Sorry for the delay on this because... life. But, I've had time to digest the CVUSD school board meeting from Tuesday night and am ready to give you the recap.
For those who have been paying attention, school board meetings resumed this week after summer hiatus. The biggest agenda item up for discussion was, of course, the heavily contested, poorly constructed literature and selection review policy that board member Ms. Everett, along with Mike Dunn and John Andersen, had hastily implemented at the end of 2017/beginning of 2018 school year, despite overwhelming disagreement from the community (more than 3,000 community members signed and sent a petition to the board, specifically John Andersen, opposing this policy.)
Now before we dive in, it's important that I continue to make it clear that no one has advocated against an opt-out policy. There has always been an opt-out policy and procedure in place in the CVUSD. Parents have always had the right to request an alternative assignment. Parents have always received a syllabus with the literature selections their children would be reading. Parents have always had the right to reach out to teachers to discuss their concerns about certain literature selections.
So, if you've gotten this far, and you've been told that there is a mass movement by liberals in this community to deny parents the right to parent, to deny transparency and to deny opt-out rights to parents... you've been lied to.
I don't know anyone who has demanded that parents not have access to request an alternative assignment. It's literally not an argument anyone is making.
However, the board majority, led by Ms. Everett, was very aware that many parents in this community did NOT know about this right, or know how to go about requesting an alternative assignment. So, they contrived a fake controversy over an award-winning book in order to fast-track a new policy through the district that gave them some leverage in terms of tweaking how the district actually approves of literature selections (and they did this under the guise of it being an opt-out policy).
What they were supposed to do:
Formalize the language regarding the procedure for how a parent could request an alternative assignment.
What they did instead:
Wrote a 12-page policy (after disregarding the policy they had teachers and district personnel spend time writing) that meddled with the literature and selection review process; created a friend committee (a committee in which each board member is allowed to pick two of their friends to be on it —psssst, they told you this was a "parent" committee, but it's not) to take part in the literature review process; and black-marked "mature" books with asterisks and a blanket paragraph of warning language telling parents that the book may contain graphic rape, graphic human rights violations, etc. etc... EVEN if it didn't apply to that particular book.
As a result, the "let parents be parents" crowd rejoiced. They said: THANK YOU JESUS! Now we'll know how to parent our children! Without these asterisks telling us we might want to look into what our children are reading in school, we would have never known to do so otherwise!
But seriously. Let's think about this for moment. The book that started this all: "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian." When all said and done, it didn't even warrant an asterisk. So, these parents, who apparently were never able to parent up until the new policy was created, would have readily allowed their children to read this book, no questions asked... because, well, it's not asterisked.
Transparency is great. But, it can only take you so far. As a parent, if you are concerned about what your child might be reading, you're going to have to review the list and do some research. I encourage this. I want you to know what your children are reading! And I want you to have great conversations with them about diverse literature and understanding different world views and experiences. I know we have busy lives... but if it's as much importance to you as you say, you need to put in the time. What one may find offensive or worthy of an asterisk, another may not. So really, the concept of asterisks and flagging books is an ignorant one — a selective one — that simply serves as an indirect way for board members with agendas to attempt to signal "problem" literature to parents based on a personal definition of "decency" in order to run on a campaign message of being pro-parent. All this, despite the fact that this new policy puts far more restrictions on teacher/parent collaboration for best student-first outcomes and has caused a huge divide, in which the board majority has pitted parents against teachers solely for what they view as a political win. It's not for the students.
Look.... I listened to what conservatives said. I read their experiences. I listened to their comments. They wrote that prior to this policy, they had no problem opting out. That the process was simple. That they went into the classroom, had good conversation with their children's teachers, and worked together on picking a different book if needed. Now... there are district-created alternative assignments, ones which students who opt-out will complete in the library. There's no "choosing" a new book. The book assignment has been chosen for the student. And, instead of breaking into different groups (as one parent wrote), your kid just gets sent to the library. So, they took a process that was working, and made it worse.
In essence, the board majority created a problem that didn't exist and then pretended they were going to present a solution (one that was actually already in place), while simultaneously tweaking policy that's not even related to requesting an alternative assignment. BUT THEY TOLD YOU THAT THEY WERE SAVING YOUR CHILDREN FROM PEDOPHILES AND YOU ATE IT UP.
And, we're the assholes for saying... WHAT. THE. FUCK.
Oh wait. I'm soapboxing. We're supposed to be talking about the school board meeting.
Here's the rub:
There were a LOT of new faces there! A lot of new parents to the room, who — I'm not exaggerating — all spoke of having like 5-10 kids, plus 37 grandchildren, who had gone through the district and would have loved this transparency back then. You see, because no one told them that this always existed (black-marking books aside), and so they were asked to come and speak at the meeting (you can tell when eight people in a row say the exact same phrases...) about why this was groundbreaking and amazing, worshipping the board members for pulling wool over their eyes. I don't know... the professing of love for Sandee Everett felt a bit salacious to me.
It was sad and fascinating to watch at the same time.
You would have left after those comments thinking that prior to this policy, parents weren't allowed to see their kids for the entire school year, and prevented from even talking to them about just what exactly it is they learn.
I wanted to send them little paper airplanes with messages telling them "we've always had this..." but my soul was slowly dying as I realized just how bamboozled these people had been.
Anyway, I'm glad that these individuals chose to become engaged in our school board issues... even if they haven't been present up until now... it's never too late to get informed. I imagine since their kids are all grown up and out of school, it was a prime opportunity for them to attend.... many of the parents my age have young children in school... and were prevented from attending due to the fact that the first day of school was Wednesday. This also prevented many teachers from attending as well, I noticed.
But, I really wish, more than anything, that these parents knew how similar we are in our support of parental involvement and transparency in education... I wish they knew that what they're being fed is a gross misrepresentation of what has actually transpired in district at the hands of board members they desperately want to trust.
A revote had to happen on this policy because after Ms. Everett shoved in her 17 pages of amendments when the California Dept. of Education pulled the annotations from its website she was using to asterisk books (even they didn't want to fuck with this noise).... she violated the Brown Act in failing to provide the public with copies of the amendments for review during the vote.
Look, we all knew the vote was going to be the same. The board majority has demonstrated a straight-up disregard for good governance.
Between Mike Dunn threatening retaliation against my employer because I spoke at a public school board meeting, to the Brown Act violation, to misusing district funds in an effort to gather community names who opposed the policy... CVUSD has been making national news for all of the wrong reasons.
Asterisk or not... I believe you're doing your children a disservice by shielding them from books that will expose them to different experiences and diverse upbringings. But, guess what! I'll still support your right to out your child out of it. So, about about you stop fucking with the literature selections ya fucktwits?