Indivisible: Conejo Weekly Newsletter

An Entirely Original Campaign: #RiseUp4Healthcare

Last weekend, the Disability Rights Team held two drop-by events, dubbed "Stories and Selfies at Starbucks," to recruit participants (including Pamela Lopez, above) for its clever and creative social media campaign called #RiseUp4HealthCare. The initial focus of the campaign is to stop the Senate healthcare bill by sharing personal stories with Senators and media. Advocates are encouraged to post pictures and videos on the group's Facebook page using the team’s customizable sign, and to share on their own social networks. The group is tweeting the "stories" using their new Twitter account @RiseUp4HCare. Our Healthcare Team sponsored the IDR team’s efforts at their forum last Tuesday, as well. Join the fight at https://www.facebook.com/groups/RiseUp4HealthCare/.


Activists Pack CVUSD Board Meeting to Protest Censorship

An intense week of activity by Indivisible: Conejo activists and other free-speech advocates coincided with a week of subterfuge, miscommunication and dysfunction within the Conejo Valley Unified School District board of trustees – all leading up to a contentious and occasionally downright raucous board meeting on June 27.
 
Nearly two dozen activists attended the meeting, and many of them spoke in opposition to board president Mike Dunn’s efforts to deny approval of Sherman Alexie’s book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. A vote to approve new curriculum materials for the English department traditionally is scheduled for the last board meetings of a school year, so that teachers may include the books in their course planning for the next term. However, this month Dunn twice left that vote off the board’s meeting agenda. Because it wasn’t considered on June 27, Alexie’s book was effectively shut out of the curriculum for at least the first semester of 2017-18.
 
Indivisible: Conejo activists and other responded to those events with an hour of angry, impassioned speeches during the meeting, which can be viewed in its entirety at http://conejovalleyusdca.swagit.com/play/06272017-2079. Afterward, as the trustees discussed the matter, it became clear that Dunn had failed to include the others in the process of deciding when Part-Time Indian would be considered. The meeting eventually devolved into bickering among trustees, punctuated by protests from the community members present.
 
The meeting followed a week during which trustees received emails from dozens of Indivisible: Conejo activists and other members of the public, in a campaign led by our First Amendment action team. Those emails, like the public comments during the meeting, argued that because the book -- which is on the state’s approved curriculum for high school English classes -- had been recommended by two panels of local experts, the board had no cause for banning it on “moral” grounds.
 
Dunn, however, had declared the book “controversial” and became determined to keep it out of CVUSD’s high schools. Part-Time Indian frequently is challenged by conservative parents nationwide for its occasional salty language and references to masturbation. As Gwen Cummings noted during her speech at the June 27 meeting, “It’s written from the perspective of a high school freshman – and it’s written in the language of a high school freshman. It’s the sort of language that most every freshman uses, or at least thinks about using.
 
“That language is part of what makes this book so appealing to a ninth grader. It’s also part of what makes it so valuable to him. It’s that natural, funny, bawdy tone of voice that helps a freshman in Thousand Oaks identify with a freshman who lives on a reservation in eastern Washington. And it’s that harmless, instantly recognizable language that will help draw a student into this story, and hear its important messages.”
 
Dunn announced during the meeting that he plans to look into the possibility of requiring parents to sign permission slips “before their children read R-rated books.” Several speakers then decried that attempt to shift district policy on parental control from the current one, which allows individual parents to opt out of their children reading a literary work, to an “opt-in” scenario in which every parent would have to sign a form before her child could read that work.
 
Such a policy would be accompanied by “parental advisory” information. The National Coalition Against Censorship, which has been working closely with Indivisible: Conejo in opposition to Dunn’s efforts, notes that such advisories “can be misleading and prejudicial, often flagging issues out of context.  Moreover, book ratings often privilege the morals and values of the decision-maker over the pedagogical and literary value of the book at issue.”
 
Dunn has said he will continue devising a permission-slip option during the board’s summer break. A vote on approving Part-Time Indian is now tentatively scheduled for the first meeting of the new school year, on Tuesday, August 15. Indivisible: Conejo activists will come prepared for that next battle as well.


MARK YOUR CALENDAR!

UPCOMING ACTION TEAM MEETINGS



News from the Issue Action Teams

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LGBTQIA+
After a very successful meeting, the group is organizing into sub-teams to track different issues affecting the LGBTQIA+ community. Their newly created Google group is allowing them to collaborate on ways to coordinate with other local groups and participating in Ventura pride.

Healthcare
After last week's successful forum, the team focused this week on the unexpected "shelving" of the state's healthcare bill by protesting at the office of California Assmeblyspeaker Anthony Rendon (Pasadena). In addition, the team has strongly influenced the organization's Daily Action Items focused on the Senate GOP's attempts to ram through their disastrous version of a "wealthcare" bill.

Swing District/2018 Election
After concluding phone banks in support of Jon Ossoff in the special election in Georgia, the team is now working on the logistics for a September candidates’ forum for District 25’s Congressional race. Indivisible: Conejo is sponsoring this forum, the first of a planned three, along with other regional Indivisible groups. As part of their voter education mission, a sub-group is developing an issue matrix to use as the basis of a candidate “report card” at election time. Finally, they are making plans to defend Julia Brownley in the 26th District. The Swing District team strongly encourages you to help register voters in the 25th District (Steve Knight’s) by participating in CA 25 United For Progress’ registration event on July 15th. Sign up above.

Womens' and Reproductive Rights
Parenthood PinkOut last Wednesday night to support women's health care and Planned Parenthood central coast. The June planning meeting covered how Ventura County residents will be impacted by Paul Ryan's agenda to cut social services and the Administration’s threatened defunding of Planned Parenthood. The July meeting combines business with a fun summer night, July 11 at Stonehaus Brewery in Westlake Village, 5:30pm - 9pm, mixing a bit of fun and social time with the resistance.
 
Gun Violence Prevention
The team staffed a booth at Saturday’s Thousand Oaks Safety Fair sponsored by Jacqui Irwin. Her presence allowed the group to discuss several issues with her, and they report that she is very aware of the issues on which we’ve been lobbying her. The team discussed the ASK program with parents; it focuses on keeping kids safe by asking if there is a gun where their kids play. They also handed out free gun locks - they were very popular! This Wednesday night, the team joined other local activists to protest the Canyon Club concert of notoriously rabid NRA/Trump supporter Ted Nugent.

First Amendment
Education

The Education and First Amendment teams worked together on the school censorship issue - see above.

Individuals with Disabilities' Rights
See photos and story, above.

Immigrants' Rights
From meeting with Assembly member Jacqui Irwin, to attending protests, to postcard writing parties, this team is engaged in a full-court press to pressure Irwin to support SB54, The California Values Act. Her "yes" vote requires her to repudiate the scare tactics of her close associate, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean, leader of the only law enforcement group in California to come out against the bill. His stand is in stark contrast to the position of district attorneys and metropolitan police forces across the state. In the coming weeks, look for a campaign to finish gathering signatures on Indivisible: Conejo's petition to support SB54, co-sponsored by the United Farm Workers. Below are photos from this week's postcard parties.