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Fresno school board replaces anti-LGBT prez

by Seth Hemmelgarn

The man who said that teaching LGBT curricula would turn children gay and compared LGBTs to people who commit genocide has been replaced as the Fresno Unified School District's school board president.

Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas, 33, was unanimously voted into the position Wednesday, December 13, taking over from Brooke Ashjian.

The strife around Ashjian started with an August Fresno Bee article that quoted him dismissively talking about LGBT curriculum.

"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," he said, according to the paper.

Many had called on Ashjian to resign since he made the comments, which were an apparent reference to laws such as the California Healthy Students Act, an LGBT-inclusive sex education measure that Governor Jerry Brown signed into law in 2015.

In a statement he read at the August 23 school board meeting, Ashjian said, "1.5 million Armenians were murdered because they dared to disagree with the powers [that] be. The intolerance shown by the Ottomans toward my people was insufferable. These leaders of the LGBT movement are much like them."

Ashjian was eligible to serve in the top role again for 2018, but Rosas, a straight ally, was the only nominee last week.

In an interview with the Bay Area Reporter, Rosas wouldn't comment on Ashjian specifically, but she said, "There's a silver lining," as the controversy "opened up a conversation that wasn't being had about how can we support our LGBTQ students, and how can we make things more accessible for our transgender students."

Rosas was set to meet Friday with students from a local gay-straight alliance to discuss establishing partnerships to combat bullying.

"We're a big organization," she said. "We can't change overnight, but I assure you we're taking this as an opportunity to make our district better."

Tonya Stokes, whose transgender son goes to a Fresno Unified school, said of Ashjian's replacement, "I think it was appropriate for the season. Christmas wishes are granted."

Stokes said that the last time she addressed the board she'd read them the district's own anti-bullying policy.

"I asked them why the president was less accountable than our students and our staff," she said.

Ashjian, who remains a trustee, didn't respond to interview requests, but he posted a tweet responding to the Bee's story on last week's board vote (the paper's headline was "Embattled Ashjian succeeded by Rosas as Fresno Unified board president.")

"Nobody 'embattled' here ... I can't believe 'cut and paste the biased' is still covering education??? Failing bee," said Ashjian, adopting the tone of President Donald Trump to mock the Bee.


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