EQCA: Anti-LGBTQ Statements by Fresno School Board President ‘Ill Informed’

Brooke Ashjian

Equality California have responded to statements made last week by Fresno Unified School Board of Trustees President Brook Ashjian in which he suggested that a law requiring schools to include information about LGBTQ people in middle and high school health classes might “sway” students to become LGBTQ themselves.

Aug. 4, the Fresno Bee quoted Ashjian as saying “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.”

AB 329, the California Healthy Students Act, was authored by Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) and sponsored by Equality Calfiornia. Governor Jerry Brown signed it into law in 2015 and it took effect the following year. It requires that students receive sex education that is accurate, comprehensive, medically accurate, age-appropriate and inclusive.

“Ill-informed and erroneous statements like those recently made by Brooke Ashjian are precisely the reason that Equality California sponsored the California Healthy Students Act,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. “Research shows that two things happen when students receive accurate information about LGBTQ people as part of health and other classes. First, LGBTQ students, who often face rejection at home and a broad lack of acceptance elsewhere, learn to value and understand themselves when they see other LGBTQ people as part of their lessons. And second, their non-LGBTQ peers become more accepting and supportive. With LGBTQ teens facing suicide rates up to four times higher than their non-LGBTQ peers, reducing ignorance and the hostility that comes with it is vital. It’s a lesson that Ashjian himself would do well to learn. As president of the school board of California’s fourth-largest school district, he has a responsibility to serve all students, and uphold the laws that are designed to protect them.”

Ashjian’s statement has attracted widespread condemnation, including from his fellow trustees on the Fresno Unified School Board.

“We are grateful to Valerie Davis and Christopher De La Cerda and other school board trustees for speaking up in response to Ashjian’s comments and for keeping the best interests of all Fresno Unified students at heart,” said Zbur.

Ashjian is also accused of having posted anonymously online that Gay Fresno, a local LGBTQ organization, is run by “pimps in disguise” and that “they put me into prostitution.” Another comment says the group is run by liars, thieves and “butt draggers.”