Conejo Valley School District passes new book selection/opt-out policy

By George Miller

After a long, hard, bitterly fought battle, the Conejo Valley Unified School District board passed a sweeping new book selection and parental opt-out policy. Like last week’s meeting,  there was an overflow crowd. Opposition outnumbered the advocates and was composed mostly of faculty, some parents and lots of kids, mostly from Newbury Park High.

Overflow crowd out into the lobby and sidewalk at 11-14-17 CVUSD board meeting, to discuss and vote on book selection and opt out policy. Photo: George Miller/

Tonight’s meeting ran very late. It wasn’t until about 1130, when the debate petered out and the board voted 3-1, with Connolly dissenting and Phelps absent. So, Dunn, Everett and Andersen voted it in.  The meeting ground on after that, but most were here for this main act and left after the proposal passed.  Since it wasn’t finished, needing some further markup, we had to have them pass the bill before we can see whats in it- maybe in a few days?

Watch meeting VIDEO

Behind the scenes drama

There was quite a bit of drama this week, including a tug of war over whether it would be on the agenda at all, whether a second proposal by the Superintendent’s committee would be on it (only at a future meeting) and that a last minute negotiation between the Committee and Board Member Sandee Everett was hammered out, leaving both parties happier about the result. The public first became aware of this when union leader Randy Smith got up to speak and actually spoke of the negotiations in glowing terms, believing that it was left in a much better place. It turned out he was right.

What we heard is that the committee wrote  a draft policy and reviewed it with board members Everett and Phelps. Phelps was buying it  but Everett wanted some changes, which they refused to make. Somehow the process broke down and they refused to further engage with Everett. Everett says she used their version as a starting point and added in her points, Opponents say she wrote her own. The committee version is based upon existing policy 6161.1, which is contained in the last two meeting agendi. Someone motivated the two parties to re-engage, resulting in improvements, The rest is history.

Negotiated demands and some changes

Unfortunately, the public wasn’t privy to the marked up negotiated version and had to live with Everett’s very rough, sketchy, sometimes mumbling, oral description of it. During all of  this, Board Member Betsy Connolly was throwing verbal spears at her, sometimes challenging it paragraph by paragraph. Some of it was on legal form, some was on disagreements on policy, some was just plain nit-picking. It appeared that she was also challenging parts of the original policy, the proposal presented last week and the latest version, which no member except Everett had seem until shortly before the meeting.

Some people told us she was trying to cast enough doubt on it to force a continuance until December.  But the board majority was having none of that. They wanted to get the new policy in the bag and entertain changes later, which they both wanted and needed to do, since there are some problems with it. Some items Everett readily conceded to the negotiating team and at this meeting to Connolly. What she didn’t back down on was areas that would provide parents with more transparency and leverage over what their kids read. 

About 70 speakers weighed in on the issue. Each had 2 minutes to make their case. Although most were against it, this week had more in favor than before, as more and more concerned parents/citizens became aware of what is going on.

The opponents’ arguments mostly fell into the following categories:

  • This is book banning
  • This is censorship
  • You don’t trust the teachers, who are professionals and experts, to select and teach books
  • Teachers and students don’t want or need the board’s help
  • Parents won’t do it right
  • The board members are ideologues, bluenoses, white supremacists, idiots
  • It is too cumbersome and slow
  • Opt-out policy already exists
  • Opt-out is rarely requested
  • Students should see the real world as soon as possible
  • Bad passages in books quoted out of context, ignore book redeeming values
  • Let teachers teach

Advocates presented these types of arguments

  • Schools and teachers don’t “own” the students, parents have primary control/responsibility here
  • Faculty/staff don’t set policy- board does
  • Parents want, need and are legally entitled to maximum transparency and choice, including opt-out and a role in curriculum
  • Board, parents, are ultimate authority, checks and balance
  • With over 2000 9-12 approved books and only 223 books with warnings, why do we even need warning books?
  • Some of the books are quite filthy or otherwise objectionable, having no place in the schools, and certainly on my children’s reading list
  • OK to put them on list if approval process passes, but parents can opt out.
  • The policy is rooted in CA Dept. of Education code
  • Let parents parent

Opponent protest photos by Marc Langsam:


We won’t go over everything over the last five months leading up to all this, as it is covered in detail here, by four different publications:

Articles on Conejo Valley school books dispute- vote is Tuesday 11-14-17

Articles on Conejo Valley school books dispute- vote is Tuesday 11-14-17

By George Miller  . For your perusal, here’s a collection of articles, pro, con and right down the middle, mostly from local media, on the Conejo Valley Unified School District book controversy.   Discussion and vote on a proposed policy on the core literature list and providing parental/student opt-outs will take place at 6 pm on […]


A couple of dozen protesters were out on Janss Road and in the parking lot at 11-14-17 CVUSD board meeting, to discuss and vote on book selection and opt out policy. Photo: George Miller/


George Miller is Publisher/Co-Founder of and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard.

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Barry Gabrielson

The Left wants to teach students to hate the right, the truth, to blame the right for all this countries problem, through the expansion of nihilist books at public schools (CVUSD) that promote their children’s frustrations to include rage, anger, envy, jealousy, resentment, distrust, that will lead towards revenge. They do this by sowing the seeds of discord and their own malcontent by projecting their evil on others.
They promote mans secular humanist view on morality, that feelings and political correctness rules over deductive logic, that immoral behavior
must be accepted and tolerated to avoid hurting their feelings. Secular humanist men decide morality, their religion includes,
LGBTs are “normal”, abortion is compassion, gay marriage is special, climate change is real, capitalism and competition is evil, anti-nationalism
is freedom, social justice is greater than equal justice, multiculturalism is progressive, redistribution of wealth is equality, feminists are real women,
Islam is the only true religion, Judeo/Christian views are all judgments which equals hate. Only the “Religious” left (Dogmatic view) is allowed in public schools, no opposing view is allowed. Subjects like English, Math, Reading, Writing, history, etc. are not important, its social progressivism and main stream culture is to be indoctrinated into every child. We can see this evidence based on the horrible low test scores at public schools.
Both right and the middle want to teach the children subjects in public schools to include; discipline, respect, critical thinking, rational thought, logic, common sense, truth, decency, math, writing, reading, history, comprehension, chemistry, health, art, etc, leave the morality up to the parents at home. Religion cant be taught in California public secular schools, with far left nihilist humanist teachers who don’t support the religious views (Judeo/Christian) on morality and the truth. Conservative believe that religion on both right and left need to be taught at the home, by the parents, not the job of the public schools.

William Hicks

Now is the waiting game. We really don’t know what the three Board Members voted for.