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Intolerance at the Top: Superintendent Churchill Exemplifies Religious & Viewpoint Discrimination

In preparation for the DEI Town Halls on May 23rd, CUSD reached out to community groups, including numerous churches, to invite them to provide their input on the DEI Plan. The Mission Church in Carlsbad held a meeting on Friday, May 19th, to discuss their position on the DEI Plan with their members. Part of that discussion included a talk by one of their church members who is an Assistant Principal at Carlsbad High School, who shared his and the church's concern about the youth mental health crisis, particularly in the trans-identifying youth of the LGBTQ community. The church's position is that issues related to sexuality and gender identity are inappropriate in a school setting and should instead be left to parents and families to teach and share at home in accordance with their own beliefs and values.

The Assistant Principal specifically stated: "We're going to come with a message and I want to equip you to say not only why on why we don't want certain things in our schools, but here are reasons from data and research that we can speak to. It's not because we're bigoted, it's not because we're afraid of trans people. It's not because any of that. We love them and we see the harmful impacts that this is having on our kids. I see it every day. In love, we cannot do this to our kids."

He then concluded by stating: "I hope as many members of the Mission Church, as many members of our local church community, as many members of North County show up to this meeting. Bring this information. Share it from a place of love. Share it from a place of concern for our kids. That people know - like I said - we're not afraid of gay people, we're not afraid of trans people. Like Dave said on Sunday - we want them here at our church. Every one of us has our own sins that we wrestle with. But from a point of public policy, from a point of what's happening in our schools - how can we continue to promote this?"

An anonymous group secretly recorded the meeting and published it online, claiming the comments were "anti-LGBTQ" and demanding that CUSD Superintendent Benjamin Churchill condemn the Assistant Principal. Sadly, the Superintendent caved to this pressure and issued an inflammatory public statement on the CUSD website where he "wholeheartedly disagreed with the comments made" and "condemned those comments as they are in conflict with the California Education Code and our Board's 2021 resolution in support of LGTBQ+ students and staff." The Superintendent's statement is shockingly problematic for many reasons. First, the inclusion of the emotionally charged language like "wholeheartedly" disagree and "condemn" are completely inappropriate for an official statement from the head of a public school district. Second, having an opinion about what is or is not appropriate to teach or discuss in public schools is not "in conflict with the California Education Code," and claiming otherwise is a clear violation of the Assistant Principal's First Amendment right of free speech and religious expression. Third, the Superintendent's comments deliberately misrepresented the Assistant Principal's comments. Expressing love and concern for the mental health of members of the LGBTQ+ community is clearly not "in conflict with" the Board's 2021 Resolution in support of the LGBTQ+ community, but in fact entirely consistent with it.

The Carlsbad Education Alliance issued an immediate public statement demanding that Superintendent Churchill retract and apologize for his bigoted remarks against the Assistant Principal's religious beliefs. That full statement is below. Since no apology ever appeared, it is clear that neither the Superintendent nor the Board of Trustees had any intention of apologizing, and we have now demanded that the Superintendent be fired.

If you want to know why we are so concerned with the DEI Plan, the incident above is a perfect example. Our own Superintendent has no intention of being "inclusive" of those with diverse views and prefers to misrepresent and condemn the comments of one of his own employees, in clear violation of the First Amendment.

As the Supreme Court just recently made clear in 2022, discrimination against those with religious beliefs - even on campus by employees at work - is unacceptable.

We've now heard multiple reports from CUSD Staff and students who felt pressured to wear buttons in support of the LGBTQ+ community and against the Assistant Principal. If you are a staff member, student or parent in CUSD, would you feel comfortable sharing your personal or religious views knowing the Superintendent will publicly condemn you if you do? Not only does this create a hostile work environment, but it essentially creates a "chilling effect" of suppressing the speech of anyone who the Superintendent disagrees with, creating a huge liability issue for CUSD.

There is no "diversity" or "equity" or "inclusion" here - just bigotry, bullying and exclusion by the leader of our school district. CUSD deserves better.

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