The Human Rights Campaign – the largest gay rights organization in the country – on Thursday called for Fresno Unified school board president Brooke Ashjian to resign after he made controversial statements about teaching sex education that includes lessons on LGBT relationships.
On Friday, Ashjian responded with a news release that consisted of a one-word answer: “No.”
The Washington, D.C.- based organization became involved after Ashjian took issue with a state law that mandates comprehensive sex education, including lessons on LGBT relationships
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“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,” Ashjian told the Bee in a story published Aug. 4. “It’s so important for parents to teach these Judeo-Christian philosophies.”
In a statement from Human Rights Campaign, organization president Chad Griffin said: “Brooke Ashjian’s ignorant and disturbing comments disparage all LGBTQ students and families, and make him unfit to lead the Fresno Unified School District.
“The role of any school administrator is to treat all children with respect and dignity. Ashjian has failed in that responsibility woefully, and he should step down from his position immediately.”
Another organization, Equality California, also criticized Ashjian, saying it sponsored the legislation that mandates LGBT inclusive sex education in schools. Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, pointed to LGBT teen suicide rates. “Reducing ignorance and the hostility that comes with it is vital,” Zbur said. “It’s a lesson that Ashjian himself would do well to learn.”
A Change.org petition had more than 400 signatures as of Friday, asking that Ashjian be removed from the school board.
LGBT advocates in Fresno demanded an apology from Ashjian for those statements at a school board meeting on Wednesday, where some of his fellow trustees also took issue with his viewpoints.
The board was informed Wednesday of past allegations of anti-LGBT comments made by Ashjian, in addition to his contributions to Proposition 8 – a 2008 measure that aimed to ban same-sex marriage.
According to a deposition from a 2011 libel lawsuit Ashjian was involved in, derogatory comments made about the organization Gay Fresno were tracked to a computer at his home. In the deposition, Ashjian admits to posting comments about Gay Fresno to a website called Ripoffreport.com, but says he can’t recall what he posted. The attorneys in the deposition claim that only three comments were made about Gay Fresno on the website – all anonymously.
The comments say Gay Fresno is run by “pimps in disguise” and “they stole my money, my dignity and my virginity. These people are evil.”
The comments were posted after Gay Fresno added Ashjian’s businesses to a list of companies that should be boycotted for supporting Proposition 8. Gay Fresno changed its name to LGBT Fresno – in part due to the comments posted on Ripoffreport.com.
“It’s just another example of why he is unfit to be in charge of a school district,” Jason Scott, president of LGBT Fresno, said Thursday. “He’s setting a very poor example for students.”