FUSD Board of Trustees Addresses Calls for President Ashjian's Resignation

FRESNO, Calif. - Members of Fresno Unified School District are looking for a cease fire, as debate about the board president's resignation rages on.

Faith leaders are asking Brooke Ashjian to quit or be quiet.

They're angry over his criticism of LGBT-inclusive sex education.

For months now it's been a back and forth debate between members of the community regarding Ashjian's statements.

Some considered his comments to be discriminatory towards the LGBT community and unbecoming of a school board president.
 
At Wednesday's school board meeting, board members clashed about what can and can't be done with the embattled president, who continued to make waves during a landmark vote for the district.

"The board of education of Fresno Unified School District designates October 2017 LGBT History Month," announced FUSD board clerk, Claudia Cazares

President Ashjian represented the one absent seat during the reading of the resolution, which caused an uproar.

"I think it was very disrespectful to the LGBT students and the staff of the district," said one community member.

Others in the audience viewed things differently.

"You have my backing Mr. Ashjian," said one man, who defended his position against the new curriculum which he considers an attack an wholesome values.  

Heated public comments have become a familiar scene at recent school board meetings.

Most of it has been centered on Ashjian's comments and requests for his resignation.

Members of clergy petitioned for a chance to make their case for his removal or censure by the board.

They disputed claims that the boards hands are tied by policy.

"Legally they could, even though it's not in the bylaws," said bill Knezovich, pastor of 'Our Saviour's Lutheran Church in Fresno.

He said Ashjian's behavior goes against the Judaeo-Christian beliefs he has used in the past to defend his comments.

"He didn't give up his First Amendment right when he became a board member," said FUSD Trustee Carol Mills.

She voiced disapproval of Ashjian's comments, but defended his right to share his opinions.

Other trustees called his comments a misuse of his constitutional right and his official position.

"Free speech is free but it is not free of consequence," said FUSD Trustee Christopher DelaCerda.

"I think that as a leader he needs to temper what he says," said FUSD Trustee Cal Johnson.

Trustees against Ashjian's resignation encouraged others not to rewrite the rules and rather wait until December when the board votes to determine who will lead next.

Many board members said it's time to put priorities first and end the fighting.  

"We have been trying to conduct business since august, and I wish we could just get passed this, because our students deserve that more than anything that we could bring to the table," said Cazares.
 
The fiery debate came weeks before a potential strike that could put hundreds of Fresno unified teachers on the picket line.
 
No resolutions regarding Ashjian's removal were adopted during the meeting, but reverend Knezovich said the local chapter of the ACLU is exploring options to force the boards hand.
 


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