LGBT activist at a Brea school board meetingParents and activists clashed Monday night at the Brea Olinda School Board meeting over the implementation of controversial sex education bill AB-329, also known as the California Healthy Youth Act. This is the second time this year that the school district has been embroiled in a culture war, the first being the effort to rename William E. Fanning Elementary School.
AB-329 passed in 2015, and requires schools provide comprehensive sexual education as well as the discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation and the prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Liz Sanchez, a community organizer in Fullerton and Santa Ana, as well as one of the organizers of the rally first learned about Ab-329 through their work with the Rename Fanning effort. They say that soon after they started attending school board meetings, they began to hear homophobic comments from parents. “Then one day at a school board meeting we hear ‘AB-329’ then we hear these conservatives come and speak on AB-329 and it’s like ‘they’re trying to teach our children anal, they’re trying to bring in dental dams’ and we’re just there like, ‘What is happening?’”
Usually, LGBT activists find themselves greatly outnumbered at board meetings, but Monday night was different as over a dozen gathered for a rally before and after the public comments. Angel Carvajal, who helped organize the rally first learned of the issue when she and Sanchez collaborated to return Orange County Pride “to its original roots”, after they believed it was co-opted by property developers and corporate lawyers. This is her first time attending a board meeting on the issue but she plans on making it a regular part of her schedule. “I’m trying to instill in everyone here that let’s continue the work.”
A rally before the School Board MeetingThose at the rally admitted that sometimes it can be difficult to sit through the board meetings due to the comments they hear. “It’s been pretty rough,” explained Andrew Flores. “Especially when I have to sit next to my friends that are queer or trans and they have to listen to one after parents coming up and just invalidating who they are.”
Kristine Percy, a family physician in Brea, said she became involved because of the medical misinformation she saw being spread by anti-LGBT protesters. “I’m really concerned about the school board taking a strong position in support of AB-329,” Percy said. “I want to make sure that they come out as strong advocates particularly for the LGBTQ youth in our community, and make sure that LGBTQ inclusion is a strong priority in what they do.”
During public comments, several members of the community expressed concern that the implementation of the bill was contributing to the sexualization of children, specifically over the discussion of pederasty in ancient cultures. One parent worried that AB-329 would promote “reverse bullying” because in the discussions of sexual orientation it was not made clear that “it’s okay to be straight”. Another described the California Healthy Youth Act as a “war against our children” pushed on us by the “psychopaths in Sacramento”.
Pro-LGBT activists hope to see ethnic and and queer studies at schools in the Oldina School District. They are focusing their outreach efforts on students in the area. “We want to create more fundraisers, network with the community, more education, we want to really build our education and base with the students. Go to campuses, and basically show them who we are,” Carvajal explained. “That could potentially really change things.”
Activists hope that their continuing efforts can challenge some of Orange County’s more regressive tendencies. “Orange County has a culture of queerphobia and transphobia that has been unchallenged, and we want to change that,” says Carvajal. “This is no longer normalized, and I think we did that today.”