FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL—A gay fifth grade teacher in Glendale, California, was placed on leave after complaining at a school board meeting that his school promotes transgenderism.
Ray Shelton, a 25-year veteran teacher, spoke at a recent meeting of the school board for the Glendale Unified School District wearing a T-shirt that read “Make Biology Great Again.”
Shelton, who teaches at Mark Keppel Elementary School, has been named the Glendale school district’s “Teacher of the Year” twice and earlier this year won the PTA’s Golden Oak Award.
In an exclusive interview, Shelton, who is gay, told The Daily Signal that his intent in speaking at the Glendale school board’s April 18 meeting was to speak what he called “basic, commonsense truths.”
Shelton told the board:
Two plus two equals four. The world is not flat. Boys have penises; girls have vaginas. Gender is binary and cannot be changed. Biology is not bigotry. Heterosexuality is not hate. Gender confusion and gender delusion are deep psychological disorders. No caring professional or loving parent would ever support the chemical poisoning or surgical mutilation of a child’s genitalia.
Transgender ideology is anti-gay, it is anti-woman, and it is anti-human. It wants to take away women’s sports, women’s rights, women’s achievements—it is misogyny writ large.
And I can also say this as a gay man, the gay people …
At this point, someone muted Shelton’s microphone and a board member informed the teacher that his time was up.
Applause broke out from the audience.
Glendale, a city located in the San Fernando Valley, is part of Los Angeles County. Its school system has 32 schools and 25,000 students, according to the district’s website.
A fellow teacher, Alicia Harris, filed a formal complaint against Shelton at 12:36 p.m. April 19, claiming that he was “showing off a swastika” during the school board meeting.
Shelton says during the board meeting he held up four “Progress Pride” flags arranged in a pattern to form a swastika. This, however, is a familiar meme on social media meant to criticize progressives by arguing that authoritarian measures to compel speech are fascist:
Shelton also alleges that Hagop Eulmessekian, Glendale’s director of student support services, assaulted him by ripping several “gay pride flags” out of his hand.
This incident is referenced in Harris’ complaint against Shelton to Kyle Bruich, the Glendale district’s human resources director, for holding up what she called a swastika at the April 18 school board meeting:
In a comment on social media praising a different speaker at the board meeting, teacher Taline Arsenian claimed that Shelton proved he is a Nazi by holding a banner mocking transgender activists as fascists:
The next day, April 19, Shelton was visited in his classroom at 8 a.m. by Principal Kristine Tonoli and a Glendale district administrator.
Shelton told The Daily Signal that he was given a letter informing him that he was being placed on paid leave pending investigation after “several complaints” were lodged against him.
But, the teacher said, all of the complaints provided to him by the Glendale district were made after he had been put on leave, not before, suggesting either that Glendale didn’t provide Shelton with earlier complaints or that Tonoli lied to Shelton. All of the emailed complaints provided to The Daily Signal originally were sent after the meeting at 8 a.m. April 19, according to time stamps.
After that classroom meeting April 19, Shelton was escorted to the edge of school property and told not to return unless accompanied by someone from the Human Resources Office.
When most public school districts place a teacher on leave, questions from students, parents, the community, and media typically are deflected with a response along these lines: “This teacher has been placed on leave pending an investigation; for the privacy of all parties, this is all we can say at this time.”
The Glendale district’s administration took a slightly different approach.
On April 20, Tonoli sent out an official email, via the district’s communication program Parent Square, accusing Shelton of “hate speech and hate symbols.”
Although initially claiming that she couldn’t divulge information in a “personnel matter,” the Keppel Elementary principal then tells parents and teachers that she was “saddened by our employee’s actions and assure you they do not represent the values of our Keppel and our Glendale Unified community.”
Tonoli, acting as a district representative, may have defamed Shelton and unwittingly admitted that the teacher’s suspension was both retaliatory and political—which would violate both California state law and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Shelton elaborated in a formal complaint against his principal, writing: “All of this before an investigation had even begun, as [Glendale administrators] confirmed at our April 25 meeting. How am I to get a fair hearing with Kristine Tonoli spreading slanderous lies about me?”
Shelton told The Daily Signal that he had received several death threats since these events, and has reported them to police.
Some parents recently criticized the Glendale Unified School District for promoting LGBTQ+ events in elementary schools, prompting dozens of parents to keep their children home from school.
Several emails obtained by The Daily Signal from Glendale administrators encourage staff to teach students that every person is naturally “queer” and “socialist.”
Parents also have alleged that the school district allows boys who claim to be transgender to share locker rooms with girls.
Karen Nelson, a Glendale High School parent, told The Daily Signal:
The school principal literally lied to me and told me there was no girl in the boys’ locker room with my son. My son spent almost an entire year disrobing with a girl in his locker room and he feels lied to and violated. Why do they bend over backward for gender dysphoric kids and completely ignore the basic rights of the rest of the kids?
Shelton is represented by attorney David Pivtorak, who argues that Glendale’s actions toward the fifth grade teacher were retaliatory and unconstitutional. His firm has demanded that Glendale rescind “any and all disciplinary action taken against Mr. Shelton and allow him to return to the classroom,” and issue a public apology.
A meeting of the Glendale school board scheduled for Wednesday night at 8 p.m. EDT received considerable attention after, as The Daily Signal reported, the radical extremist group Antifa and a Democrat congressional candidate urged so-called progressives to flood the meeting.
The reason? Concerned parents, labeled by Antifa as “hate groups,” expressed opposition to “Pride Day” events being held last Friday at an elementary school.
In emails, The Daily Signal asked Tonoli, Brown, and the Glendale school district to confirm or deny Shelton’s allegations and Harris’ email.
Glendale’s communications director, Kristine Nam, responded with an email Tuesday saying: “I will take a look and respond when I get a chance. Please be aware that we have a board meeting tonight so responses may be delayed until tomorrow.”
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