As a school board member in Southern California, Democratic congressional hopeful Jay Chen voted to reject a damages claim from a high school student who was sodomized with a pole as part of a horrific hazing ritual.
Chen—who is now running for Congress in California's 45th Congressional District—sat on the Hacienda La Puente school board during a high-profile hazing incident in 2011, which saw older members of a boys' high school soccer team in the district sexually assault and sodomize their younger teammates with a sharp, javelin-like pole. In October 2012, one victim filed a claim for at least $25,000 against the district, alleging that Chen and other top officials failed to protect him. Chen led a motion to reject the claim in November 2012, board meeting minutes show.
The victim later detailed the brutal attack in a lawsuit against Chen's district, which cited the initial damages claim. "Plaintiff and other varsity soccer players were victimized after being lured to the backroom … where athletic equipment was stored," the suit stated. "Before the assault, the victim is asked whether he wants it 'the easy way' or 'the hard way.' The easy way meant that the victim would bend down and accept the sexual assault without resistance—while the hard way meant, upon resistance by the victim, he will be physically attacked by those present and forcefully have a foreign object inserted into his anus."
Chen was explicitly mentioned in the lawsuit, which alleged that Chen knew or should have known of the "sexually abusive actions" and that the district "failed to protect" the victims. Chen's district settled the suit just days before its scheduled trial date in March 2016. The attacks also led to felony assault convictions against three juveniles.
Years after the ordeal, Chen is mounting a high-profile bid to unseat freshman Rep. Michelle Steel (R.). That race has seen Chen lean heavily on his academic background—his campaign site touts his role as a "school board member" and says he "dedicated himself to public service and education" to "ensure all students have a chance to thrive and succeed." But Chen's school board tenure may very well be his weak point as a candidate.
Beyond his 2012 vote against the sodomy victim, Chen in 2010 spearheaded an effort to bring the Confucius Classroom program—which China's Ministry of Education, an arm of the Chinese Communist Party, funds and runs—into his district's K-12 classrooms. The program would have brought CCP-backed teachers and curriculum materials into Chen's Southern California community. After local parents pushed back, Chen's district rejected the teachers but accepted program textbooks from China, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. Chen did not understand the outrage, telling the Daily News he didn't "see anything sinister about using books from China" given "practically everything we use is made in China."
Chen's embrace of the program prompted criticism from Steel, whose campaign in February highlighted the Democrat's support for "CCP-sponsored schools." Chen responded by accusing Steel—one of the first Korean-American women to serve in Congress—of engaging in "anti-Asian racism." Just months later, Chen mocked the Republican's accent during a campaign event.
"She just had another town hall the other day. And it's tough. Like, we've transcribed it," Chen said. "You kind of need an interpreter to figure out exactly what she's saying."
In addition to his school board tenure, Chen touts his role as a Mt. San Antonio Community College trustee. Chen became president of the school's board in 2015, and over the next four years, the Democrat thrice voted to raise nonresident tuition, the Free Beacon reported in June. Now, Chen calls student loan debt "one of the biggest crises faced by our country" as tuition costs "skyrocket."
Chen first ran for Congress in 2012, losing to former Republican congressman Ed Royce by 15 points. He will face Steel in November after winning 43 percent of the vote in California's June primaries. Chen has raised $4.1 million to Steel's $6.3 million as of Sept. 30.