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Orange County DA warns “extremely dangerous & violent criminal” is loose

He is considered to be “extremely dangerous and violent- If you see him, you are urged not to approach him and to call 911 immediately



Ike Souzer mugshot via Orange County District Attorney’s Office

SANTA ANA, Calif. – The Orange County District Attorney’s Office is warning the public about an extremely dangerous and violent criminal who is now at large after being released on electronic monitoring to a Santa Ana halfway house from the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange.

18-year-old Ike Souzer was convicted of voluntary manslaughter after he stabbed his mother, Barbara Scheuer-Souzer, 47, in Garden Grove on May 4, 2017 when he was 13.

In addition to other charges, he was convicted in December of attacking three correctional officers and was ordered to wear an electronic monitor for the remainder of his sentence which was set to expire on July 9, 2023.

KTLA reported that before she died, Scheuer-Souzer who had been stabbed multiple times in the stomach, had identified her son as the attacker.

He is considered to be “extremely dangerous and violent,” the D.A.’s office said. If you see him, you are urged not to approach him and to call 911 immediately.


Orange County

Anaheim neighbors show solidarity after Pride flag vandalism

The man walks over to the Pride flag- he pulls out a knife and slashes through the flag, then rips the flag and pole down



Screenshot/KABC 7 Eyewitness News

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Neighbors in the Colony Park neighborhood of Anaheim are raising LGBTQ+ Pride flags on their homes in a show of solidarity and allyship after a same-sex couple’s Pride Flag was torn off their house and slashed.

KABC 7 reported that Jake Nolan and his partner Jon had just put the flag up a few days ago. When they say it on the ground at first they thought perhaps the wind had torn it down.

But when they looked at their doorbell camera they saw something much more disturbing.

In the video, two men are walking along Water Street this past Saturday around 2 a.m. when one of them walks over to the Pride flag in front of the couple’s home. He pulls out a knife and slashes through the flag, then rips the flag and pole down.

In an interview with KABC 7 reporter Leanne Suter, describing the incident documented in the doorbell cam: “They used the f word – the slang term – and said not in my hood, not in my neighborhood,” Jake said. “We’ve lived here for years. There are other same-sex couples who have been here for decades. It’s like, no, this is our neighborhood.”


NBC News reported that over twenty acts of hate against LGBTQ+ Pride have occurred so far this month nationwide.


During Pride month every June, Stonewall National Monument volunteers put up 250 LGBTQ+ Pride Flags on the Black iron decorative picket fence that rings the Christopher Street park.

This year, according to a statement from an New York Police Department spokesperson, 160 of the flags were torn down and damaged between Thursday evening and Friday morning. The NYPD said that no arrests have been made and that the vandals climbed over the Black iron decorative picket fence that rings the Christopher Street park to gain access to the monument.

This is the second year in a row for an vandalism incident on the Stonewall National Monument. In 2023, Park volunteers found at least 70 of those flags torn down and damaged in what the New York Police Department‘s Hate Crimes Task Force investigated as a hate crime and later arrested three men.

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Orange County

SoCal surf contest warned it must allow trans surfer to compete

“Surf contests in state waters must be carried out in a lawful manner that does not discriminate based on gender”



Australian trans surfer Sasha Jane Lowerson freestyling in the waters off Perth, Western Australia in 2022. (Facebook photo by Perth based Social Worker, Ecotherapist, Personal Trainer and freediving underwater photographer Sharon Morris)

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. – The California Coastal Commission sent a letter warning the American Longboard Association that its ban on Australian trans surfer Sasha Jane Lowerson participating this Saturday in the Huntington Beach Longboard Pro competition, was a violation of state law.

California Coastal Commission spokesman Joshua Smith said: “Surf contests in state waters must be carried out in a lawful manner that does not discriminate based on gender,” as first reported on by the BBC’s Los Angeles bureau.

“Prohibiting, or unfairly limiting, transgender athletes from competing in this or any surf competition that takes place in the coastal waters of California does not meet the requirements of the public access policies of the Coastal Act.”

In its letter Coastal Commission warned that local sporting events that do not allow transgender women to compete in female divisions could be shut down. The agency stated that a ban on transgender women from competing “is not consistent with the public access, recreation and environmental justice policies of the Coastal Act,” the BBC reported.

Todd Messick, a Huntington Beach resident and owner of Art in Motion Designs, a local surfboard manufacturer, and a spokesperson for the American Longboard Association had announced on April 25 that the two-day Huntington Beach Longboard Pro contest would not allow transgender women to compete in the women’s division, saying he wanted to “offer an equal playing field for all athletes.”

Messick told the BBC’s Emma Vardy he was “surprised by the amount of anger” that the decision generated, but added: “What I found too is that there was a lot of people very appreciative of me speaking up.”

“For me, I was trying to do the right thing. It wasn’t something I ever expected to have to deal with really, not in our little longboard community,” he said.

The BBC also reported:

Lowerson – an Australian who previously won men’s events in her home country – said she had encountered mostly positive attitudes in the world of competitive surfing when she began living as a woman.

“Three years ago I had just started my transition, and I made a phone call to Surfing Australia,” she said. “I was really well-received. They were very forthcoming on being inclusive and being progressive.”

In 2023 the World Surf League (WSL), announced a new policy on trans participation, which allows trans women competitors to compete in women’s events if they maintain a testosterone level below a certain limit for at least 12 based on a policy created by the International Surfing Association, the governing body of professional surfing.

PinkNewsUK reported that earlier this year, Lowerson was featured as part of a Rip Curl campaign, which resulting in a backlash on social media. Professional surfer Bethany Hamilton joined in the criticism alongside former college swimmer Riley Gaines, and Lowerson’s photos were removed from the surfing sportswear manufacturer’s social media platforms.

In the world of sports there has not been a uniform consensus in dealing with participation by trans athletes.

The international governing body for swimming, World Aquatics, has effectively banned trans women from competing in top female swimming events.

World cycling’s governing body, the UCI, has similarly ruled that trans women athletes will be prevented from competing in international women’s events.

A new ground-breaking study, partly funded by the International Olympic Committee, found that transgender athletes could actually be disadvantaged in some competitive sports, contrary to claims by transphobic pundits, politicians and right-wing media.

Scientists found significant differences between trans women and male athletes who were not transgender, aka cisgender men, and noted how similar they were to cis women. 

“These differences underscore the inadequacy of using cisgender male athletes as proxies for transgender women athletes,” said the researchers. 

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Orange County

Hate crime trial in murder of gay student starts in Orange County

Samuel Lincoln Woodward of Newport Beach is charged with murder, with enhancements for use of a deadly weapon and for hate crime



Samuel Lincoln Woodward of Newport Beach, charged in the stabbing death of a gay & Jewish university student, 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein, is shown here in a March, 2024 hearing wearing a white shirt & shackled. (Screenshot/YouTube KABC 7)

SANTA ANA, Calif. – Nearly seven years after 19-year-old University of Pennsylvania student Blaze Bernstein was found stabbed to death at Borrego Park in Lake Forest, California, a former schoolmate charged with his murder was to stand trial today in Orange County Superior Court after years of delays.

Samuel Lincoln Woodward of Newport Beach is charged with murder, with enhancements for use of a deadly weapon and for hate crime, which could put him in prison for life without parole.

Bernstein, who was home on the Christmas holiday break, had disappeared on Jan. 2. In court filings, Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walker said that he went out without his parents knowing and after he did not respond to text messages or calls regarding a missed dental appointment they returned home discovering that Bernstein’s wallet, glasses, credit cards and cash were in his bedroom with his car still in the driveway.

University of Pennsylvania student Blaze Bernstein with his parents Jeanne Pepper and Gideon Bernstein in this undated family photo.

A massive search was launched to find him and after developing information from social media accounts that led investigators to Woodward who had admitted meeting up with Bernstein and later allegedly “dropping” the young man off at Borrego Park, Bernstein’s body with 19 stab wounds was found on Jan. 9, 2018, in a shallow grave during a search of that park.

When Orange County investigators first went to meet with him, Woodward was apparently cooperative, telling them and Blaze’s parents “that he and Blaze went to Borrego Park to hang out. According to Woodward, after awhile Blaze walked down a path alone and disappeared into the brush.” 

According to a search warrant affidavit, which the Orange County Register obtained before it was sealed, Woodward claimed that Bernstein tried to kiss him on the lips and he pushed Bernstein away. Detectives noted that Woodward clenched his jaw and fists when recounting the incident, telling them he wanted to call Bernstein a “faggot” and tell him to get off him.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas subsequently added a hate crime charge to the one count of felony murder with sentencing enhancement for “personal use of a knife.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that on Woodward’s phone, investigators found “a trove of anti-gay, anti-Jewish material linked to the Atomwaffen Division, a white supremacist hate group.” In addition to the physical evidence — investigators say Bernstein’s blood was found in Woodward’s car and on a knife at Woodward’s Newport Beach home — the alleged motivation elevates a murder to a possible hate crime, the Times also noted.

Sam Woodward was … absolutely, definitely … a member of Atomwaffen Division,” British journalist and CBS News consultant Jake Hanrahan told “48 Hours.” “They made T-shirts using Sam Woodward’s mug shot.”

Woodward’s Atomwaffen friends “call him the gay, the one-man gay, Jew wrecking ball. You know, like kind of reveling in this idea that he’s killed this gay, Jewish kid,” Hanrahan said.

Media outlets covering the trial reported Tuesday that Woodward’s trial is expected to take a few months. Jury selection took weeks and had to re-start after a disturbance in the courtroom involving Woodward and the judge last month. The attorneys had 1,100 people fill out juror questionnaires as they worked to narrow down the large pool of prospective panelists.

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Orange County

Voters recall anti-LGBTQ+ Orange County school board members

Rick Ledesma and Madison Miner pushed ban on Pride flags, shut down the digital library, and forced outing of trans students



Members of the Orange Unified School District School Board Recall group viewing election results. (Screenshot/OUSD School Board Recall)

By Rob Salerno | SANTA ANA, Calif. – Unofficial results of from Tuesday’s election in Orange County suggest that voters successfully recalled two Orange County Unified School Board members who had pushed several anti-LGBTQ+ policies. As of Thursday afternoon, results showed both recall efforts leading by 53% to 47%.

Supporters of the recall effort expressed cautious optimism over the vote on their social media, noting that there are still mail-in ballots coming in that have to be counted. The register of voters has until April 2 to certify results. 

“While initial results look good, the ROV is still counting ballots. The numbers will continue to change over the next few days,” OUSD Recall posted on Threads.

If the recall is successful, an election for their replacements will likely be held in November, along with the general election. 

The campaign to oust Ledesma and Miner began last year, after the board fired the board superintendent and placed the deputy superintendent on paid administrative leave, both with no notice. 

Ledesma and Miner then led the conservative majority on the board through a series of culture war battles, including banning Pride flags at Orange County schools, shutting down a digital library that students depended on over concerns about LGBTQ+ content, and a policy requiring schools to get parental permission before using a student’s chosen name or pronoun.

The pronoun policy was put into place at a board meeting described as “toxic” by trustees who were forced to leave the meeting for their own safety, after it was swarmed with anti-LGBTQ+ extremists who recall campaigners say were invited to the meeting by Miner.

Ledesma and Miner call themselves parents’ rights advocates and led the board to adopt a “parents bill of rights” at the June 2023 board meeting. The policy allows parents access to all instructional materials, curriculums, and books, and allows parents to opt their children out of sex education. 

At the June meeting, board member Kris Erickson dismissed the policy as “political theatre,” noting that parents already enjoyed those rights in the district.  

Critics have noted that the “parents’ rights” movement has long been a smokescreen for anti-LGBTQ+ policies, and ignores the rights of LGBTQ+ students and parents. 


Even without Ledesma and Miner, the seven-member Orange County Unified Board is likely to maintain a conservative lean. Ledesma has been a trustee with the board for 24 years, while Miner is serving her first term. Both were elected as part of a “parents’ rights” slate in November 2022; two other members of that slate were defeated in that election. 

Voters in neighboring Temecula Valley Unified School District will hold a recall election June 4, targeting board member Joseph Komrosky, who led a costly fight with the state over an elementary social studies curriculum, in part because he opposed inclusion of Harvey Milk and other LGBTQ topics. The state eventually fined the Temecula Valley board more than $3 million after taking action to force the board to accept the curriculum.

Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, released the following statement from Executive Director Tony Hoang following the successful recall elections of anti-LGBTQ+ school board members Rick Ledesma and Madison Miner of the Orange Unified School District, and Emily MacDonald of the Woodland Unified School District:

“LGBTQ+ youth have been increasingly under attack over the past year by extremists like Rick Ledesma, Madison Miner, and Emily MacDonald seeking to advance hateful agendas and put their wellbeing and health at risk. Anyone who seeks to single out and attack LGBTQ+ youth does not deserve to serve in public office. We are pleased to see the political careers of Ledesma, Miner, and MacDonald come to an appropriate end. The board members in Orange Unified sought to censor LGBTQ+ inclusive books and curriculum and discriminate against special needs and LGBTQ+ students.

In Woodland Unified, Ms. MacDonald not only opposed a resolution affirming support for all students during Pride month, she called transgender people a ‘social contagion’ in her bigoted public remarks. Parents and teachers in these districts organized to force a recall, and we are thrilled to see their efforts yield these results.

The actions of extremist board members that create hostile and unwelcoming learning environments have all-too serious — and sometimes deadly — consequences, as evidenced by the recent death of Nex Benedict in Oklahoma. Parents, students, teachers, and allies in districts across the nation are rising up to demand more from those who represent them. Equality California will continue to stand against all efforts to discriminate against LGBTQ+ youth, which includes working to vote out lawmakers at all levels of government who would seek to cause them harm.”  


Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.

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Orange County

Huntington Beach voters pass ballot measure to ban Pride Flags

Measure B is believed to be the first time voters have directly considered what kind of flags are flown in a city in the state of California



The city first hoisted the Pride flag on May 22, 2021 (Photo Credit: City of Huntington Beach)

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. – A ballot measure was passed voters in Tuesday’s elections enshrines into the city charter an ordinance that would only allow the American flag, California state flag and the city of Huntington Beach flag to be flown or displayed on city property passed by the city council in February of last year.

According to the latest tally provided by the Orange County Registrar of Voters, Measure B was passed by 58 percent of the voters.

The measure prohibits the display of Pride, breast cancer awareness and religious flags, although it exempts city, county and state flags, as well as the U.S. and armed forces flags from the ban.

Measure B is believed to be the first time voters have directly considered what kind of flags are flown in a city in the state of California. The 2023 city ordinance had been proposed by Republican Councilmember Pat Burns, a former Long Beach Police Department Lieutenant, who had told media outlets at the time of its passage by the council: “Special flags or recognition flags of some sort that aren’t governmental or representative of the community, as one, I don’t believe has a space on our government flag poles,” he said.


Although he did not specifically call out the Pride flag, Burns stated in a staff report explaining his reasoning for the request. “The City of Huntington Beach should avoid actions that could easily or mistakenly be perceived as divisive. [We] are one community with many different cultures and people. All are equally valued members of our community, and none are to be treated differently or discriminated against.”

 “People have asked if we can fly other flags, whatever they may be, and I don’t believe that we should fly any other flags but equal flags that represent us all,” Burns added.

After the results of Tuesday’s passage of Measure B, Huntington Beach City Council Member Rhonda Bolton who had opposed the measure criticized the outcome.

“It sets a tone,” said Bolton. “If people think it’s OK or it becomes normalized to display bigotry towards a particular group, then folks are going to crawl out of their rock and do bad stuff.”

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Orange County

Guilty plea for defacing mural with white supremacist graffiti

Daniel Hotte pleaded guilty to a court offer of one felony count of vandalism exceeding $400 and the hate crime enhancement



Alicia Rojas in front of her defaced “Poderosas” mural October 2022 (Photo courtesy of Alicia Rojas)

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A 28-year-old man pleaded guilty today to felony vandalism and a felony hate crime enhancement for spray painting white supremacy graffiti over a mural in Costa Mesa that recognizes prestigious Latinas from Orange County.

Daniel Hotte pleaded guilty to a court offer of one felony count of vandalism exceeding $400 and the hate crime enhancement. He was immediately sentenced to 180 days in county jail, placed on formal probation for two years and received 90 days of credit for completing a 90-day drug treatment program.


On Oct. 31, 2022, Hotte was seen by several witnesses scratching out several names on the Las Poderosas mural, a public mural created in 2020 to honor eight poderosas – or strong women. He also spray painted “white power” and “PEN1 737,” a reference to Public Enemy Number 1, a documented white supremacist gang.

“Defacing a mural in the name of hate that honors Latina women who have played prominent roles in Orange County is despicable and deplorable,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. “This was a cowardly act and incidents like this remind us that any attempts to divide our diverse communities will not be tolerated.”

At the time of Hotte’s arrest last October, Costa Mesa Mayor John Stephens said:

“Costa Mesa is a great city known for its inclusivity. We celebrate our diversity and are proud of our various backgrounds. This type of crime flies in the face of what we have achieved as a multi-cultural community. I’m grateful for the witnesses who came forward to help identify him and thankful the police stayed on the case and captured the suspect.”

“I represent a community rich in culture,” said Councilmember Loren Gameros. “This suspect came from another city into Costa Mesa to commit this crime and hurt the identity of some of our neighbors. That is unacceptable and now he will have to face justice.”

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Orange County

Huntington Beach City Council restricts LGBTQ+ & other books

The groups pointed out beyond the books with LGBTQ+ themes, the ordinance would impose an “unconstitutional censorship regime



Huntington Beach City Council Meeting - October 17, 2023 (Screenshot/YouTube)

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. – After a contentious round of public comments, on Tuesday, October 17, the Huntington Beach City Council approved Resolution No. 2023-41, an ordinance that restricts minor’s access to books containing sexual content in the city’s library system.

The First Amendment Coalition, ACLU Foundation of Southern California, and the Freedom to Read Foundation sent a letter to the Huntington Beach City Council that urged it to reject Resolution No. 2023-41, which would prohibit any city library from allowing access to “any content of a sexual nature” for anyone under 18 years of age without consent of a parent or guardian, regardless of “whether the books or materials are intended for children or adults.

The groups pointed out beyond the books with LGBTQ+ themes, the ordinance would impose an “unconstitutional censorship regime on the people’s right to access library books and materials protected by the First Amendment,” noting that everything from seminal works of literature such as “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Great Gatsby,” “1984,” and “Beloved,” to textbooks such as “Introduction to Plant Reproduction,” to the Bible, would be covered by the resolution’s overbroad definition of “content of a sexual nature.”

The resolution would also establish a “community parent/guardian review board” that would have veto power over the city library’s acquisition of new children’s books “containing any sexual writing, sexual references, sexual images and/or other sexual content.” Such a ban on the acquisition of new material would be based solely on undefined “community standards.”   

“Parents and children have the right to decide for themselves what library books to read,” said David Loy, Legal Director for the First Amendment Coalition. “The government does not belong in the censorship business.” 

KABC 7 reported when Councilwoman Gracey Van Der Mark proposed a change in library policy in June, she read passages from several books for young readers that she claimed were recommended by the state and were in the city library’s children’s section. One of the books she cited was “Gender Queer.”

“I do believe parents have a right to know” about what books are available to check out at the library, she said.

“What I am asking is we look into different ways to protect kids,” she said. “If you want this for your kids go for it… but a lot of parents don’t know this material is in the books.”

Van Der Mark suggested placing “a sticker on books to let parents know it is especially graphic.”

During the public comments section many of the speakers opposed to the ordinance eviscerated Van Der Mark and the other councilmembers supporting her. They pointed out that actions like this are akin to homophobic book bans, and are comparative to the actions taken in the 1930’s by the Nazi Party.

Huntington Beach City Council Meeting – October 17, 2023:

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Orange County

KTLA: Anti-Semitic hate flyers discovered in the City of Orange

Levi believes it’s not a coincidence the flyers appeared on residents’ vehicles just days after the terrorist attacks in Israel



Anti-Semitic flyers were discovered in the City of Orange Tuesday morning. (Screenshot/YouTube KTLA 5)

ORANGE, Calif. – (KTLA) Anti-Semitic flyers were discovered in a community in the city of Orange on Tuesday as the deadly attacks in Israel continued.

KTLA’s Chip Yost reported that some of the flyers could still be seen on cars parked near Harwood Street and Chapman Avenue. The flyer features a headline saying, “Jews wage war on American freedoms!” while taking aim at the Anti-Defamation League, an anti-hate organization fighting anti-Semitism. The flyer then encourages the public to join a local nationalist group.

“It’s very disturbing,” said Kari Ratkevich, an Orange resident told KTLA. “Someone is placing propaganda like this on our cars. It doesn’t belong here and it doesn’t belong in America.”

“It’s clearly hate speech,” Peter Levi, Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League in Orange County and the city of Long Beach told KTLA. “It subscribes to numerous anti-Semitic tropes about the Jewish people’s power and control over media, finance, government, the criminal justice system, American policy.”

Levi believes it’s not a coincidence the flyers appeared on residents’ vehicles just days after the terrorist attacks in Israel. 

“When we see increased activity in Israel, we see increased anti-Semitism against the Jewish people here in the United States,” Levi explained.

Anti-Semitic flyers appear across Orange County community:

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Orange County

Proposed Huntington Beach voter ID requirement violates state law

The city is also considering amending its charter to require that city officials “monitor ballot drop boxes located within the city



California Secretary of State Shirley Weber. (Photo Credit: Office of the Secretary of State)

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta and California Secretary of State Shirley Weber today sent a letter to the City of Huntington Beach warning that the city’s proposal to require voter identification (voter ID) at the polls in municipal elections directly conflicts with state law and is preempted.

On October 5, 2023, the City Council is set to decide whether to put this proposal before the voters in March of 2024. In the letter, Attorney General Bonta and Secretary of State Weber urge the city to drop the proposal and express grave concerns that it would only serve to suppress voter participation without providing any discernible local benefit.   

“The right to freely cast your vote is the foundation of our democracy,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “State elections law are in place to ensure the fundamental right to vote without imposing unnecessary obstacles that can reduce voter participation or disproportionately burden low-income voters, racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly, or people with disabilities. Huntington Beach’s proposed amendment violates state law and would impose additional barriers to voting. If the city moves forward and places it on the ballot, we stand ready to take appropriate action to ensure that voters’ rights are protected.”

“We cannot turn back the clock on voting rights,” said California Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber, Ph.D. “Voter ID requirements at the polls have historically been used to turn eligible voters away from exercising the franchise, especially low-income voters and voters of color. Not only is the action unlawful, it is also unnecessary because California already has guardrails in place for establishing both eligibility of each voter and for confirming their identity when returning their ballot.”

In the letter, the Attorney General and Secretary of State explain that, under state law, people registering to vote must provide identifying information under penalty of perjury, and county and state elections officials are responsible for validating that information.

Those who register to vote knowing that they are ineligible to do so are subject to criminal penalties. At the polls, voters are only required to provide their name and address; no further identification is required.

A person’s eligibility to vote can only be challenged by election workers on narrow grounds, and only where there is probable cause to make a challenge.  In this way, state law guards the ballot box against ineligible and/or fraudulent voters while at the same time simplifying and facilitating the process of voting so as to avoid suppressing turnout and disenfranchising qualified voters.

It also makes clear that the job of local elections officials is to supervise voting at the polls, not to take over voter-eligibility functions performed by the county registrar and the Secretary of State.  

In violation of this legal framework, Huntington Beach’s voter ID proposal would place the burden on the voter to establish their identity and right to vote with some form of identification at the time they cast their ballot.

By requiring additional documentation to establish a voter’s identity and eligibility to vote at the time of voting, Huntington Beach’s proposal conflicts with state law and may constitute “mass, indiscriminate, and groundless challenging of voters,” in violation of Elections Code section 18543. The Attorney General and the Secretary of State also point out that the city has not identified any basis for its voter ID proposal, much less a basis supported by uniquely local concerns. 

The city is also considering amending its charter to require that city officials “monitor ballot drop boxes located within the city”. The Attorney General and the Secretary explain in their letter that state law already provides for video monitoring of ballot drop boxes by county elections officials.

The Elections Code also prohibits anyone, with the intent of dissuading another person from voting, from video recording a voter within 100 feet of a polling place or other outdoor site at which a voter may cast a drop off ballot.

At present, no details about how the city’s proposal would be implemented have been made available, and thus it is unclear whether or how the proposal might conflict with state law. The Attorney General and Secretary of State explain that, if the city moves forward with this proposed charter amendment, they stand ready act to ensure it is not implemented in a way that interferes with the right to vote or otherwise conflicts with state law. 

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OUSD school board passes anti-trans policy after toxic meeting

The majority of the speakers were proponents of the policy some who identified themselves as residents of other jurisdictions



Riverside Republican Assemblymember Bill Essayli speaks to Orange Unified school board trustees during public comments. He was one of the co-sponsors of Assembly Bill 1314, which would have required schools across the state to notify parents when a child identifies as transgender. However, the bill died for the 2023 Assembly legislative year after the chair of the Assembly’s education committee opted not to schedule it for a hearing. Essayli was among the majority of speakers in support of the OUSD anti-trans parental notification policy. (Screenshot/YouTube OUSD)

ORANGE, Calif. – The Orange Unified School District Board of Trustees minus three trustees who left after being fearful for their personal safety after a contentious and combative meeting, described as ‘extremely toxic’ by an attendee who spoke to the Blade, voted just before midnight Thursday to approve an anti-transgender parental notification policy. 

The new policy requires all schools in OUSD to notify parents if their child requests to be identified or treated as a gender other than what’s listed on their birth certificate. The policy would include requests to use pronouns that don’t align with their biological sex or gender or a name different from their legal name.

Additionally, parents would be notified if a student asks to use a restroom or changing facility of a gender different than the one listed on their official paperwork. 

The meeting was interrupted and had delays several times, including at one point by an audience member using a bullhorn shouting against the policy who was then escorted out by security after the room exploded into chaos. The meeting lasted nearly three hours with audience members cheering and booing speakers, and some of the speakers holding props like American flags and some wearing light blue, pink and white transgender flags; A few holding up graphic photos.

The attitudes in the room and outside in the overflow spaces grew more heated and acrimonious with angry vitriolic comments directed at the board, causing three trustees opposed to the policy to abruptly leave.

In an emailed statement to the Los Angeles Blade and other media outlets, OUSD Trustees Kris Erickson, Ari Page, and Andrea Yamasaki, accused Board President Rick Ledesma of allowing the chaos and enabling the pro-policy anti-LGBTQ demonstrators to disrupt the proceedings.

“During the September 7th board meeting, outside extremists from LA to San Diego, who are aligned with Ledesma’s majority, filled our boardroom, shoving OUSD parents and teachers out of the process. The rhetoric and vitriol maligning our teachers and others escalated throughout the night. We received reports our security team could not control the physical fights between groups outside the boardroom and, at one point, were advised to shut the meeting down for the safety of us and others. Yet, the meeting continued.

“When the altercation erupted inside the board room, President Ledesma did nothing. The audience, many of whom seek viral video content for social media, turned on us. One videotaping agitator, in a frenzy, started targeting and encouraging the mob to focus on Trustee Erickson. Our staff escorted us to our vehicles as we saw no safe option other than to leave. President Ledesma failed to follow board protocol to stop the meeting and escort the board to a safe room. His lack of leadership or concern for us as his colleagues is appalling.”

After the scuffle broke out with the audience member with the bullhorn and the meeting had resumed, Erickson, Page, and Yamasaki had departed the meeting, escorted to their vehicles by school board staff and security.

In their statement the three trustees offered their support for the LGBTQ+ students of the district and placed the blame on the toxic environment on the Board President and his allies.

“By bringing culture wars into Orange Unified, the Ledesma majority has invited the most radical elements into our district, OUR home. We can only imagine how difficult it is for our LGBTQ youth to exist in this toxic and hateful environment where politicians are exploiting their very existence to score political points. The five-day forced outing is arbitrary and cruel and has no basis in good mental health practice. We provide no ongoing support for these students and families that we inject ourselves into – on our timeline, not theirs – to confront a sensitive and nuanced issue they may not be ready to deal with. This will force young people back into the closet to deal with difficult issues alone. It’s shameful. 

We have put our hearts and souls into OUSD as trustees, parents, longtime volunteers, and former students. We are heartbroken that our board is focused on political antics instead of driving our district forward for our students.”

Just prior to the vote at around 11:30 p.m., Trustee Madison Miner told those in the room,  “Keeping parents aware of what is happening is the only way we can move forward towards safety in our district.”

The majority of the speakers were proponents of the policy some who identified themselves as residents of other jurisdictions. These included Riverside Republican Assemblymember Bill Essayli, one of the co-sponsors of Assembly Bill 1314, which would have required schools across the state to notify parents when a child identifies as transgender. However, the bill died for the 2023 Assembly legislative year after the chair of the Assembly’s education committee opted not to schedule it for a hearing.

Essayli framed the issue as parents rights and critiqued the Democratic-majority legislature and took aim at California Attorney General Rob Bonta who sued the Chino Valley Unified school board over a similar policy which a San Bernadino Superior Court Judge blocked on Wednesday. The Republican lawmaker said he had a message for Bonta: “Do your job. Focus on crime. Leave parents alone.”

Recently, Attorney General Bonta issued a statement following Anderson Union High School District, and Temecula and Murrieta Valley Unified School District Boards’ decisions to implement copy-cat mandatory gender identity disclosure policy targeting transgender and gender-nonconforming students, warning those districts that his office would be vigilant and proactive in defending the civil and human rights of LGBTQ+ students in California.

Also speaking was Ana A. Gonzalez, the District Director for State Senator Thomas J. Umberg (D-Santa Ana), representing Umberg delivering a message of opposition to the policy.

Ana Gonzalez, the District Director for State Senator Thomas J. Umberg (D-Santa Ana)

“As a parent and a grandparent, I urge you to reject this proposal. This policy, in search of a problem, would only cause irreparable harm to a minority of students who would be outed and potentially endangered. Students who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming already face extremely difficult lives. In a recent American Academy of Pediatrics study, 73 percent of transgender students reported psychological abuse and 39 percent reported physical abuse.

“Additionally, I worry about the adverse impact this parental notification policy would have on students who have parents who would not be welcoming of such news. Given that according to a 2012 study of service providers, the primary cause of homelessness among LGBTQ youth is family rejection. While this may not reflect the home of every family- forcing administrators to out students benefits neither the schools not the students.”

The policy voted on last night was revised from an earlier version which read that parents would be notified by writing within three days if a student requested to use a different name or pronoun or wanted to change sex-segregated programs such as athletic teams or changing facilities that differ from the student’s “assigned biological sex at birth.”

In interviews with KTLA’s  John Fenoglio, Rosa Otero, a parent who supports the policy, believes that parents have a right to know.  

“All we’re asking for is to please just let us know what’s happening with our kid,” she told KTLA. “I’m for this policy not because I’m against gay or LGBT. I have three LGBT people in my family, and I am very, very religious, but we just want to be notified as parents.”  

On the opposite side of the issue, Jennie Sloan is a parent who opposes the policy, saying it is deeply flawed.  

“It singles out these kids as problems, as one singular issue to be dealt with, and children in our schools are dealing with all kinds of issues,” she said. “The fact that it’s just one shows that they are targeting a specific group, which is not fair and is illegal.”

Equality California released the following statement from Executive Director Tony Hoang in response to the vote by the OUSD Board to implement the policy that will forcibly out transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming students to their parents or guardians without the student’s consent: 

“Last night’s action by the Orange Unified School District Board of Education is yet another example of far-right extremist rhetoric influencing the votes of school boards across the Golden State. With LGBTQ+ youth around the country under attack, these school board members put their most vulnerable students in harm’s way with their dangerous vote to forcibly out transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming youth without their consent. The policy they passed is dangerous and in direct opposition to recommendations made by the California Department of Education.

We are also deeply disappointed that some school board members allowed anti-LGBTQ+ extremists from outside of Orange County to threaten and intimidate students, parents, teachers and even board members who did not agree with them – resulting in three board members needing to be escorted out of their own meeting just to remain safe. This pattern of threats and intimidation at public meetings, which also occurred at the Chino Valley Unified when their board adopted a similar policy, is dangerous and has no place in California.

A similar forced outing policy was adopted Wednesday evening by the Rocklin Unified School District. Equality California is furious that anti-LGBTQ+ extremists continue to push forward these harmful policies that are decidedly anti-student.

The policy that began this wildfire, originating in Chino Valley, has been halted by the San Bernardino Superior Court after California Attorney General Rob Bonta filed suit arguing that it infringes on several state protections safeguarding the civil and constitutional rights of students. It is our hope this action gives pause to those who would seek to enforce similar forced outing policies.

Equality California will continue to work with our partners at the local and state levels to ensure that LGBTQ+ students have safe and supportive learning environments, and treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

OUSD Board Meeting – September 7, 2023:

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