lessons. Ashjian’s conservative and imprudent comments have and continue to go without providing an apology to the LGBT community, let alone the Armenian community for the unnecessary and unrelated comparison to the Armenian genocide; equivocating LGBT community activists to the Ottoman Turks. Many people from religious institutions have asked for Ashjian to step down as president of the board member. Aside from Ashjian providing comments on how he is fulfilling his duties, it seems that given his role and status of the FUSD board, he is using his power to an extreme advantage by implementing his own personal religious beliefs.
With that, Ashjian seems to be taking full advantage in terms of his own personal finances. Last November, The Fresno Bee wrote an article regarding the California Fair Political Practices Commission investigating allegations of Ashjian failing to report numerous sources of income.
Documents show that various local and in-state business contributions to Ashjian’s campaign back in 2014. Some of those companies were Wawona Packing Co. (Brent E. Smittcamp), Witbro Inc., Association Builders & Contractors, to name a few. Given the various companies that allowed him to collect close to about $30,000, how much more money did Ashjian fail to report? The ultimate question that leads to is, why did Ashjian fail to do so, causing a conflict of interest problem for someone who plays a significant role in FUSD? This is very detrimental to the community of Fresno because how can this individual who has an infinite amount of personal funds, owning multiple properties that value over a million dollars simply be one to represent families and students that are at a lower economic status? How can he simply understand and be knowledgeable of what health resources they should have available to them when he allows his conservative opinions to interfere? Given someone in his position, Ashjian should be well aware of how beneficial all health lessons are to FUSD students, but it is evident that his career and financial status causes him to be incomprehensible of different communities coming together and demanding that he step down from his position.
As everyone has the right to their own privacy, especially when it involves their finances, but given someone in Ashjian’s position, it is something that should not be dismissed or overlooked. It remains questionable as to what may have been the cause for the commission to have halted at the investigation and whether they will reopen given the current behaviors of Ashjian.
Regardless, if people agree or disagree with the current and ongoing behavior Ashjian has personally expressed regarding the California Healthy Youth Act, his overall actions and capitalizing from his position of the FUSD board of education position, he doesn’t seem fit to continue upholding his position as president and when his term expires in 2018, we shall see what the future holds for not only Ashjian, but more importantly the different communities that help form the overall community of Fresno.