CVUSD school board president, Mike Dunn has got to go in 2018, and let's talk about why.
According to the CVUSD website, here is Mr. Dunn's bio:
"I am married to a special education teacher. We have two children in this school district. I am a retired firefighter from the Los Angeles City Fire Department and was assigned to a paramedic assessment engine company. I bring an important voice to the board – someone who whenever possible tries to accommodate the wishes of the parents and taxpayers. My mission is excellent public schools and promoting traditional family values without property tax increases."
It's a nice bio, albeit lacking in proper comma placement. And I'm sure Mr. Dunn is a wonderful family man, with friends and family who admire and love him, and also respect his service as a firefighter. These aside, do not make Mr. Dunn a "home-run" choice to make decisions about public school education in our district, and as a publicly-elected representative, we have every right to ask not only if and how he's qualified, but to review critically, what he perceives to be his own role in public education, through his own words.
I think there's a glaring line in this bio that highlights a much larger issue that has presented itself time and time again as Mr. Dunn has served the board during these past 13 years.
"My mission is excellent public schools and promoting traditional family values without property tax increases."
Now, tell me what you think one means, when they say it is their mission to promote traditional family values.
I'd like to share with you an excellent OP-ED (although dated in publication, still highly relevant), penned by a law professor at Syracuse University, titled "The Myth of the Traditional Family."
“Family values” talk is literally fantastic, because it is utterly improbable. Just as we place hope in winged horses and caped crusaders, the rally cries of “protect marriage” and “preserve decency” only work to stir the troops. Will campaign speeches curb the divorce rate? Does a party platform make couples think twice about the morality of living together? Is prayer a reliable form of birth control? Answer to all: No, no and we wish.
Republicans have shaped a collective memory of the family based on a sepia-toned vision of Mom, America and apple pie.
“Family values” talk mobilizes voters. It identifies an enemy — which most likely is the progression of time — that allows citizens to channel frustration about the state of today’s world. Imagine: a room of people all wishing for the good ol’ days. Men worked, women cleaned, children obeyed and “everyone knew each other and we all got along.” .... READ FULL PIECE HERE.
I have absolutely no issue with families who choose to raise their families with what they refer to as "traditional" family values. I may disagree with them, the ideology behind "traditional," and how it affects the acceptance of diversity in our society, but I believe it is every parent's right to raise their child how they best see fit, under their roof.
That being said, we cannot burden our public school system by infusing only what we perceive to be the "right" traditional family values. That is not the job of any board member and publicly-elected official. That is not the way the public education system works. It is not designed to cater to a specific religion or a specific set of morals. It's designed to give children, from all backgrounds, races and cultures a diverse, balanced and guided education that will prepare them for the real world and the challenging conversations and situations they will face as they evolve into functioning adults that contribute to our society.
It is a board member's job to represent all students and all parents, not simply those whose religious beliefs align with one's own agenda.
It is a disservice to all children within our district to shield them from a diverse, balanced curriculum. We must remember that, when speaking of curriculum for example, we have curriculum committees comprised of teachers and experts in those fields that review and examine every piece of literature that is introduced, vetting it for appropriateness and context, and how it benefits the entire body of the curriculum.
These committees and our teachers are educated, experience and trained to handle subject matter with sensitivity and to implement guided instruction regarding what may be viewed as controversial topics or narratives, in order to arm our students with the skills needed to analyze a variety of stories and experiences. White-washing or Christian/religion- washing our curriculum or any of the policies implemented into the public school district is inappropriate, isolating and harmful.
Now, it may be easy for one to say that Mr. Dunn's bios are just words, and let's see how things play out. Let's see what he actually does.
We've seen it folks.
In more recent years, Mr. Dunn has led the way to censorship in our schools on a variety of issues.
As recently at 2015, Mr. Dunn demonstrated an inability to respect the maturity of high school students and the journalism department at NPHS. In response to the controversial "Sex: Undressing the Issue" article published by the Panther Prowler, Mr. Dunn proposed an action item that requested that the Panther Prowler print a front-page “uncensored rebuttal” written by a parent (along with a picture of his choice) in response to the magazine article cover.
It should be noted that CVUSD’s legal team, which reviewed the magazine before its distribution, determined that neither the article nor the photos were obscene.
Parents who objected were encouraged to write letters to the Editor... however, after the meeting, only one Letter to the Editors was submitted. “I think that the irony in all of this is as loud as everybody was; they had the opportunity to submit Letters to the Editors, and they didn’t,” said Michelle Saremi, Panther Prowler adviser.
More recently, in January of 2017, we observed as Mr. Dunn (with Sandee Everrett in tow once more; she was also actively involved in outrage over the Prowler "Sex" article ) worked to further delay the responsibility of the board and district to adapt curriculum to the FAIR ACT. When a parent emailed Mr. Dunn regarding her concerns about how he was handling the implementation (which revolves around the inclusion of diverse individuals into history curriculum such as African Americans, LGBTQ individuals and those with disabilities, who had previously been omitted for these reasons), Mr. Dunn had this to say:
(an excerpt): If I ignore my Christian beliefs what happens to my soul when I die? And what about the apostle Paul? Paul wrote letters to the Corinthians, Romans and Timothy which conflict with the state history framework. Is the apostle Paul a homophobe or was he inspired by God?
Where I spend eternity is far more important to me than being a school board trustee.
And of course, most recently, if you've been following along, has been Mr. Dunn's continued circus regarding the approval of new literature into curriculum after receiving a request from the English Dept. regarding "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian." Although it was approved by the curriculum committee, Mr. Dunn (who still refuses to say whether or not he read the book in entirety) prompted and encouraged outrage from "traditional family" advocates after inappropriately describing the book as "pornographic" and akin to "child abuse." At this time, he has yet to be able to pull a section from the book (even after multiple requests), that would in any way, back these claims. SPOILER: It's because the book isn't pornographic, BUT it isn't written by a white author, so I suspect that's where the problem truly lies.
Another alarming piece of information that was relaying via a former trustee : "Dunn has never been to a California School Boards Association conference. He claimed he "didn't want to be brainwashed." He did not attend County School Board Association meetings either nor any training so he does not know what his job is." (At this point in time, I have yet to reach out to Dunn to confirm this, or see if there has been an updated, but this was a comment from someone who served next to him recently. If I receive information to indicate otherwise, I will update.)
Mr. Dunn has also made quite pointed remarks about human secularists, comparing them to Hitler, and in doing so, has further established he has a bias that he uses to affect and guide his policy votes regarding our public school board education.
Both conservative and liberal parents/students, and everyone in between has the right to feel heard regarding public school education concerns but there must be a respect and understanding of what public school education is and isn't. This is not a private school that caters to your private beliefs and if your personal beliefs are best suited for a censored and customized education, then private school or homeschooling should be considered.
It is not the responsibility of a public servant to shield my child, or any children in the school district from a diverse, valuable education because of his own personal views about what religion and family values should be. We can each teach those beliefs under our own roofs.
I need the public school system to prepare my child for all of the real world, not just one cherry-picked version.
So, when 2018 comes around, I hope many will join me in saying they're done with Dunn.