Hart Board To Consider Complaint Over Joe Messina’s LGBTQ Comments

The Hart district governing board on Wednesday is scheduled to consider whether to take up a complaint brought against board member Joe Messina over disparaging comments he’s made on his radio show about gay and transgender individuals, according to documents obtained by Sclarita.

Erin Kotecki Vest in October submitted a written complaint to the William S. Hart Union High School District after listening to episodes of Messina’s radio show, The Real Side. As Sclarita has previously reported, Messina has routinely made offensive remarks on his show about the LGBTQ community.

While she said she finds the remarks on gay and transgender individuals generally offensive, Vest, 41, told Sclarita Tuesday that Messina’s remarks became personal after her 10-year-old daughter, Hala, came out to her last year. Vest said she has allowed Hala, currently a 5th grader at Santa Clarita Valley International Charter School, to continue listening to Messina’s show in order to prepare her for people who are bigoted toward the LGBTQ community. SCVI’s charter is authorized by the Hart district.

Sclarita asked Vest permission before putting specific identifying information about her daughter in this story. Vest said her daughter has already come out to her classmates and is “in a very supportive home.”

“I am disgusted,” Vest said. “I can’t believe someone on the school board is allowed to say things like this. It’s incredibly offensive.”

Vest claims Messina’s comments and stories he’s written mocking the LGBTQ community violate administrative rules prohibiting district officials from engaging in unlawful discrimination, harassment, intimidation or bullying.  Messina was elected in 2009 to the Hart governing board which oversees district policy.

“The bylaws state board members must represent every student fairly,” Vest said. “It’s a direct conflict of his job. He doesn’t only get to represent straight Christian students. He has to represent all students.”

Reached for comment Tuesday, Messina did not respond specifically to Vest’s complaint. In an email, Messina said, “Why don’t you come on my show to discuss, we can actually have a 2 way [sic] conversation. I have talked about this locally, over and over again. I’m really not sure anyone wants real answers…just me gone.”

Though the matter is not fully adjudicated, it appears unlikely Messina will be formally censured under district rules. In a letter the district sent Vest last month, Hart Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Michael Vierra said that the district lacks the authority to take action against Messina because he made the statements in his capacity as a private citizen. Vierra wrote:

The District acknowledges that Mr. Messina made comments, in his capacity as a private citizen, regarding gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals. The District finds you were offended by these comments. However, after carefully considering your complaint, the District has determined that, while it does not dispute your concerns or condone Mr. Messina’s conduct, the District cannot regulate or restrain Mr. Messina’s speech, which was made in his private and professional capacity. The District understands and appreciates your concerns about Mr. Messina’s comments. However, your allegations are more properly addressed in another forum. The District’s complaint procedures do not envision and are not designed to address complaints raised against Board members.

Before reaching its initial decision, Vierra said in a letter that the district interviewed Messina, reviewed his webpage, opinion articles and listened to his show from October 19th, a show Slcarita wrote about. On that broadcast Messina brought on Tami Jackson, senior editor at an anti-gay website called BarbWire.com. The website was founded by Matt Barber, a member of The Liberty Council, an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as an anti-gay hate group.

During the show, Messina mocks Caitlyn Jenner, “Coming Out Month” and days that are set aside to raise awareness of LGBTQ issues. Although Vierra indicated that the district is concerned by Messina’s statements, Hart can’t censure him under its bylaws (Emphasis mine):

 

“The District acknowledges that Mr. Messina made comments, in his capacity as a private citizen, regarding gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals. The District finds you were offended by these comments. However, after carefully considering your complaint, the District has determined that, while it does not dispute your concerns or condone Mr. Messina’s conduct, the District cannot regulate or restrain Mr. Messina’s speech, which was made in his private and professional capacity.”

 

Vest appealed the decision and Hart board members are scheduled to consider that appeal during Wednesday’s hearing, according to correspondence with the district that Vest provided to Sclarita and posted on her Facebook page. The public agenda for the meeting says the board will “Consider Whether to Hear Appeal of Uniform Complaint Pursuant to Administrative Regulation 1312.3”, but provides no further information.

If the board decides not to hear the complaint, the district’s existing decision will be considered final; if members do decide to hear the complaint, Messina will be formerly notified, according to complaint procedures outlined on the Hart School District website. In an email to Vest that she forwarded to Sclarita, Vierra said members of the board will meet in closed session with legal counsuel to discuss the complaint. The board will vote on whether to hear the complaint in open session, he said.

When asked a question about what would happen next if the board does take up Vest’s complaint, Hart spokesman Dave Caldwell directed Sclarita to Vierra for an answer. Vierra could not immediately be reached for comment late Tuesday. This post will be updated when Slcarita receives a response.

Vest, meanwhile, said she intends to speak at the hearing, though she indicated that she is not optimistic that board members will take up her complaint.

“I don’t have any faith that the board will do what I’m asking,” Vest said. “I hope they surprise me.”

17 thoughts on “Hart Board To Consider Complaint Over Joe Messina’s LGBTQ Comments

  1. The personas of a public school board member and a bigoted media shock jock are incompatible. A public school board has a duty to maintain a posture of neutrality and impartiality over the students and parents it serves. Such a board loses that perception of impartiality and neutrality when one of its members routinely espouses hate toward certain protected classes of students in a public forum. Such a board member must either give up his or her shock jock persona or be removed as school board member.

  2. Over the years Mr. Messina has proven himself to be bigoted and biased. His organization, the Dunamis Group, frequently hosts speakers who tout hate and intolerance.

    While he is entitled to his personal beliefs and to free speech, he has no right to bring his personal homophobia, religious intolerance and bullying hatred to the kids of our community.

    It is time he followed the law re transgender restrooms, equitable textbooks, etc. The Hart Board must do what’s right and sanction or remove him. Our youth must know we love all of them, not just those he agrees with.

  3. I hope for his sake that he never needs the help from anyone from the LGBGT community. What a complete showing of his true colors.
    I do not think he represents the general population of this valley, and if he does, then I am glad I have moved out,and away from the disgusting views of Mr. Messina!

  4. People commit felons and stay in office… that’s the argument? SERIOUSLY? How about .. let’s protect our students equally.

    Messina has one thing right, we do want him gone. He can keep his little show where he rattles his sabers… I’d be happy with that arrangement.

    • No there is no argument, I was just the voice of sanity.

      Here are you options.

      1. Raise money and try to recall Joe. You can ask Devlin how much the Advertising lobby spent to get the needed signatures. It might be more; I think since was elected at large he would have to be recalled at large as well. So about 19k+ signatures probably needed in the given timeframe which is either 30-60 days. You would have to look that up.

      2. Raise money and try to beat Joe in 2017 in one of the most conservative districts in the valley. You can thank CVRA for that.

      There is no 3rd option. The people elected him, and the people will have to un-elect him. There is a common misconception that Stephen Winkler was removed because people did something and that just isn’t true he was proven to have lived outside of the districts one of the few ironclad requirements.

      Saying good luck was more just to be nice.

      • 3rd option is to keep pushing back every time J vomits his divisive and hurtful rhetoric- spreading misinformation and outright lies- with the sole purpose of maligning a minority group that is part of the community he was elected to serve. I am disappointed that I cannot attend tonight.

  5. Joe Messina should be removed from the school board! His view about the LGBTQ are way out of line and he has even worse views about the Muslim Religion. There is no way students who are gay or of the Muslim faith can get fair treatment or education within the WM. S. HART Union High School District while he is a member of the board.

    • I hear people say this, and it blows my mind. He has been doing his show for about as long as he has been in office. Yet in 2013, no one thought he was dangerous enough to run against him? Now because of the CVRA, it becomes much harder to find a suitable candidate to run against him.

      So let’s so 2017 comes and Joe Messina wins a third term. Could it be said that his view is in the minority? If the people re-elect him in spite of the deafening screams from the haters?

  6. If Mr. Messina were talking this way about African Americans he would have been removed long ago. The fact that he hasn’t been removed over his hate speech about the LGBTQ community simply points out the bias of the rest of the board. They should be ashamed of themselves. As ashamed as all thinking, caring grown ups are of Messina’s hateful, tiny, cold little heart.

  7. The only lesson that Mrs. Vest is teaching her daughter is to throw temper tantrums if and when she doesn’t get her way. If Mrs. Vest really wanted Mr. Messina gone she would put in the hard to work and not try to sidestep democracy. I think she is attempting to get a reality tv show on Bravo.

    • I would never in a million years subject my family to a reality show…but interesting comeback.

      Joe is breaking board bylaws. They have them for a reason. He ran unopposed so it can’t be said voters had a choice. Regardless he’s in violation of board bylaws and general Hart district cyber bullying bylaws.

      And Nate there are other ways, pick up a parent handbook & findout.

      Or wait and see.

  8. Shame on them. Substitute “LGBTQ” with “African American” and this poor excuse for a human would have been removed long ago.

    Good article, Mr. Randles.

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