VUSD Superintendent accused of bigotry


Junior Aidan Moran said of his own thoughts on Creswell’s comments on LGBTQI+ youth: “Even though he said some things that I may not agree with, I have talked with Superintendent Creswell numerous times and have never felt as if he was discriminatory, in fact he was quite the opposite.” Photo by: Sam Hicks

Garrett Jaffe, Miles Bennett, and Sam Hicks

On Feb. 21 2016, the current Superintendent of the Ventura Unified School District, David Creswell, appeared at the Redeemer Baptist Church in Riverside California to deliver a sermon as a guest pastor. During his sermon, Creswell made comments that many consider insensitive, homophobic and transphobic.

On Aug. 1, 2017, Creswell accepted the position of superintendent, only recently, during the week of Nov. 12, 2018 did Creswell’s comments come to light.

In his sermon, Creswell recalls looking through a yearbook of an unspecified high school’s Senior Superlative Awards Section. Upon seeing the “Best Couple” page, which had two “cute girls embracing” he commented, “Oh boy. Here we go. Here’s our world.”

Creswell then flipped to the page titled “Most Changed” which featured a transgender girl holding up a picture of her from her freshman year before she had transitioned. After referring to the transgender girl as a “young man,” Cresswell stated, “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 normal, and not only do we embrace it, we’re now celebrating it.” He then scoffed and said, “That’s not my definition.”

In response to the sermon, VUSD School Board Trustee Mary Haffner called a special board meeting, in which, the agenda dictated that the board enter a closed session to discuss “Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release.” During this closed session, Cresswell popped out of his office and stated that he was “happy to meet with” those who had any questions about the event. Despite this statement, he refused to make any comment to The Foothill Dragon Press, Foothill High School’s student press.

A few days after Creswell began to receive backlash for his comments, he had a meeting with VHS chemistry teacher Karen Reynosa as well as VHS guidance counselor Teri Dath in order to discuss the contents of his sermon. About the meeting, Reynosa said this: “[Superintendent Creswell] asked Ms. Dath and I if we would come over to his house and just talk to him about what he had said in his sermon… He wanted to apologize… That’s how we started– him apologizing for what he said.” Reynosa also said that the meeting was “pretty emotional” and, to her, Creswell’s words seemed “warm” and “heartfelt.”

About her views on the controversy as a whole, Reynosa added that, since she came out as gay as an adult, she “doesn’t really know what it would feel like if [she] had been a [queer] student who heard [the sermon],” but she assumes that she “wouldn’t be very happy or feel safe at all [at school].”

Creswell sent a formal apology via email concerning the comments and examples he used in his sermon to Ventura Unified Staff, which has since been made public. In the email, Creswell states that “[he] deeply regret[s] using that example, and I want to publicly apologize for it. I am sorry for the words, the insensitivity, the pain and the hurt it is causing. I have asked the [Redeemer Baptist] church in Riverside to remove the recording from their website.” The recording has since been removed from both the church’s website and SoundCloud account.

Within his formal apology, Creswell addressed his own shifting beliefs and internal dilemmas, stating: “I have been wrestling and reflecting with what there is in me that allowed me to say those words or to think it was ok at the time. I am not a hater, a homophobe, or a person with a hidden agenda. In 30-plus years of school service, and specifically the last year and a half of service here in Ventura, no one will find any other words or actions that reflect a homophobic position, because there are none to find. I have been, and will remain, committed to the value of every human being, and to a safe and healthy place for every student and staff member in the school district. And yet in that two-minute clip I was not.”

Beyond his controversial remarks in regards to gay and transgender youth made in his sermon, Creswell, who the VC Star has said has “a passion for education, human rights,” also offered his own solution and opinion by saying in his sermon, “If it were up to me, it would say most changed at the top and there would be a picture of a nondescript senior boy or girl, and the caption beneath would say something like, “this student started the year a rebel, with an eternity guaranteed in hell, but right around first semester, Christ arrested this person’s very soul and changed their character and their nature so that they now have a life that’s more abundant and in fact, an eternity that’s guaranteed in the presence of God.’”

When asked what he thinks about Creswell’s comments, junior Robert Quinn responded, “As an atheist, I wholeheartedly disagree with what he is saying. I think religion has no place in our schooling system. If his beliefs [are reflected] in his job as superintendent, then he has no business as the superintendent, but if he keeps his beliefs to himself, then he is fine. If he apologizes legitimately then he should be able to keep his job, being as we have already been burning through superintendents. His right to his beliefs is not trumped by anyone else’s. After all, a government employee should be given freedom of speech.”