Indivisible: Conejo Weekly Newsletter

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Indivisible Fights Back Against the #TrumpTaxScam

Indivisible groups nationwide conducted a Week of Action November 6-10 -- protesting, visiting congressional offices, and engaging in other forms of public advocacy to fight Republican tax proposals. Indivisible: Conejo and SWAN co-hosted a rally on Wednesday, Nov. 8, attracting about 50 advocates to a rush-hour streetcorner in Westlake Village. Groups in Simi Valley and Ventura also held rallies during the week. On Thursday, Nov. 16, House Republicans passed their version of a "tax-cut" proposal that will actually raise taxes on middle-class Californians and harm millions. The Senate takes up its bill after Thanksgiving, and Indivisible: Conejo will be in the middle of the fight to stop it!

Save the Date!

Indivisible: Conejo Holiday Bash!

Sunday, December 17, 4-8 p.m.

Gather with Indivisible friends old and new one last time in 2017 -- celebrating the holidays as well as Indivisible: Conejo's achievements in its first year! Watch this space, and our social media pages, for details in the coming weeks.

Students', Teachers' Rights Bloodied After

Board Passes Censorious "Opt-Out" Policy

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On Tuesday, Nov. 14, the far-right majority on the Conejo Valley USD board of trustees finally succeeded in its months-long effort to undermine the high school English curriculum. By a 3-1 margin, the board voted to approve a hastily written (and really only half-written) opt-out policy that will make the teaching of challenging literature profoundly more difficult in the district. It was a triumph for censorship, short-sighted policymaking and disregard for good governance -- and it will be essential for Indivisible: Conejo activists both to fight its effects, and to serve as watchdogs over its implementation during the coming months and years.

Many thanks to the dozens of Indivisible: Conejo activists and other free-speech advocates who came out to protest during the hours before the meeting. Thanks as well to the dozens of high-school students and younger children who came to protest, many of whom stayed long into the evening. And our gratitude to the hundreds of activists who flooded board members' inboxes with emails, signed petitions, sent Letters to the Editors of the local newspapers, and engaged in other forms of public advocacy during the week before the vote.

For Mike Dunn, whose term as board president ends at the next meeting on Dec. 5, the opt-out vote was one last opportunity to get a big "win" for his Christian-right base before he turns over the gavel. He pulled out all the trademarks of his train wreck of a tenure in order to make it happen. 

  • He rejected the work of the "superintendent's committee" he himself had created in September.
  • He demanded a vote on a half-baked policy that was concocted single-handedly (perhaps) by fellow extremist Sandee Everett, even though the document remained unready for consideration until two hours before the meeting (and still has not been seen by the public).
  • He paid dismissive, petulant lip service to the concerns of the policy's lone dissenter, the heroic Dr. Betsy Connolly, with repeated mutterings of "noted, noted" as she picked through its many flaws.
  • His general hostility toward state regulations, board bylaws and rules of decorum are best summed up in a photo taken during Connolly's questioning, showing him slouching and backing away from the discussion.
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The third member of the board's right-wing majority, John Andersen -- who is expected to take over as board chair next month -- had been considered a possible swing vote on the policy, as he has seemed more concerned with maintaining an appropriate deliberative process (and preserving the district's reputation) than his colleagues. But on Tuesday Andersen proved far more devoted to the Culture-War ideology behind the policy than he is to any concept of good government.

He was given an opportunity to falsely declare the policy a "compromise" following remarks by local teachers' union head Randy Smith, who noted that teachers had won some "concessions" on wording Everett had included in an earlier draft. That language had seemed to leave open the possibility of extending opt-outs beyond the literature curriculum to science and social studies as well -- though Everett had insisted that wasn't her intention.

There's no question, however, that the remaining policy still throws the teaching of English in CVUSD under the bus. The opt-out policy still requires teachers to provide parents with vague content warnings on an arbitrary assortment of books in the curriculum -- warnings so dire that many parents will use them (and no other research or context) as an excuse to keep those books away from their kids. The policy still leaves teachers mystified as to how they'll be required to provide "appropriate and adequate instruction" on alternate assignments for those kids who do opt out. And it still creates a dueling-committee structure for lit-curriculum approvals that will pit prudish parents against teachers in perpetuity, prolonging the Culture War that is this policy's ultimate goal (and has, indeed, been the overriding goal of Dunn's long career on the board). 

Indivisible: Conejo, led by its Education and First Amendment teams, will continue to fight for students' right to read -- and for the respect our district's teachers deserve but have not received during this process. We will retrench and re-commence educating the community about the perils of censorship here in our own backyard. And we will spend 2018 working hard to boot Dunn and Andersen off the school board next November!