The Fresno Unified school board will discuss next month whether to demote, censure or otherwise discipline president Brooke Ashjian after he made controversial comments about the LGBT community.
Following pressure from gay rights groups and local faith leaders, the district said in a statement Monday that the issue will be on the agenda for the Oct. 11 school board meeting. For now, it is merely up for discussion that night and there is no scheduled vote.
The outcry comes after Ashjian compared LGBT advocates who have opposed him to perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide. Ashjian has also been criticized for his comments about LGBT-inclusive sex education, and for his contributions to Proposition 8, the 2008 state initiative that aimed to ban gay marriage.
On Monday morning, LGBT Fresno targeted Fresno Unified superintendent finalist Bob Nelson in a blog post, saying he neglected to add the item to the agenda for Wednesday’s upcoming school board meeting. Nelson, in conjunction with Ashjian, prepares the board’s agendas, according to district policy.
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The further they string this out, it undermines the urgency of the moment. To equate the LGBTQ community to genocide, that’s a huge, vicious slur.
Rev. Chris Breedlove, Community United Church of Christ
“We’re happy to see the matter finally able to be discussed and action taken by the board, no matter what that outcome is,” said Jason Scott, president of LGBT Fresno. “The superintendent had the discretion to add it to the September board meeting and move this issue along, so the board can get back to regular business. Delaying it another month leaves President Ashjian’s remarks to continue to stand without repercussion.”
The decision to put the item on October’s agenda is “in accordance with education code and our board bylaws,” a Fresno Unified spokesman said Monday.
Ashjian met with LGBT leaders for the first time on Sunday, according to Scott. But Scott in the blog said he took issue with a district official’s claim Monday that the LGBT community is “standing with” Ashjian.
“This is incorrect,” Scott said. “No agreement has been reached to back Mr. Ashjian, but we are always willing to do whatever it takes to keep children and our community members safe. It is our desire to continue dialog between the LGBT community and Fresno Unified School District.”
Delaying it another month leaves President Ashjian’s remarks to continue to stand without repercussion.
LGBT Fresno President Jason Scott
Rev. Chris Breedlove, of the Community United Church of Christ, said Monday that some trustees’ silence on the matter speaks volumes.
Trustees do not have the authority to remove Ashjian from the board, and he has refused calls to resign. While trustees Christopher De La Cerda, Valerie Davis and Cal Johnson have spoken out against him, Claudia Cazares, Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas and Carol Mills have not publicly commented on the matter.
“The silence is concerning, and for us, indicates complicity, and that is not OK,” Breedlove said. “These are alarming things for Bob Nelson and various trustees to have no response to. The further they string this out, it undermines the urgency of the moment. To equate the LGBTQ community to genocide, that’s a huge, vicious slur.”
Cazares, Jonasson Rosas, Mills and Ashjian did not response to requests for comment Monday.
Noting that a recall election could take six months and Ashjian’s term ends in 2018, Breedlove and a dozen other faith leaders signed a request in August demanding “at the minimum” Ashjian be publicly censured and demoted from his presidency role on the board.