Locked doors confronted parents at the August 31 Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) board meeting. Thirty or so Conejo Valley residents gathered outside with signs and public comments prepared, only to realize their voices wouldn’t be heard. A notice was taped to the doors which read:
“In alignment with the City of Thousand Oaks and in alignment with Executive Order N-08-21, the Board of Education will be virtually hosting today’s Board meeting, with Public Comments available via telephone only, and public viewing available on television and via internet live stream through the CVUSD website.”
By contrast, the meeting’s agenda posted several days before advertised that “due to the current COVID-19 concerns, the District will permit members of the public to address the Board via telephone or in person.”
With this in mind, dozens showed up only to be unceremoniously barred by their school board members, who made no attempt to correct their ambiguous communications to the crowd.
“They don’t want to listen to anybody. And they’re making excuses because it says online that they’re supposed to be open,” a father of two CVUSD students told the Conejo Guardian. The board apparently neglected to eliminate the phrase “in person,” creating a frustrating scene for the crowd of mothers and fathers waiting to be heard.
Many were there to speak out against mask mandates and experimental COVID “vaccines” in public schools.
“We have to realize how serious this is. Because if you keep caving, just saying, ‘Oh, I’ll accept this little tyranny and inconvenience, and then I’ll accept the next level tyranny,’ you’re going to lose it all,” said Thousand Oaks resident, Jeff Schwartz.
Meanwhile, the board unanimously approved its resolutions without a single comment from those eagerly waiting outside. Board member Karen Sylvester felt it was important to inform the public that the board is “trying to create two new advisory councils to further increase stakeholder and parent involvement. The first is called APAC which stands for ‘African-American Parent Advisory Council.’ And the second is an LGBTQ+ advisory council.” Informational webinars were hosted that week to answer questions about these councils, but no action was taken during the board meeting.
Rocky Capobianco, appointed by the board to the vacancy left by former member Jenny Fitzgerald, addressed parents’ growing concerns with the “Teen Talk” sexual education curriculum.
“I ask that our review committee take parent and community values into consideration when reviewing Teen Talk as a framework,” he advised.
Catherine Xu, the student board trustee, reported on free meal programs and said that students were asked in many classes to state “their ‘pronouns’ in their introductions in the beginning of the year” — a fact that has disturbed and angered many parents.
Board president Bill Gorback very briefly mentioned the mandatory 10-day quarantine of students who are exposed to COVID and the apparent lack of instructional support and in-person learning these students receive.
Motion after motion was passed which the obligatory question, “Any public comments?” posed to a non-existent audience.
One of these resolutions, Board Policy 3452, made certain board members uncomfortable. Before it could be voted on, board member Lauren Gill expressed her concern over a passage that discussed “providing equitable opportunities for males and females” in equipment for athletics.
“There’s no need to have this binary language,” she complained, referring to the acknowledgment that humanity is divided into two genders, a fact Gill rejects. But the board quickly voted to amend the language from “males and females” to “all students,” in agreement with Gill.
The board also voted to renew several contracts, including one with the Committee for Children, an organization that teaches a “social-emotional learning” approach to bullying. The organization provides educators with resources that emphasize “recognizing, condemning, disrupting, and seeking to rectify systemic injustices that create barriers to each child’s success.” The board letter of support and intent states that they “believe that social-emotional learning is fundamental to achieving social justice.”
A break was called midway through, when pressure from the gathered families grew too great for certain board members. The board called the police with hopes that their meeting might proceed uninterrupted by the “noise disruption taking place outside.” However, the responding officers were sympathetic to the people’s civil right to protest and encouraged them to continue doing so respectfully. The mothers and fathers remained outside until the session ended.
At the conclusion of the meeting, CVUSD board members promptly took the back exit to their personal vehicles, but not without drawing the attention of the crowd. Parents tried to pose their comments and questions to the superintendent and trustees as these mask-wearing public servants scuttled to their cars and disappeared.
The Conejo Guardian via email and telephone requested an interview with Superintendent Mark McLaughlin, but received no response.
Two weeks later the school board met again, this time with a clearer understanding that in-person comments would not be received. One local resident voiced concerns about the board’s contract with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organization whose goal is to “prioritize preventing and countering domestic terrorism, resource according to the threat, oppose extremists in government service, take domestic terrorism prevention measures, end the complicity of social media in facilitating extremism, create an independent clearinghouse for online extremist content, and target foreign white supremacist terrorist groups.”
Republicans and conservatives are increasingly labeled as “domestic terrorists” by progressives, and the ADL’s stated agenda to have people with non-progressive views banned from social media and public society alarmed some. ADL’s contract with the CVUSD would allow the district to host educational seminars for parents to learn more about “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” language often used for Critical Race Theory.
Allison, a Thousand Oaks resident, called to clarify why the board felt the need to partner with this organization, spend tax dollars, and teach these values, when already “there has been a steady decrease in enrollment for the past few years. I believe this agenda item,” she reasoned, “may be a tipping point for more parents to withdraw their children and look into homeschooling options.”
However, the contract passed with a 5-0 vote.