Fairness Prevails on Conejo Valley Unified School District Book Controversy



By Tony Dolz

Conejo Valley Unified School District president, Mike Dunn, a many times re-elected trustee, closed his one year school board presidency by bringing peace to factions warring over core literature books. 

A group of literature teachers and parents strongly advocate for students 15-17 years old in grades nine – 12, to read and discuss in class contemporary works that they believe better prepare young people for today’s society.

Among the controversial contemporary works, some are branded by the California Department of Education as containing adult-content.

These contemporary books (branded by the CDE as adult-rated) contain hateful racial and gender disparaging language, senseless violence toward women and children, explicit sexual acts between adults and children and between minors, rapes including the sadistic incest rape of a nine-year-old girl by her father.  The explicit depictions of sex, violence and hateful acts, in these CDE branded books, would be rated-X if it were films.

New York Democrat Congressman Anthony Weiner was convicted, sent to jail and forced to register as a sex offender for life, for depicting acts similar to those found in the CDE adult-content-branded books.

The CDE recognizes that the content in these branded books might not be appropriate for all children and consequently issued guidelines that include prior parental notification and alternative assignments.

The CDE recommends that a parent, “who knows the child”, should read the book before exposing the child to its content, and thus the CDE requirement for prior parental notification.

Until the Mike Dunn presidency, there was no official CVUSD policy on parental notification or alternative assignment.

Some parents in the district vigorously objected to their children reading and discussing in the classroom these CDE adult-content annotated books.  The CDE and the objecting parents shared the concern that the adult-content in these books could trigger children-at-risk, for example victims of child abuse, bullying or rape.

Thankfully, CVUSD President Mike Dunn and trustees John Andersen and Sandee Everett, showed extraordinary compassion and leadership in authoring a compromise policy that satisfies the overwhelming majority of parents, representing a myriad of opinions.

The Dunn-Andersen-Everett “great-compromise” policy does the following: (1) allows all previously authorized books to remain, just as before, (2) parents who want their children to read CDE adult-rated content books can do so, just as before, (3) provides parental notification, (4) provides for alternative assignments for parents who wish it.

As it is often the case with leaders who negotiate compromises between warring factions, Dunn, Andersen and Everett have taken arrows from all sides, including local newspapers that in some cases have been unfair in their reporting, and even misleading.

We owe the CVUSD school board gratitude for their sensibility, fairness and leadership.  With the new policy – everyone wins.


Tony Dolz lives with his family in Thousand Oaks, Author of the California Privacy Protection Opt-Out Form; Founder of the Concerned Parents of California; MBA – International Business; Local Business Owner; Married, Father of Two Children in the CVUSD

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