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Controversy over Carlsbad School District Administrators comments on proposed DEI plan

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Posted at 8:14 PM, May 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-23 23:14:20-04

CARLSBAD, Calif. (KGTV) – Parents, students, and community members are getting a chance to learn about the Carlsbad School District's proposed Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging plan.

Listening sessions were held at three schools across the district Tuesday evening.

Monday, supporters of the LGBTQ-plus community rallied outside the Carlsbad School District office. The rally was held in response to an audio recording that reportedly shows a high school administrator talking to a church about the district's DEI plan.

Some found the comments made by the educator offensive.

"I heard from students, staff members, [and] families just their frustration and shock at some of the comments, and I really believe schools should be an inclusive and safe space for everyone," said Katrina Waidelich.

Katrina Waidelich is a teacher and co-advisor for the Gender Sexuality Alliance Club at Carlsbad High School.

"I, as an English teacher, understand the power of words and try to hold myself accountable sometimes if things can be hurtful, and I would hope any adult in our society would do the same," said Waidelich.

The audio recordings were anonymously sent to ABC 10News. They appear to show the school leader urging church members to show up to the district's listening sessions regarding the DEI plan. Among other things, the school leader reportedly says he doesn't support sexual identity or gender ideology curriculum or celebrations on public school campuses.

He goes on to say he wants full transparency in terms of curriculum and parental rights.

Scott Davison is a parent and the director of the Carlsbad Education Alliance.

"This church was invited to come and wants to have their members come and share their concerns. They want transparency in the curriculum. They're concerned with some of the gender ideology teaching, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with it. That's the purpose of asking these members to come to this town hall," said Davison.

The school district's Superintendent condemned the statements Monday, saying they go against California Education Code and the Board's resolution supporting LGBTQ-plus students and staff.

Davison says the Superintendent violated the school leader's right to freedom of speech.

"He actually talks about knowing what the law is and respecting that law but wanting it changed. So he's certainly allowed to have that opinion and certainly to share it off campus at a private religious event; there shouldn't be anything wrong with that," said Davison.

The church where the statements were made sent ABC 10News the following statement Tuesday evening:

The Mission Church exists to worship Jesus Christ, to teach His Word (the Bible), and to love people by helping them enter a relationship with Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Being active in community is an important part of our mission.

Carlsbad Unified School District (CUSD) invited The Mission Church to participate in the Listening and Learning Sessions they are holding. We have two requests for CUSD:

1. FULL TRANSPARENCY in terms of Curriculum and Parental Rights to make decisions with their children. Transparency between schools and families about curriculum and campus activity is in the best interest of all students.
2. Schools should focus on teaching CORE ACADEMICS (science, math, history, geography, etc.) instead of sexual and gender ideology curriculum.

We support student-led groups on campus, but we are concerned the focus of the educational curriculum/agenda is becoming overly sexualized.

Recently we encouraged church members and members of our community to speak up in support of parental transparency/honesty and focusing on core academics. Our intent is focused on the well-being of all students, educators, and families. We will continue to speak up in support of the family unit, transparency between schools and parents, and ensuring that students are able to learn in an environment that is not over-sexualized.

Pastor David Menard

Full statement from the Carlsbad Education Alliance:

The Carlsbad Education Alliance is extremely dismayed by the biased and bigoted statement of Carlsbad Unified School District (CUSD) Superintendent Benjamin Churchill against a CUSD employee, in clear violation of that employee's fundamental right to free speech and freedom of religion under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

We demand that Superintendent Churchill immediately retract the statement and ensure that CUSD is a safe space for all employees, students and parents. Superintendent Churchill's statement also deliberately misrepresents the comments by the employee as not supportive of LGBTQ+ students when the employee's statements specifically asked that members share their message "in love" and "from a place of concern for our kids." The employee's statements are, therefore not in conflict with any state law or district policy.

A Superintendent condemning the speech and religious views of an employee not only violates that employee's constitutional rights, it additionally places a chilling effect on the speech of all staff, students and parents in CUSD that speech or religious values which the Superintendent personally disagrees with will be publicly condemned. Ironically, tomorrow CUSD is hosting a series of town halls to discuss its proposed "Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Strategic Plan," of which a core principle is building "diverse and inclusive environments by fostering the development of trusted relationship with staff and the community."

Sadly, Superintendent Churchill's biased and bigoted statement condemning the religious beliefs of an entire church and its members shows exactly why these DEI plans are simply excuses for those in power to suppress speech and decrease diversity and inclusion in public schools. Superintendent Churchill's statement not only places CUSD in immediate legal jeopardy for violating the employee's rights but potentially in far greater legal jeopardy for attempting to suppress the speech of any employee or student in CUSD which differs from his own.

The Carlsbad Education Alliance demands an immediate retraction and apology by Superintendent Churchill and is considering all possible legal remedies to protect the rights of all employees, parents and students at CUSD.

Superintendent statement regarding CUSD administrator's comments:

We are aware of and looking into a video that has been shared widely on social media in which an administrator in Carlsbad Unified School District makes comments about his belief that curriculum, clubs, and celebrations involving sexual orientation or gender identity should not be allowed on school campuses.

I wholeheartedly disagree with the comments made and condemn those comments as they are in conflict with California Education Code and our Board's 2021 resolution in support of LGBTQ+ students and staff.

I firmly believe in fostering a safe and inclusive educational environment for all students and staff. It is essential that we create a supportive space where LGBTQ+ students and staff feel valued, respected, and free to express their authentic selves. By promoting acceptance, understanding, and celebrating diversity, we cultivate an atmosphere that encourages personal growth, academic success, and a sense of belonging for everyone. I am committed to ensuring equal opportunities for all members of our school community, including LGBTQ+ students and staff.

California Education Code includes provisions in support of LGBTQ+ students:

  • CA Ed Code prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in all public schools and universities in California. This protection extends to admissions, access to facilities, and participation in educational programs.
  • CA Ed Code encourages schools to provide comprehensive and inclusive instruction that reflects the contributions and experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals. It promotes positive representations and accurate portrayals of LGBTQ+ history, achievements, and social movements.
  • CA Ed Code acknowledges the rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming students. It supports their ability to use facilities and participate in activities that align with their gender identity. Schools are encouraged to respect students' preferred names and pronouns, ensuring they are treated with dignity and respect.

On June 23, 2021, the Carlsbad Unified School District Board of Trustees approved Resolution 27-2021, "Recognition of June as LGBTQ+ Pride Month," highlighting a commitment to create an inclusive and supportive educational environment for LGBTQ+ students and to combat discrimination and bullying.

It is essential that we maintain a safe, respectful, and positive learning environment on our campuses. Thank you to all of our students, staff, parents, and community members for making that possible.

The Superintendent did not respond to questions about whether the school leader is under investigation or facing any disciplinary action.