Well into the 21st century, American culture is about as polarized as it can be. When looking at minority issues, from heritage to sexuality, anything that one says at any time may now be cast as the whole of one’s entire personal and professional being. Enter Dave Creswell, Ventura Unified School District’s relatively new superintendent.
In the last week, a 2016 audio file surfaced of Creswell, an ordained minister, preaching about God’s consistency while reflecting on changing times during a sermon. He noted a yearbook with “Best Couple” picture of “cute girls embracing” as “Uh-oh. Here we go. Here’s our world.” Under the “Most Changed” title in the yearbook, a transgender student with a before picture. Creswell’s response: “This is the definition of most changed? This is the definition? There’s a growing sector of our culture, of our society, that says that’s good and that’s normal, and not only do they embrace it, we’re now celebrating it.” The audio file has since been removed from Soundcloud.
Ventura Unified School District board member Mary Haffner responded in a tweet: “The audio speaks for itself. I serve on a board of five.” (Haffner did not respond to the communication about the issue.)
But what does the audio/Creswell really say? Do words spoken at a sermon prior to coming to the district demonstrate that Creswell is not capable of being a good and reasonable leader? Has there been clear evidence that he has implemented discriminatory practices against LGBTI students and staff since coming to the district? Only one incident has come up in that regard that had little to do with Creswell — Foothill Technology High School was planning a PRIDE Week while parents argued that no other marginalized group gets a special week. The conflict, as reported in the VCStar, had nothing to do with any policies that Creswell had or was trying to enact. The Ventura Unified board is looking further into the matter.
Ideally, when it comes to focusing on equal treatment, acceptance for everyone and safe places, it is hoped that a superintendent wouldn’t have said such things at any point. But here we are. The issue at hand is, has Mr. Creswell been fair to all since his installation as superintendent? Has he further marginalized LGBTI students through an abuse of power? That remains to be seen but seems unlikely.
If Creswell’s words from 2016 are enough to have him removed, who will come to take his place? Will the Ventura Unified board find a person who will be above scrutiny of all things? Maybe this person may be purely PC for the LGBTI community, but what about other issues? Will the board be able to dig deeply enough to make sure that all a person has ever said is not offensive to all students, staff and parents too?
The board will do as it sees fit but we can only hope that Creswell will be allowed to continue in his position and will seek to better
understand the LGBTI community as individuals with personal struggles, though we have heard that he has already reached out to some in the LGBTI community.
In an email sent on Nov. 19 to the Ventura Unified School District staff, Creswell addressed the comments made in the sermon.
“I deeply regret using that example and I want to publicly apologize for it. I am sorry for the words, the insensitivity, and for the pain it is causing.”
The question is, will the LGBTI community accept his apology? We can only hope this effort will build bridges in a divided community set to protect the marginalized. But maybe through this serious lesson, we can be stronger and better together.