'You Will Not Bully Us': California School Board Shuts Down State Superintendent

July 21, 2023

California's superintendent was escorted out of a local school board meeting on Thursday in a defeat for state Democratic leaders seeking to quash dissent from their LGBT education agenda.

The superintendent, Tony Thurmond, testified against the Chino Valley school board’s resolution to notify parents if their children begin a gender transition at school but ran over the one-minute speaking limit, causing the board chair Sonja Shaw to shut off his microphone. When Thurmond refused to leave the podium, police ushered him from the building. The board went on to approve the resolution 4-1, marking the first such rejection of guidance from the California Department of Education.

"This is not your meeting," Shaw told Thurmond. "You may have a seat, because if I did that to you in Sacramento you would not accept it. You’re not going to blackmail us. … You will not bully us here in Chino."

Chino is the latest Southern California school board to buck the state's sweeping LGBT mandates and guidelines. California governor Gavin Newsom (D.) and Democratic state lawmakers have responded to the resistance with escalating threats, condemnation, and aggressive new legislation.

"I see a shift happening in the state, and it’s partly because of years of having to deal with an overreaching state government on public education issues—from the COVID-19 shutdowns to vaccine mandates, and mask mandates," said Jonathan Zachreson, the founder of Reopen California Schools, a parent group founded to oppose school closures during COVID-19. "Now we have to deal with a lot of the culture wars Sacramento has brought into school districts. [Parents'] only recourse is to deal with it at the local level."

Just this week, the Temecula Valley school board voted a second time to reject as inappropriate a state-endorsed social studies curriculum for elementary schools. Newsom responded by announcing his administration would force the board to buy LGBT-themed textbooks anyway and would fine the district $1.5 million for its defiance. The Temecula school board president on Thursday criticized Newsom's "unilateral action" and said the board planned to vote Friday on "the right solution for our community" that "meets all state and federal mandates."

Earlier this month, Newsom denounced a protest by Glendale parents against their district’s Pride celebration plans. The governor accused the parents of an "organized campaign of hate" and violence.

At Thursday's Chino school board meeting, Thurmond spoke in defense of the state's guidance that schools should keep students' gender changes secret from parents.

"I ask you to consider this: that the policy you consider tonight may not only fall outside of privacy laws and safety for our students but may put our students at risk," Thurmond said before his mic was cut.

But Shaw said she was done listening to dictates from the state.

"I’m a soccer mom … a fitness trainer. I had no desire to ever be in this seat," she said following Thurmond’s exit from the meeting. "We trust the state. We trust the government. Well, we did until our eyes were opened and we were no longer able to because we noticed that we were sending our kids into danger."

Shaw added that Thurmond had not reached out to her in the four months since she introduced the policy he showed up to oppose. A California Education Department spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment about Shaw's claim.

Thurmond later said on Twitter that he had been "thrown out of a board meeting by extremists." He also expressed support for pending legislation to fine school districts that fail to provide enough LGBT materials for students.

Earlier Thursday, California attorney general Rob Bonta sent the Chino school board a warning letter expressing "serious concern" with its proposed policy.

"As the California Department of Education has instructed, 'Disclosing that a student is transgender without the student’s permission may violate California’s antidiscrimination law by increasing the student’s vulnerability to harassment and may violate the student’s right to privacy,'" Bonta wrote.

Federal courts in California are considering some of the same questions at issue in Chino. Two California middle school teachers in April filed suit against their district's policy of hiding students gender transitions from parents, saying it violated their religious and speech rights. And two California mothers have sued their respective districts for violating their parental rights, saying that teachers secretly manipulated their daughters to believe they were boys.

Meanwhile, in the state legislature, Assemblywoman Mia Bonta, the attorney general's wife, last month proposed a bill to authorize school boards to boot members who object to the state’s "inclusive" education policies. Lawmakers were also considering a Democrat-backed bill to mandate LGBT training for middle and high school teachers. Transgender activist groups including the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the Trevor Project have been tapped to help develop the course materials.