It was another popcorn-filled school board meeting here in the Conejo Valley. We had weird staged setups, some guy from Pennsylvania who considered himself god for having been a school board member out there, and the board president exchanging sweet nothings from across the room to a concerned citizen in the front row.
For those who have been following along with the "controversy," you're aware, at the very least, that the school board has been battling core lit approval and is now discussing the formalization of an opt-out policy... because fuck educational standards right?
It started with a concentrated effort by a group of parents who expressed shock, dismay and horror over a passage in the award-winning novel, "Snow Falling on Cedars." It contains what could be considered a graphic, sexual passage, that without context would certainly raise questions if it were the only passage taken into account. (Because, obviously that's how teachers teach, right?) There are also themes revolving around religion, the questioning of the existence of god, atheism and beyond. So, as you can imagine, there are some very conservative parents who want absolutely nothing to do with this book because, PEARLS BE CLUTCHED.
Guys. A speaker from last night wanted to let us know that she wouldn't allow her 23-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER to read this book. Does the poor girl lived chained in the basement? Do we need to do a wellness check? I mean, I hope she's not confined to a life of watching "Sofia the First" on Disney, as much as I love that cartoon. Can someone get a note to that adult daughter that...she's 23?
The controversy gained further steam, shifting focus after a request by the English Dept. to add "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," into curriculum was received. That's when you know the controversy has been orchestrated from the JUMP. Why? Because I read the book, along with multiple other members in our community, and I was all eyes open for these "clutch my pearls" "pornographic" sections in the book. I was ready for them. THERE AREN'T ANY. There's legit a paragraph in which the high-school-aged boy says he likes masturbation. That's it? This is what the board president and his followers are screaming is "child abuse?" Yes, that's really it. (PSSSSSSSST. It's because none of them actually read the book.)
By now, you all know my opinion on this circus. It's just that, a circus contrived, prodded and encouraged by the board president so that an opt-out policy can be implemented, allowing parents with certain religious beliefs to influence and curtail curriculum to their own personal preferences. There's no confusion here. They've blatantly said it. This group of parents (many whom are identifying themselves as part of a newly formed group they call "Unified Conejo") have called upon the board to answer their demands, or refuse to do so at their own peril (They actually said that). They often quote bible passages in their speeches, and make sure to incorporate "morals" in their arguments. They've highlighted that everyone, from the board, to teachers, are required to serve the whims of this group of parents.
See, it was never about the kids. It's about a group of people, with an agenda to religion-wash (and I believe to some larger extent white-wash) core lit and curriculum in our schools. Here's the kicker... I've now heard from multiple people that half of the speakers last night that aligned themselves with the pro-opt-out policy/Conejo Unified agenda DON'T EVEN LIVE IN THE DISTRICT AND DON'T EVEN HAVE KIDS IN THE DISTRICT.
OK. So now that you're caught up on the back story, LET'S TALK ABOUT THE FUCKERY.
This is one of the weirdest (and obviously most staged events) I've ever witnessed at a board meeting. First you should get a lay of the land... on the left half of the room are the out-of-district, pro-opt-out policy advocates, and on the right side of the room are the reasonable people.
Public comments begin and a woman, Dr. Chen, who is affiliated with Unified Conejo gets up to speak. She's followed by a man from her seating section who is standing next to her, filming her speak. Mr. Dunn conveniently waits until about 2 minutes in, we'll estimate, to all of a sudden feign outrage over this man filming the speaker. Dunn loudly raises his voice and tells "the filmer" to be seated and that he's being rude. Remember folks, the guy filming isn't hostile in action. He's literally seated with the group. It was very clearly planned and very welcomed by the speaker. And then, Dunn goes on to award this speaker with an additional 2 minutes of speaking time. I was rather impressed that the speaker, who was originally allotted the standard 3 minutes, was able to take those 2 minutes and run with them, having apparently additional remarks prepared!
GEE. I mean, if you want to cheat the system that badly, president Dunn, and give favoritism, you might as well have the balls to own up to it you pansy. Or at least be better with pulling off the orchestrated events without such a "staged" appeal. I worked in reality T.V. I've had better.
You'll notice, if you watched the comments, that it was very clear this group of speakers had agreed on phrases and words to implement in their speeches. It's probably 1) a good thing I can't drink right now, and 2) a good thing we didn't implement a drinking game.... because, here's what you and I heard, speech after speech:
1) "It's about content, not censorship." -- WUT? If you want to remove a book from the curriculum because of the content, you effectively want to censor the curriculum from that content. This argument doesn't even make sense.
2) We aren't challenging the experience and knowledge of the teachers. Uh... yes you are. If you're demanding an opt-out policy because you don't trust the curriculum committee to make appropriate choices regarding curriculum, that's pretty much exactly what you're doing. I'm not saying you can't do that, but what a silly thing to suggest. Just own it.
3) We prefer the classics. The classics are timeless. You know, because they're written by white people and don't mention atheism?
4) The word "salacious." I think they had a contest to jack off every time a member said the word. I'm being serious.
5) It's about parent rights. Apparently it's only about the parent rights for those with an agenda to have a customized curriculum built around delicate sensitivities for their children. And don't even start with me on that bullshit. You all know the Bible is a shrine in these households. Do we really want to have the "WHAT IS CONTROVERSIAL" debate?
So that was the core lit discussion comment section. After board member discussion, but not before Dunn first called out to his homie Dr. Chen to write a policy and submit it, and then secondly urged fellow board member Sandee Everett to do the same, the board agreed to:
The forming of a Superintendent's committee (no board members will serve on this), that will most likely be comprised of Mr. Iezza, Dr. Boone (director of curriculum), and other important staff and individuals. They will meet with parent groups to hear their feedback. The board president will also appoint two board members, (one representing each viewpoint), to serve on an ad hoc committee to review the Superintendent committee's work. Then, a proposal for an opt-out policy will be presented to be voted on.
It's the best course for what we've got, but it doesn't meet my personal satisfaction because there should not be a highly publicized opt-out policy. How embarrassing to be part of a district that will have a coveted opt-out policy, letting parents create additional work for teachers at their beck and call. It also completely undermines the standards set in place by the public school system. To me, it's grossly negligent that we're even having this discussion that's better reserved for those parents who home school their children or send them to private schools. Since when does the public school system answer to the whims of conservative extremists who wish to censor core lit?
And what else will this opt-out policy apply to? It started as a result of the core lit discussion... but what next? History (don't forget the hooplah it took to get the FAIR Act on its way toward being properly implemented)? Science?
And on another note, during public comments, I was pleased to hear from the DAC (District Advisory Council) Chairperson, who once again, reiterated the merits of the the council and shot down false allegations from a "concerned citizen" that the council was "rogue", "handing out positions like candy," and has a progressive agenda.
The District Advisory Council is comprised of parent representatives from each of the schools who advise the Board of Education on matters related to educational programs, policies, procedures, and consider actions as requested. The District Advisory Council will establish and maintain intra-district communications, encourage the sharing of needs, accomplishments and activities in order to support a high-quality school system. These people are volunteers dedicating their time to be informed and make decisions that encompass the best for ALL of our students.
The council is fully compliant with all laws and transparency, and these vicious attacks against this organization are absolutely appalling.
And, on a personal note. You may have caught me speaking vaguely and briefly about harassment I'm enduring at the hands of a concerned citizen. In addition to visiting my work back in January, in person, to call upon my employer to fire me, this individual also took it upon herself to call my work again last week, in order to retaliate against my participation in the school district. This individual further went to various schools in our district, at which I've spoken at for various organizations, to create further chaos and unnecessary drama. Apparently, I'm to be awaiting a cease and desist letter from her lawyer for reporting exactly what has been stated during public comments at board meetings. I've been informed by multiple people that this is pattern behavior. I am in a position where I don't have to run and hide, so therefore I don't take kindly to being threatened into silence.
Everyone in this community has a right to be a part of community and school board meetings, and everyone has a right to share their opinions regarding the policies that shape our education and community.
I won't be bullied.