A Southern California school superintendent who came under fire for denouncing lesbian and transgender students has decided to resign amid an investigation.
Ventura Unified School District Superintendent David Creswell recently became the focus of controversy because of homophobic and transphobic remarks he made at the Redeemer Baptist Church in Riverside, California. in 2016. He made the remarks in a sermon he delivered when he was a church elder. Those statements were recorded, and although the church deleted its recording at Creswell’s request, the Foothill Dragon Press student newspaper preserved a copy and shared it with INTO.
On the tape, Creswell can be heard telling the congregation that when he saw a photo in a yearbook captioned, “Best Couple,” depicting what he said were two “cute girls embracing,” his reaction was, “Oh, boy. Here we go. Here’s our world.”
And he was even more upset when he saw the yearbook photo of a transgender girl — which Creswell referred to as “a young man fully dressed as a girl” — that was captioned “Most Changed.” “This is the definition of most changed? This is the definition?” Creswell said, according to the recording of the sermon. “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.”
More than 100 parents turned out at recent school board meetings, according to the Ventura County Star, and at separate gatherings organized by the Diversity Collective, an LGBTQ rights organization that pushed for Creswell’s ouster.
“We still live in a society where anti-LGBTQ bias and phobia is accepted,” said Joseph Summers, board president of the collective, via email. “If this was a race issue he would have been gone two Fridays ago.”
On November 19, Creswell publicly apologized for what he said in the 2016 sermon, in a letter to the staff of the Ventura Public School District.
“I deeply regret using that example and I want to publicly apologize for it,” wrote Creswell in the apology letter, which was posted on the VUSD website. “I am sorry for the words, the insensitivity, and for the pain and hurt that it is causing…I have been wrestling and reflecting with what there is in me that allowed me to say those words or to think that it was ok at the time. I am not a hater, a homophobe, or a person with a hidden agenda.”
Soon after classes ended for the day Friday, Creswell sent staff at the Ventura Unified School District an email announcing his decision to leave rather than face a reprimand, suspension, or termination.
“I will be working with the school board on an exit plan that will include my resignation. I am proud of everything that I have said and done here in VUSD [Ventura Unified School District],” wrote Creswell in a confidential email obtained by INTO.
Creswell did not respond to a request for comment, but his resignation was confirmed by district spokesperson Tim Gallagher, who said a previously-scheduled meeting to decide Creswell’s fate had been canceled in light of the resignation. No date has been set for him to leave. Gallagher told INTO he felt that the superintendent had “evolved.”
“I think Dave Creswell is an example of a person who has evolved into something far more enlightened than he was two or three years ago when he gave that sermon,” Gallagher said by phone.
Summers said that while he was surprised at Creswell’s resignation, he was not celebrating it. The Diversity Collective would now push for greater awareness of the problems that this controversy brought to light in the Ventura County school district.
“Moving forward, we offer our support to VUSD with LGBTQ cultural competency training,” Summers told INTO in an email. “We need a plan to ensure healing occurs district-wide and all of our LGBTQ youth and students feel safe and validated. Nothing about us without us.”
The next step, he said, will be a youth-led roundtable Friday evening to learn “what our youth want to see moving forward.”