Alas, even in progressive California in 2017, the debate rages on for some about whether or not it’s acceptable to acknowledge that LGBT people even exist in schools for fear of turning kids gay. Fresno Unified school board President Brooke Ashjian has remarked that he fears LGBT discussions in schools may “sway the kid to go that way.”
Ashjian, a Mormon, revealed his support for Trump in November 2016, with a Facebook photo in which he wears the ubiquitous red Trump “Make America Great Again” hat. This Trump supporter opted his own children out of sex education in his own district, believing that parents should “get the first crack” at kids in favor of instructing “Judeo-Christian philosophies.”
“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 said. “It’s so important for parents to teach these Judeo-Christian philosophies.”
Brooke reinforced his stance on Facebook:
Parents should be teaching Sex Ed first! PERIOD! Let the schools teach the biological portion of it. Your child should NEVER hear about this first from a teacher! The schools feed them breakfast, lunch, provide psychological services , before school babysitting, after school care, the list goes on and on!
My question??? What do the parents do anymore???
Teachers are great but they are not the child’s parents!
Governor Jerry Brown passed the California Healthy Youth Act in 2015, and it went into effect in 2016, requiring age-appropriate instruction on topics such as unbiased sexual health and HIV prevention, birth control and abortion, adoption options, gender, sexual orientation, family life, and the basic functions of human reproductive organs. Abstinence is also discussed.
The Fresno Bee reported that Fresno Unified released a statement of tolerance following the school board President’s remarks, which they called a “slap” at Ashjian, but Bob Nelson, Fresno Unified interim superintendent commented, “To reaffirm my statement about tolerance, diversity, and inclusiveness, it’s not about slapping anyone- We support all kids, staff, & families.”
Nelson’s full comment:
“Fresno Unified firmly believes that students and staff perform best in an environment where tolerance, diversity, and inclusiveness are practiced and valued,” Nelson said in the news release. “Fresno Unified will continue to provide our students age appropriate sex education in accordance with the Healthy Youth Act and our board policies while honoring parental waivers.”
Brooke Ashjian commented that he didn’t know why the topic was being discussed, though he was the one making the comments about swaying kids orientation by discussing sex education:
“The vote for Sex Ed curriculum was 2 years ago which I voted YES on!! Y are we talking about this Now? Fresno B stands for Brooke! #nosense”
— Brooke Ashjian🇺🇸 (@BrookeAshjian) August 7, 2017
Ashjian also fears teaching kids about abortion, because of the “psychological effects,” but does not seem to consider the psychological devastation of rape equally:
“There’s certainly a lot of psychological effects that come from abortion that people need to be aware of,” Ashjian said. “Your life is a lot easier by not doing it. Look at these poor girls who get raped and have to have an abortion. If that’s the way they’ve got to go, God bless them. But think of all the repercussions that come later in life, mental and psychological,” stated Ashjian.
The Fresno Bee reported that some conservatives and Mormons in California feel caught between their beliefs and the new law. Before the California Healthy Youth Act, a Fresno Country judge ruled against abstinence-only courses, “which were brought to court after a lesson compared a girl who was not a virgin to a dirty shoe.”
That’s right, they compared girls to dirty shoes…
Maybe conservatives find relief knowing that Trump has cut parent prevention programs and is investing in abstinence-only curriculums. No word on if there will be shaming involving dirty shoe metaphors.
Attorney Jennifer Chou of The ACLU of Northern California called Ashjians’s remarks “irresponsible and harmful.”
“It’s alarming that the board president of California’s fourth-largest school district is making public statements that perpetuate medically inaccurate information about abortion and that openly stigmatize and shame LGBTQ students,” Chou said. “The board president works for all students, and he should be reminding kids that school is a safe and accepting place for all of them, in all their diversity. We know that LGBTQ-inclusive sex education reduces bullying and harassment and creates a positive effect on school climate overall.”
In the end, the law requires that the schools in California teach about the complex realities confronting every person, though it can’t always be verified if that’s actually what goes on in reality in the classroom. Some may think that parents should be the only ones informing kids, or that kids should be left uninformed. However, the benefits of being informed can’t be underestimated, especially in a world where everyone has access to endless information, credible and otherwise, via the internet.
There has never been credible and verified information that knowing about LGBT people’s existence sways a person to become gay themselves. There is, however, research that seems to show that those who have the most issue with LGBT people tend to question their own sexuality internally. Scientific American has posted an aritcle entitled, “Homophobes Might Be Hidden Homosexuals.” It might be something fun to share with those who tend to hate on LGBT people, but then, you won’t know if they read it or not unless you could check their browser history.
Education, rather than a danger, is much more likely to create a culture of tolerance and acceptance. That doesn’t seem so anti-Judeo-Christian values, does it? If you are considering the idea of Jesus, it certainly shouldn’t. In any case, with Trump in power, everyone will learn about the alternative –whether they like it or not.
Featured image: Screenshots from Facebook