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Gay professor placed on leave for sharing chocolate that affirms biology of sex, he says

David Richardson already suing community college district for punishing him for using "Do, Re, Mi" as preferred gender pronouns in mandatory seminar.

Published: May 10, 2023 11:16pm

Updated: May 11, 2023 10:19am

A California community college is investigating a tenured history professor for the "serious misconduct" of handing out chocolate, he claims.

The composition of the chocolate wasn't the problem for Madera Community College, David Richardson told Just the News. It was the gender pronouns on the wrappers: "He/Him" for chocolate bars with nuts and "She/Her" for the "nutless" version, reflecting the human sexual binary.

He shared the human resources letter delivered "by a uniformed police officer" Monday evening at his home.

The State Center Community College District informed the 33-year veteran he was on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into unspecified allegations of creating a "hostile work environment" and harassing and discriminating against colleagues "based on gender."

In the meantime, Richardson is banned from "non-public" areas of the district and his Madera email and prohibited from "any action which could be construed as retaliation against anyone," the letter says.

The self-described gay conservative was already suing SCCCD for sanctions following a previous investigation into his behavior during a mandatory October 2021 "pronoun etiquette" seminar led by transgender chemistry professor Jamie MacArthur.

It's not clear when MacArthur started identifying as a woman, or how widely the new identity was shared. 

Public materials discovered by Just the News show both the district and MacArthur's students identified the professor as a man through this spring, more than a year after the disputed seminar. Faculty were well aware of the transition because MacArthur became "very zealous in correcting what might be seen as honest errors," Richardson said. 

Richardson's First Amendment lawsuit, which was quickly transferred to federal district court yet hasn't moved for several months, follows similar litigation against a neighboring district.

Bakersfield College tenured history professors Matthew Garrett and Erin Miller allege retaliation by Kern Community College District for their activities in a right-leaning campus think tank and a campus diversity committee

Richardson said he got to know Garrett, who is fighting his recent termination in a secret Board of Trustees vote, while trying to create a similar think tank for Madera, which college and district leaders allegedly shot down.

The new investigation was apparently prompted by Richardson's behavior at the April 29 Madera open house for its academic programs.

He had bought a case of Jeremy's Chocolate when the conservative Daily Wire launched the chocolate brand — named after CEO Jeremy Boreing — two months ago to protest Hershey's naming "a biological male" as its spokesperson for International Women's Day.

"I wasn't sure what I was going to do with" the remainder of the case, so the chocolate aficionado added the bars to the "goodies" he has always handed out while manning the history table. A staff member "started taking pictures" of the bars and "kept trying to bait me," but nothing happened until the letter Monday.

Richardson said his lawyer will file an amended complaint that incorporates the newly launched investigation, which feels like "deja vu all over again."

According to the suit, the district found the "open and proud LGBTQIA2S+ individual" guilty of "unprofessional conduct" stemming from the pronoun-etiquette Zoom seminar.

Each participant had a "small thumbnail" with fields for their name and gender identity. Richardson put "Do, Re, Mi" in the latter to demonstrate that mandating an "irrational perception of reality ... would frustrate communication for ideological reasons," the suit says.

Nobody apparently noticed but MacArthur, who emailed Richardson three days later that this "joke" was "extremely offensive" to transgender people. He responded by using "Do, Re, Mi" as his pronouns and addressing MacArthur as "they" — their preferred pronoun — rather than "you" throughout the email.

When an "employee relations coordinator" followed up with Richardson, he warned the district "you don't want to open a can of worms" about his pronouns and copied the response to his supervisors and some faculty so as to "protect himself from retaliation for not subscribing to leftwing [sic] ideology."

MacArthur got human resources and the faculty union involved, kicking off a six-month "investigation" — the suit uses scare quotes — that "involved asking Richardson personal questions that intruded on his academic freedom and right of privacy." 

SCCCD concluded he intentionally used "second- and third-person pronouns in a mocking manner" toward MacArthur and sought to intimidate MacArthur when Richardson copied others on his response. 

A letter of reprimand was placed in his file, ordering Richardson to "immediately stop using pronouns in a mocking manner in the workplace" and "exhibit basic standards of conduct" including in email, or face termination. He was never given an objective definition of "mocking."

The district ordered him to not only complete six hours of diversity, equity and inclusion training, but then submit a written response on what he learned and how he can "create a more inclusive environment that does not center on homophobia or transphobia" in his home and "religious group." The sanction "exceeded any reasonable relationship to the alleged offense," the suit says, infringing on his right to privacy and discriminating by viewpoint by deeming a gay man homophobic.

Madera spokesperson Cory Burkarth told Just the News it could not comment on the "personnel matter." He could not answer by deadline whether the college indeed blocked Richardson from starting a campus think tank and why MacArthur remained officially identified as male as late as March.

Shown the district and student materials from 2023 that treat MacArthur as a man, MacArthur told Just the News "much of" the information is "inaccurate" and the professor could explain "in more detail" at the end of the semester.

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