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Last Night In Fresno

I'm feeling pretty emotional right now, but I am going to try to be succinct.

As you probably know, President of the Fresno Unified School District Board of Trustees Brooke Ashjian made problematic statements to the Fresno Bee regarding teaching students about LGBT history.




Ashjian said the district has to follow 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.” And Ashjian said, “it’s so important for parents to teach these Judeo-Christian philosophies.”

When the LGBT Community responded to these statements, calling him out for using his position in authority to malign an entire community, Ashjian went on the offensive calling the LGBT Community the "thought police" and equating them to the Ottoman empire and their systematic genocide of the Armenian people.

(Quick note: there were several hundred people at this meeting)

When THAT drew ire from the LGBT community as well as several pastors and other faith and community leaders (including Armenian pastors), Ashjian went on talk radio and vowed to never resign, wrote emails from his FUSD email account talking about how Christians need to unite, and agreeing with ideas about conversion therapy proponents.

That brings us to last night.

Fact sheet about what happened at the October meeting: (two months after the initial packed house in August).

 - There were maybe fifty to sixty people there. (Fewer as the night went on)

- During open (non-agenda) comment time, members of the community took to the mic to call the LGBT population perverted, dangerous, violent, and disgusting. Other community members pointed out that it was National Coming Out Day. The board seemed unmoved by the irony.

- A resolution was passed proclaiming October Cyber Security Awareness Month. Interesting note, part of this resolution deals with bullying: "... all students should be safe from bullying including Cyber-bullying..."  ALSO interesting, Mr. Ashjian himself has been deposed for his own cyberbullying attacks on a local LGBT organization. The Irony Of All This Went Unnoticed. 

- Then a resolution proclaiming October LGBT History Month was petitioned, read, and accepted.

Record Scratch. Was Mr. Ashjian there for that proclamations?

No, no he was not.

He left the dais so that he wouldn't have to vote on the LGBT resolution. 

Another interesting note: normally the president of the board would sign such a proclamation.

But of course, he did not.

This, to me, was very telling. This goes beyond a man who has a personal opinion. This is a man in a position of leadership allowing his personal feelings to dictate his actions. His lack of a signature, due to his moral stance on LGBT rights and people, is a slap in the face of any argument one might have about the line between personal free speech and doing your damn job of protecting and representing the district.

I mean really. What the hell?

So, yes, we got a proclamation, but as one community member stated later: it is a totally hollow gesture.

 - Then we had the agenda item calling for his removal. Board members talked about free speech, hid behind lack of precedent, pointed out that they could, in fact, do something if they wanted to, made odd comments about people "owning their children," pointed out systemic racism and the irony of celebrating free speech by Ashjian while getting angry about athletes on football fields doing the same thing, called Mr. Ashjian a "good guy", distanced themselves from his comments, called him "brother, called for a cease-fire.
In Other Words: It was a confusing bag of talking points that did nothing to move the conversation along.

 - During the agenda item public comment time we were treated to a few more diatribes about the evils of the LGBT community, but we were, thankfully, also encouraged by some very articulate LGBT supporters. (This is when I talked, I was not articulate, in fact, I cried and my statement is at the end of this post if you want to read it.)

7 - And then the meeting ended with no action taken by the board.

Let me clear: They have every right and ability to call for his removal.
They didn't
They have every right and ability to censure him.
They didn't
They have every right and ability to issue a formal apology on behalf of the board.
They didn't

Mr. Ashjian has never apologized. Instead of attempting to build a bridge with the LGBT community, he has compared us to perpetrators of genocide. 

The board has done nothing to him for this. Nothing.

Despite public outcry..... nothing

An hour before the August meeting


Yes, in December (two months away) they have the option to not vote him in as president again.

But will they?

Based on the number of empty seats in the room last night, they might not bother. Like so many things, this fight might just fade into the cacophony of crap that we have to deal with in this lovely year of 2017. If our community cannot show up and demand action, if we are being out voiced by those that hate us, the impetus for the board to do anything goes away completely.



A half an hour before last nights.
I'm not calling out any single person. I know we all have lives and commitments. I know spending hours in a room with people who hate you is draining and horrible. But I am honestly really disappointed in my community and our allies. Being a social justice warrior online is easy. Showing up, butts in chairs, feet on the ground, that is hard. I get it, everyone can't do everything. But damn it hurt.

Thank you to those that did show up and speak last night... especially the youth. Speaking truth to power is difficult in the best of times. 





My statement.

Hello, my name is Kaylia Metcalfe. I am a parent here in Fresno. I was angry when I got here, but after listening to all this, I am not angry, I'm sad.
My comments are not to you, Mr. President because I don't think you will ever listen to someone like me. This is to the rest of the board.

You see yourselves as good people.
You give to charity
You give your time
You obey the laws and you probably let people go ahead of you in line, sometimes
You see yourselves as good people
You love your family
You say kind things to each other and to your neighbors
I know you vote your conscious
You aren't racists
You aren't bigots
You aren't mean-spirited
You see yourselves as good people
Now it is time for us to see that too
It's time for you to take a stand and prove it
Words matter
Opinions are your own
but words spoken in public places from positions of authority, from our leaders, about our children
are held to a higher standard
Words matter and Mr. Ashjian's words 
Were hurtful
misguided
and dangerous
Words matter
but actions empower.
So
Be empowered.
Do the right thing
Do a good thing and make a censure.
You are good people, I know you are.
Please act like it.


3 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a powerful and heartfelt statement, Kaylia. Thank you for standing up and speaking for what is right. I'm sad and disgusted that the school board is so stuck in its ways.

Tonya Stokes said...

Thank you for writing this, showing up and speaking.
Me and my trans child were there as well. Here is my statement:
I am a FUSD parent. And I wholeheartedly support  Brooke Ashjian's right to exercise his freedom of speech. What I also support are natural consequences.

Mr. Ashjian has not been held accountable for his hurtful and hateful comments about many of the parents and children of the FUSD community.

He continues to reference and hide behind his Judeo Christian values, as if his brand of morals and values are above all others.

I have taught my children to be kind, loving people. I taught them to give until they cannot anymore. I taught them to stand up for themselves and for those that are unable to do so, to help the weak, diabled and poor.

They do not lie, cheat, covet, steal or murder or break any of the Christian Commandments.  And most importantly, I have taught them to own their actions and apologize when necessary.

 All of these lessons have come from a Pegan Lesbian household.

FUSD boasts a student body of 74,000. By a conservative 10 percent estimation, that is no less than 7400 LGBTQ students feeling that they are being judged, bullied and disrespected by the board president.

I am hoping this is the last time I need to address this board in this issue. Brooke continues to behave in a manner unbecoming to this board and this district. In my employment with a different school district, I was introduced to the phrase Moral turpitude.
THIS is something I expect of people in power.

 He has not attempted a heartfelt apology, instead has painted himself a victim, and he has openly taunted our teachers on social media. Although, i am appreciative of Superintendent Nelson and his efforts to bridge the gaps. I am tired of listening to the other board members apologize for his behavior. Please put an end to this by voting yes on today's agenda item B-10 and figuring out a way to strip him of the power he is using to embarrass the board and this district .

Kaylia Metcalfe said...

Tonya, I wanted to find you afterward... I LOVED your "all this in a pagan lesbian household" line... so epic! Thank YOU for being there and speaking up.