It’s 2019. The book policy debate began in 2016.
I repeat: This dominating, board-sabotaging topic began in 2016.
I want to be very clear: when I said, from the beginning, that this was the board’s way to circumvent the fact that the law PROHIBITS permission slips for literature …
I. WAS. RIGHT.
Now, of course, it’s not all about me being right, but I like being right. In this case, I’m conflicted, because it’s awful to be right about something awful and awful for our community, but there you have it.
We all know how it started. A book passage said, “kicked him in the balls” and then-board president Mike Dunn(who came in sixth place at the last election) was like “OMG I don’t want my adult children reading this!” and chaos ensued. Like chaos as in Dunn threatened retaliation against my employers and my employment when I called him on his bullshit. He then got censured for it and then … not re-elected. But, potato, tomato.
Tonight I’m not here to give you an education on the chilling effect (although, seeing as how badly Sandee Everett keeps butchering the meaning of it, perhaps I should), or to re-walk you through all the ways in which this was an underhanded attempt to indirectly ban books from … oh fuck it. Let me lay it out:
1) FEIGN FAKE OUTRAGE OVER AWARD-WINNING LITERATURE BECAUSE not white, religious author
2) Plant statements in local press that accuse teachers of participating in child abuse for teaching mature literature, and describe passages in literature as “pornographic”
3) Pit it as a “parents versus teachers issue,” and claim — with obnoxious audacity — that you have the moral superiority on “family values”
4) Pretend it’s because you’re protecting children
5) Pretend that it’s just about the board being “transparent”
6) Insert decency clause into curriculum selection review process — based on your personal interpretation of decency, of course
7) Abuse CA Dept. of Ed’s annotations to justify the warning labels you’re implementing
8) Asterisk/Black mark books you have personal issue of decency with
9) Intimidate teachers from submitting books for inclusion
10) Intimidate teachers from teaching books you’ve marked as controversial
11) Delay approval of books to the curriculum
12) Implement 3-1 policy that tampers with book selection and warning labels
12) TA DAAAAAAAAA
A chilling effect. It’s not overt. It’s not your traditional book ban. No … it’s actually much more conniving than that because it’s an effort to betray the very notion of transparency you spout. You know this. We know this. When you make books hard to teach for teachers, it leads to less teachers teaching those books. Which leads to those books facing early “retirement” — what was that phrase “Doris” (aka Sandee Everett’s husband’s fake Twitter account, allegedly) used? — ah yes … “some books should be sun-setted.” You didn’t burn the book, to be sure. But you certainly contributed to its placement on the back of the bookshelf. If you can’t comprehend why the community is upset about this style of censorship and book banning … ya probably need to read a book or two.
Fortunately, the community fought back. Disheartened with the corrupt board majority and the poor policy that had been implemented against major community dissent, the election happened. And boy did it happen.
If you’re wondering how the majority of this community feels about the actions of the past board majority and the sham of a policy that Sandee Everett forced through, note who we have sitting on the board now as a result of the 2018 election. That’s your answer. Overwhelmingly.
But don’t take just my word for it. Sandee admitted TONIGHT that the district has ALWAYS had an alternative assignment practice in place. She allowed her supporters to deny this for years believing it was a convenient election narrative. She literally implemented an entire 3 in 1 policy pretending there was no official practice … all to throw that in the shit bin and flat-out say at the board meeting tonight that not only was there an alternative assignment practice prior, IT WAS WORKING.
I REPEAT: SHE WANTS IT BACK. She referenced it tonight, in order to make a point … a point that makes absolute zero sense if you’ve been preaching what Sandee Everett has been for years. Stay tuned, I’ll circle back.
Sandee has always had the schtick, filled with plenty of colorful “ums,” that all of this was in an effort to protect children. She just wanted to protect children — specifically she didn’t want to re-traumatize rape victims. This has been a consistent theme for Sandee. So much so that you’d be dead after one board meeting if you drank every time she said re-traumatize. I’m being that serious. Sandee has spent HOURS (I mean actual hours) reading sexual assault and survivors statistics at board meetings and filibustering board meeting time, to extend meetings 4-5 hours in order to paint herself as a martyr for protecting students. She’s actively prevented students from speaking (after she made them stand for FIVE HOURS) and voted against giving board members in previous years extra discussion time on a topic. (Remember this.)
This has been her narrative, FOR YEARS. She is a student protector. She cries from the dais often, asserting herself as such.
So, I was very surprised, when after Sandee made it extremely clear in her earlier board member comments this evening that even a mere GOOGLE search about one of these “controversial” books could forever re-traumatize student victims … that she demanded students who opted out of books still be allowed to stay in class for the book discussions.
The convo basically when like this:
1) Sandee: we have to respect parents and their right to parent and make decisions for their children’s education, and we can’t re-traumatize students
2) Entire board: OK, here’s an alternative assignment policy so students can opt out
3) Sandee: But, students should be allowed to stay in the classroom and listen to the entire conversation of the book they chose (or their parents chose) to opt out of!
4) Everyone: But um … what about the protecting the students from re-traumatization and all that …?
5) Sandee: It’s just like a couple students and it’d only be like one day of controversial discussion so it shouldn’t even matter …
EVERYONE: ….. ……………….. ………………………………….. ….. …… …………………
I don’t even know where to begin with this. Like, are we just throwing whatever remaining shit we have at the wall and seeing what might possibly stick cuz … even for Sandee this line of reasoning lacks any coherent string of logic.
So, to be clear: Sandee wants to …
1) Protect students from re-traumatization
2) Protect parents’ rights to determine what their children read
3) Include warning labels on books because she doesn’t believe the parents that want to parent actually want to parent
4) Ensure that students can make their own choice (even though she is opposed to a student district advisory committee and supports parent wishes)
5) Allow children to opt to stay in class for potential triggering or re-traumatizing conversation about book they opted out of that she supposedly protecting them from
REASONING: Says it’s cuz, like, it’s just a few students and they shouldn’t be upset or triggered by triggering book conversation if it’s like only one day on the content
Anyway, I’ll shelve that because it’s just so much what-the-fuckery, you know?
And there was lots of fuckery tonight.
We were treated to more bible passages! Yes, people wanted the school board members to be guided through the words of their Christ, as they made decisions about curriculum in public school. We also were treated to extremely dry readings of these “salacious” passages picked from books taught in 11th grade IB and 12th grade AP classes, as, in highly embarrassing form, white people got up and pretended to be saviors for black people by mispronouncing Toni Morrison’s name, stating she has no morals, calling her books smut, and, um, suggesting she was racist. Again, also worried by the number of parents who are sexually aroused by reading about child rape. This is concerning to me.
Honestly, I'm like super-duper confused by the "let parents parent crowd." On the one hand, they're demanding that they should be given more control of their children's education — so much so that they should be advising teachers on what books are appropriate — and then on the other hand, are demanding that teachers asterisk what books they might not like because they can't be bothered to GOOGLE three books and read the synopses and, um ... parent.
That's the actual line of reasoning for why asterisks are essential. WE DIDN'T EVEN HAVE ASTERISKS UNTIL A YEAR AGO and these people are acting like they've never known what do without them.
Like, that’s really what happened tonight.
Then, in desperate effort, Sandee Everett threw even more of her shit to the wall and attempted to make the demand that if she wasn’t allowed to have her warning labels on books, that the district should remove any book that doesn’t have a version available in EVERY language. But let me guess … her folk are the same people that demand that the people in our country learn English.
You know I’m right.
Anyway, Sandee was notified at the start of her soapbox soliloquy, that she would have 10 minutes, as opposed to the previous board meeting’s 35 minutes of uninterrupted speaking time. For fuck’s sake. She spent that 10 minutes reading a letter from a parent that attempted to state that these books were sexual harassment against students, as opposed to discussing the AR policy at hand, and then pretended that she was being censored when her 10 minutes had passed and her rambling wasn’t being tolerated on district time. She then consistently continued to interrupt other board members during their 10-minute allotted speaking times.
And then she wailed: “Are you taking away my free speech?” Because that’s what she really wanted … to be a victim. She got another 12 minutes of speaking time on this topic, by the way. And then even more speaking time on it after that. And lest we forget, this would be the fourth board meeting discussion on the topic. Just so we’re all clear.
And while all of this was expected, because it’s how Sandee Everett behaves at every board meeting, it was nonetheless, once again, completely disrespectful to the community she keeps pretending to represent.
It should also be of note that a number of the community members who came in and spoke this evening mysteriously had a printed out email from former failed board candidate Amy Chen (you know — the gal that claimed a fake nonprofit to run) that they were referencing, which I found to be an even larger disservice to these people. Their public comments alone indicated they weren’t really aware why they were there or what they were speaking about. Many were asking for an alternative assignment policy … as though one wasn’t already in place, and others couldn’t even pronounce the names of the authors they were pretending to be outraged by. They were also under the impression that many of the books they had whipped themselves in raged frenzy and actual crying fits at the podium over, were being actively and regularly taught to 14-year-olds … which just simply isn’t true.
And I found this most sad. Why lie to parents to further your agenda? What gain is there in that? Anyone who has been paying attention at all could see this for what it was … just another orchestrated effort. And hey, you want to organize and get similar talking points across your people … go for it. But why set them up with misinformation to undermine them and their comments at the podium? It was shameful and I honestly felt bad for how these parents and community members were being used. I would never want to be used this way, earnestly believing what someone told me.
After all was said and done, the vote happened, and 4-1 … the asterisks are GONE.
Full circle, all Sandee ever wanted was warning labels on books because she couldn’t legally send home permission slips for literature. She didn’t really care about protecting students. She made that blatantly clear tonight. And, she didn’t even have an issue with the previous alternative assignment practice in place in the district — the one she kept referencing to make a case for keeping students in the classroom. Because you see, the problem has always been her policy. It was HER policy that actually removed students. It was her policy that isolated students to the library. It was her policy that made it embarrassing for students. And you know what, if she just said that — if she just legit owned up to it, I could be down with that.
But then she’d also have to admit that this was an orchestrated circus from the jump — it was a gamble on a hot-button election issue she and the former board majority thought would give them momentum going into 2018.
They had no idea how wrong they’d be.
And that’s why Sandee doesn’t want to give up the asterisks. It’s not because it’s about protecting students. It’s about protecting the remaining slivers of whatever ego she has left.