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Sun, Apr

Glendale Voters Reject Anti-LGBTQ+ Rhetoric in School Board Election

LGBTQ

ELECTION 2024 - In Glendale, inclusion and public education emerged victorious from ballot-counting after March 5 voting. A pair of candidates who participated in recent conspiracy-fueled anti-LGBTQ+ protests lost their bids for open seats on the Glendale School Board to outspoken allies of human rights and public schools.  

Glendale is a city of 200,000 residents with the highest percentage of immigrants of any city in California, about 50 percent. The March 5 election posed a challenge to the embrace of diversity championed by Glendale’s award-winning schools and to the stability of the school board. 

The board’s two most recent chairpeople, current president Jennifer Freemon and former president Nayiri Nahabedian, announced in 2023 that they would not seek re-election to their seats on the five-member board. Freemon, first elected in 2015, represents Area A in the north part of the city, which includes Montrose and La Crescenta. Nahabedian, first elected in 2007, served four terms on the board; she represents area E in the southwest part of the city, which includes downtown. 

In both open seats, candidates stepped up to run who falsely accused Glendale schools of encouraging sexual abuse of children, took aim at transgender students, and instigated demonstrations inside and outside board meetings that included some extremists with records of harassment, violence, and intimidation.  

Aneta Krpekyan, a parent and romance novelist who fought public-health precautions at schools during COVID and attacked “harmful ideologies” that respect student diversity, launched a campaign for the Area E seat. She squared off against public-school advocate and parent of a recent graduate Neda Farid, who ran with the backing of the teachers union and local Democratic clubs, including East Area Progressive Democrats (EAPD).  

Glendale has only one citywide election each cycle. There is no runoff. So the top vote-getter on March 5 prevails. 

In Area A, the local ringleader of the anti-LGBTQ+ protests, Jordan Henry, announced his candidacy. Henry partnered with activists who displayed Nazi symbolism, promoters of the January 6 insurrection, and members of the Proud Boys at loud protests at Glendale school board meetings starting in 2021.  

Henry has no kids in Glendale schools. He lost a campaign for city council in 2022, drawing money through conduits from outside Glendale that sparked an ethics complaint. Following his loss, Henry sharpened his attacks on Glendale public schools and the system’s teachers, administrators, and students over false allegations of “gender ideology” and indoctrination.  

In June 2023, Henry garnered national headlines by sparking a near-riot outside a Glendale School Board meeting at which members voted unanimously to recognize LGBTQ+ Pride Month. In August 2023, Henry disrupted a board meeting at which messages of thanks from dozens of residents were presented to each of the five board members, countering the rancorous testimony and insults aimed at them during public comments by Henry and others.  

Competing against Henry in Area A, parent and special-education teacher, labor activist, and youth soccer coach Telly Tse rooted his campaign in a message of experience, trustworthiness, and compassion. Like Farid in Area E, his campaign galvanized a broad coalition of support that included Armenian American leaders, several unions, and local Democratic clubs. 

 

Telly Tse is a special education teacher with a long history of mentorship in his field. He ran for Glendale School Board in Area A.


Candidate Telly Tse, father of two in Glendale public schools, coached youth soccer for several years, including kids from every school in his area. 

In the end, Tse prevailed handily with the voters in Area A, earning 57 percent of the vote; he defeated Henry, at 35 percent, by more than 2,500 votes. In Area E, Farid won decisively but narrowly with 52 percent of votes, besting Krpekyan by just under 200 votes.  

The two victories, by incoming board members who themselves exemplify Glendale’s diversity, help ensure the city’s widely lauded public schools stay on course to serve the most pluralistic student body in California. The false attacks on educators and sometimes hateful rants against inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in history, arts, and health curricula and in athletics will not gain a foothold on the board. 

 


Neda Farid, parent of a recent public-school graduate, ran for Glendale School Board in Area E. 

One lesson of the Glendale victories is that fact-checking through direct email, text-message, and door-knocking communication with voters makes a difference. Mainstream news coverage wrongly but frequently repeated right-wing talking points and took the accusations by foes of public schools at face value. In a welcome upshot for local advocates of public education, efforts to counter the false attacks on school personnel, students, and programs succeeded in cutting through the delusion-filled assertions and inflammatory rhetoric. Local outlets of fact-based news, including CityWatch, play a crucial role in fighting distortions and outright falsehoods and in keeping residents informed. 

 

The school board results in Glendale are a victory for public schools, the foremost laboratory for skills of critical thinking and collaboration in a diverse society and the foundation of honest governance, accountability, and local democracy. They are also a win against disinformation and for respect for diversity that hold value for this election year and beyond.  

(Hans Johnson is a longtime leader for LGBTQ+ human rights, environmental justice, and public education. His columns appear in national news outlets including USA Today and in top daily news outlets of more than 20 states. A resident of Eagle Rock, he is also president of East Area Progressive Democrats (EAPD), the largest grassroots Democratic club in California, with more than 1,100 members.)