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San Diego Democratic Party Chair Will Rodriguez-Kennedy / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

After four men went public last week with accusations of sexual misconduct against San Diego Unified School District Trustee Kevin Beiser, Beiser issued a brief statement declaring his innocence and stating that he had only just learned of the accusations.

Even if he did not know the specifics of the allegations, Beiser had been working behind the scenes to understand what was being said about him and what he could do to prevent it from becoming public for months, according to multiple party activists and high-ranking officials who spoke with VOSD’s Andrew Keatts.

That includes Jess Durfee, a member of the Democratic National Committee and the former party chair, who said he met with Beiser in January to plan a response. He said Beiser had already brought in an attorney at that point and was speculating about who might go public.

Another Democratic central committee member said he was also invited to a planning session at Beiser’s house in January, where Beiser asked him to help find out who was ready to talk.

Around the same time, the party’s new chair, Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, had already heard the accusations and had directed accusers to Eva Posner, a political consultant who later organized the meeting in which four men shared their accusations with Voice of San Diego.

Beiser did not respond to a request for comment.

San Diego Unified Settles Lawsuit Over Anti-Islamophobia Policies

In 2017, five families and two organizations, cheered on by right-wing politicians, sued to stop San Diego Unified’s anti-Islamophobia initiative, which the district said was a response to anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Recently, San Diego Unified, which did not admit any liability, settled the lawsuit. In doing so, it agreed to circulate information to school leaders describing “limits on the conduct of public school officials as it relates to religious activity,” VOSD contributor Lyle Moran reports.

The settlement comes amid renewed focus on Islamophobia worldwide in the aftermath of mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand that left 50 dead. Locally, Muslims were deeply disturbed by a fire set at a mosque in Escondido Sunday morning in which the suspect left a note referencing the New Zealand terrorist attacks.

The legal foes of the anti-Islamophobia included the San Diego Asian Americans for Equality Foundation and Citizens for Quality Education San Diego.

They were represented by the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, a Rancho Santa Fe-based group whose chief counsel is best known for his pro bono legal work to ensure the Mt. Soledad Cross in La Jolla could remain amid constitutional challenges.

The defense fund said its clients were thrilled with the outcome.

“From the beginning, they just wanted to make sure that the school district isn’t even giving the appearance that it is preferring one religious group to another,” said Daniel Piedra, the defense fund’s executive director.

Lawmaker Cites VOSD Report in Unveiling New Vaccine Bill

Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician who wrote the 2015 state law that ended personal belief vaccine exemptions for public schoolchildren, announced a new effort Tuesday to crack down on another type of vaccine exemption — medical exemptions.

In his announcement, Pan cited a recent Voice of San Diego investigation that showed a single doctor has written nearly a third of all the medical exemptions in San Diego Unified.

“An investigation in San Diego Unified School District showed that the percentage of kindergarteners receiving a permanent medical exemption rose six-fold in only three years, with one physician writing nearly a third of the exemptions,” Pan said.

His bill would shift the responsibility for doling out medical vaccine exemptions from individual doctors to the California Department of Public Health.

San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez has signed on as a co-author of the bill.

Culture Report: Meet the Beer Chorus

In this week’s roundup of San Diego arts and entertainment news, Julia Dixon Evans tells us about the perfect combination of libretto and libation, the San Diego Beer Choir.

As one can imagine, the choir performs in bars.

Even if someone has never read a line of sheet music before, it’s likely there’ll be a familiar song in the Beer Choir songbook, a selection of hits, drinking songs, folk tunes and beer-focused parodies.

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Ry Rivard and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby.

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