Claremont School Board President Resigns After Hiring HS Choir to Perform at 'Dirty Santa' Party

Photograph of former Claremont School Board President's 'Dirty Santa' party, shared by an attendee. CREDIT: Facebook

The traditionally bucolic town of Claremont, California, home of the prestigious Claremont Institute, has experienced some fallout this holiday season. On December 3, Steven Llanusa, the president of the Claremont Unified School District Board, threw an annual holiday party at his home, and invited the Claremont High School Chamber Singers as part of the evening’s entertainment. According to reports, the high school students were exposed to inappropriate conduct. As one parent, Sabrina Ho, described in public testimony at a December 10 special school board session, the performance was supposed to be:


a fundraiser for the CHS Chamber Singers. Several holiday caroling gigs were scheduled. A letter and permission slip were sent home to parents with the location dates and supervising staff members and other pertinent information. The expectation and precedent for these gigs is that students arrive 10 minutes before their scheduled performance time. They gather and are escorted to perform their set list, [which] is approximately 30 minutes, and then they are escorted out and leave the gathering. The students are not invited guests, they are performers singing holiday songs to earn money towards their culminating choir experience.

At some point during the evening, things went off the rails, as local ABC7 News reported:

Allegations of inappropriate conduct by adults toward some Claremont High School choir students has sparked an investigation by police and the school district.

The Claremont Unified School District said in a statement the students were performing at an off-site, private party last Saturday when the alleged misconduct happened.

School officials met with the students Monday and the incident was reported to police.



According to sources close to the community, parents were beyond upset: They were horrified. With the cultural battles being waged surrounding the sexualization of children without parental consent or input, one would think this decades-long school board president and longtime member of the community would do his utmost to avoid any appearance of impropriety.


Apparently not. One parent, who did not wish to be identified, vented to RedState and confirmed the other media reports:

“The kids believed they were going there for a short performance to help raise money for their program. Instead they were made to wait for well over an hour and mingle with drunk adults hitting on them while being offered alcohol numerous times. No child should ever be put in this kind of position, and certainly not by a school board member who was the host and specially invited this group of minors to perform.

Claremont Unified School District Superintendent James Elsasser and the remaining school board members called a special session on December 10 to address the incident, to give parents and concerned community members an opportunity to give public testimony, and to outline any potential legal ramifications.

“I assure our school community that we are taking these allegations extremely seriously, which prompted us to immediately engage the Claremont Police Department who is now actively investigating this concerning situation,” said a statement from Jim Elsasser, the superintendent of schools for the Claremont Unified School District.

“The District and school administration have taken steps to support and protect our students directly impacted by this incident, and we will continue to provide necessary supports.”

CHS Parent Page re Special Board Meeting


In case it isn’t apparent, Steven Llanusa is gay. Organizations like Gays Against Groomers and others in the LGBTQ community work hard to separate living a gay life from any hint of sexual predation and pedophilia. It seems that from Llanusa’s behavior surrounding this incident, he had no such concerns.


Llanusa and his husband have lived in Claremont and raised their adopted sons (now adults) there. Many in the community were well aware that Llanusa threw these types of parties. Parties that by any measure, were inappropriate settings for teenagers. According to Jim, another member of the community (not a parent) who spoke with RedState, he said Llanusa, “has a reputation.”

This was further confirmed in comments on the Claremont High School Parents Facebook Page.

FB Page Neighbor Commentary


If it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not. Now we know.

Thirty minutes after the December 10 special session, Llanusa sent an email tendering his resignation.

In an email sent to the Claremont Unified School District community around 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Superintendent James Elsasser said Llanusa tendered his resignation early Saturday and will step down immediately from his board duties.

“In the very near future, we will discuss the next steps for filling this vacant position,” Elsasser wrote. “Thank you for your patience during this very difficult time.”

The angry parent who spoke with RedState pointed out what Ray Charles could have seen:

Llanusa knew the type of party he was hosting and still made sure children were present. Children do not belong in a party atmosphere with topless adults, drinking and saying sexually suggestive comments to them while encouraging these minors to drink and engage in the party. If this isn’t grooming behavior then what is? Llanusa is also a teacher. My family is sickened someone with his lack of judgment is left alone with children everyday. Many of these kids are so innocent. They lost their innocence that night, and that’s what pisses me off the most.”


It gets worse. Allegedly, certain political leaders of the city and state were in attendance: Claremont Mayor Jed Leano, and his “good friend” Senator Scott Wiener, who is well known in the California legislature for his bills that target and seek to harm children. (Editor’s Note: Senator Wiener’s office denies that he was in attendance at the party.)

Claremont Uncensored FB Group Comment on Gay Santa Party


David Alan Van Dreser, the original poster of the offending pictures, has since scrubbed his Facebook account.

Too little, too late.

Somewhere between middle-aged, adult gay men frolicking with scantily dressed young adult men, Llanusa assumed it would be perfectly fine for teenagers to hang out in their midst. Even more damning information was revealed by parent Sabrina Ho’s public testimony:

As a parent, I signed the permission slip confidently, with full knowledge that Mr. Llanusa was the supervising staff member present on December 3rd and the students were performing at his party in the manner described above. The actual events of the evening were nothing as planned upon the students’ arrival. Mr. Llanusa invited the high school choir group into his private, adult party, in his home. They were encouraged to partake in food and festivities. The students did not begin their scheduled performance until over an hour later, and were offered alcohol by party guests among inappropriately dressed adult entertainers.

Such environments can be traumatizing to mature adults. Imagine an immature teenager having to process this?


After the choir performance ended, Mr. Llanusa asked choir students who wanted to earn extra money toward their trip to stay and help clean up. My 16-year-old son stayed in Mr. Llanusa’s home at his invitation for almost four hours. My son did not feel he should or could leave because the CU School Board member in charge asked him to stay. It is a gross misuse of power from an educational leader.

An educational leader with 35 years of teaching experience, 17 of those years as a public administrator. Llanusa has been lauded and awarded for his educational excellence. Llanusa won his first board election in 2005, and was celebrated as its first openly LGBTQ member. Llanusa was appointed to the Youth Master Plan Update Task Force and the Claremont Sustainability Committee, developing goals that were adopted by the Los Angeles City Council. He is the Technology Coordinator for one Science Magnet/Technology Academy school in San Bernardino County, and Llanusa is a key developer of the math and science curriculum for the NASA STEP program.

For someone who has focused on building a reputation of educational experience, excellence, and sound judgment, it seems like a huge misstep to blow it up so spectacularly.

Ho concluded:

The CHS Chamber Singers present on Saturday evening were subjected to an environment that broke countless district and education code rules at the invitation of a school board member. Sadly, there is no apology that can help our kids unsee or unfeel the events that took place in his home.

Another parent, Rick Reyes, was also livid as he spoke at the special session:


As a parent, I am disgusted with what I have heard, and disturbed about the setting of this party. As parents, we trust that the adults will be the adults in the room. How kids were invited to this setting is beyond understanding. I am demanding that if any of these accusations are true, that this board member or members be terminated. If any of these kids were exposed to male strippers, if any of these kids were offered alcohol. If any inappropriate advances were made to these kids by adults. Termination is demanded from parents in our community.

According to CUSD Board Vice Chair Kathy Archer, there were no other current or past board members present at the event. Archer could not confirm whether any CUSD staff or faculty was present. CUSD legal counsel Todd Robbins confirmed that legally, Llanusa could not be removed by the board for this incident.

Whether the board can take action to terminate a board member? The answer to that question is, “No.” A board member is not an employee of the school district, they’re an elected official. So, then, the method to remove a board member from office is through the recall process that California provides.

Had Llanusa not resigned, the community would have had to mount a recall campaign to remove him from his position.

Parent Reyes concluded his rant:

We have heard many stories about groomers in school settings and to think that kids were invited to someone’s home with male strippers with alcohol is beyond understanding. Shame on you, if you offended any one of these kids.

The bigger shame is that in the name of tolerance and inclusivity, this community allowed what was inappropriate and known behavior from Llanusa to continue without question or confrontation. Even more egregious, knowing this, they still allowed their children to be a part of it.


Another community member alleged that among the,

“upper echelon of Claremont society there is a level of depravity.”

This Gay Santa Holiday Party incident appears to be pulling back the curtain on what could be a larger issue.


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