By Pat Lynch
The true colors and politics of the CVUSD Board majority and Superintendent Mark McLaughlin (all five registered democrats) were revealed at the marathon board meeting Tuesday night, August 20th, the night before the first day of school. The 7-hour meeting went until 1 A.M.
Two controversial policies were placed on the agenda. Board policy 6142.1 regarding sex education and Board Policy 5113 that discusses student ability to leave school without parent notification or permission for “confidential medical services,” such as birth control, the morning after pill, abortion and, most likely, hormone therapy (to assist children in transitioning from one gender to the other).
BOARD PRESIDENT EMPLOYS TACTICS TO LIMIT PUBLIC SPEECH
Connolly and the superintendent – that together set the agenda for board meetings – appeared to have planned to wear out protesters regarding the controversial sex education policy by placing the item near the end of a packed agenda. They also chose to discuss these controversial policies the night before the first day of school, when parents want to be home with their families.
Despite Connolly’s best efforts to minimize parental participation, protesters packed the board room and also filled the overflow area.
Three hours into the marathon meeting and just before the sex education policy was finally up for discussion, Connolly called for a 10-minute break which lasted more like 20 minutes. This is another typical tactic used by Connolly to encourage people to give up and go home. Protesters from Carden and other neighborhoods angry with Connolly’s decisions 4 years ago, can attest to Connolly using similar tactics.
The protesters at Tuesday night’s meeting were undaunted by these shenanigans and 35 public speakers spoke out. Connolly, known for her intolerance of viewpoints that do not match her own, made the unilateral decision, without taking board consensus, to limit speaker time from the usual 3 minutes to 2 minutes and disallowed speakers the ability to donate their minutes to other speakers. Some speakers were left scrambling to change their prepared remarks from 6 minutes to 2 minutes.
Two former CVUSD board presidents, both of whom were in attendance at the meeting as members of the public, allowed public speakers their full time throughout their tenure as president and even during long protests of the book policy. Therefore, when Connolly’s supporters, including Mrs. Fitzgerald, Mr. Gorback and Mrs. Goldberg (now board members elected as a slate), fought the book policy, they were permitted to comment for hours and were not rudely shut down such as was the case Tuesday night.
Connolly also arbitrarily placed restrictions on the free speech of speakers saying they were not allowed to read from elementary school California Department of Education (CDE) approved books regarding sex education and gender identity during the sex education agenda item. Two speakers read from CDE approved books earlier in the evening, during regular public comments.
One of these speakers showed a picture from CDE recommended book It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health, written for 10-year-olds. This book is filled with explicit drawings of children exploring their bodies.
Another speaker quoted from a book S.E.X: The All-You-Need-To-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties, recommended by the CDE for ages 12 and up. This speaker read a description in the book of how someone can stick their fist up another person’s anus or vagina, called “fisting.”
Mrs. Everett protested Connolly’s decision to limit speaker time and disallow comment regarding K-6 sex education. Everett asked Connolly to take board consensus before imposing her rules. This request was refused, with Connolly stating she was in charge.
PUBLIC SPEAKS OUT LOUD AND CLEAR REGARDING RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION IN SEX ED
Several public speakers asked the board to be respectful of all belief systems in the community when deciding on board policy regarding sex education.
The California Department of Education (CDE) is recommending that students be taught, beginning in kindergarten, that gender is not only male and female, but their parents only guessed at the children’s gender when they were born and children may decide for themselves their own gender which could be male, female, both, neither or anything else (infinite genders).
Forcing teachers to teach this far-left ideology is only the CDE’s interpretation of how to implement the new sex education law (AB 329) which states,
Instruction and materials shall teach pupils about gender, gender expression, gender identity, and explore the harm of negative gender stereotypes (Ed Code 51933).
The gender spectrum theory the CDE is recommending to all school districts is an example of the CDE’s attempt to define the law for every district. It also demonstrates why it is inappropriate for the CDE to allow Planned Parenthood and LGBTQ activist groups to heavily influence the controversial (and optional) framework which is expected to be adopted by the CDE in September.
Predictably, some speakers who support the bizarre new K-12 Comprehensive Sexuality Education tried to make the case that anyone that does not embrace this new theory that there are infinite genders must be a bigot or a transphobe. It is difficult for an intelligent person to follow that logic. Is it now the case that the left can float any nonsensical theory that they want – and then shout down anyone as a “bigot” who disagrees and points out that the emperor has no clothes. Enough is enough. This is America. These people have the right to believe any theory they want to, just like people have the right to NOT believe it – and NOT have that theory forced on their kids. There are always going to be opposing beliefs. That is a good thing in a free society. But there is absolutely no reason why civilized people with opposing beliefs can’t treat each other with respect and not resort to name calling.
In a Facebook post after the meeting, Betsy Connolly attempted to use this same flawed logic by misrepresenting both the public speakers and Mrs. Everett. Connolly even mocks religious people by saying that they believe “LGBTQ people are denied God’s grace.”
Many public speakers on Tuesday night were concerned how students will be treated who have a cultural, religious and/or scientific belief that gender is determined by chromosomes and reproductive organs. If this new gender spectrum theory is adopted and forced into the classroom by the CVUSD school board, students who believe in the traditional scientific definition of gender may essentially be labelled as transphobic and be persecuted.
Having a belief that gender is binary does not make a person transphobic and certainly does not mean someone is unwilling to acknowledge the gender the transgender person has chosen. Being forced to say things against one’s own religious beliefs is unconstitutional and seems to be more at home in the Spanish Inquisition than in the Conejo Valley.
Speakers were also concerned that children will be confused, especially in elementary school, by these teachings that contradict what students are currently learning about gender in school and what many CVUSD students are taught at home.
Everett read what the current 9th grade Health Education textbook, published by Glencoe, states about gender:
“In humans one pair of chromosomes determines the gender of an individual. If you are female, these two chromosomes look exactly alike and are called X chromosomes. If you are male, the two chromosomes differ – one is shorter than the other. The shorter chromosome is the Y chromosome. The longer one is the X chromosome.”
Everett asked if the scientific fact that gender is determined by chromosomes and reproductive organs is now going to be considered a religious belief and can no longer be taught in public schools. The superintendent and staff did not know the answer.
No other board members weighed in regarding community concerns with religious discrimination.
CONTROVERSIAL K-6 SEX EDUCATION AND GENDER IDENTITY
Everett called on the board to make it clear in the new sex education policy that the CVUSD would not implement any new sex education or gender identity curriculum in grades K-6, since this is not required by law. At the moment, what the superintendent is telling the public regarding implementation of the K-6 sex ed and gender identity is not what the proposed board policy says. If this is not clarified soon, the CVUSD may permanently lose the trust of many parents.
She asked that any images in the curriculum that would be considered pornographic be excluded from any adoption.
The new law only requires that sex education be taught once in middle school and once in high school.
Everett also asked that the policy spell out that CVUSD sex education will be taught once in 7th and once in 9th grade rather than the way staff recommended “7-12” grades. She said the policy needs to be specific so the sex education and gender identity material is not taught in other subjects and grades. She said doing this would alleviate community concerns on the matter.
Everett also advocated for a minimal approach to the implementation of the controversial new sex education requirements.
The other board members did not appear willing to comply with Mrs. Everett’s requests and the superintendent jumped in and stated that the policy required a lot more work than he had previously thought. He asked that the board consider only passing the portion of the policy updating the opt-in to an opt-out. He also said the policy needed to be “tabled” for a few months.
Jenny Fitzgerald seemed concerned that staff was taking Everett’s direction regarding the policy. She did not appear interested in the board clearly stating that no sex education or gender theory be taught in the district in grades K-6. When Everett asked Fitzgerald if she wanted to implement a K-6 sex education and gender identity curriculum, Fitzgerald did not respond. This left many in attendance with the impression that Fitzgerald wants the controversial material taught in these grades.
Bill Gorback has already stated to a parent in an email that he believes gender is non-binary (infinite genders) and likes the approach neighboring Oak Park Unified is taking by implementing a controversial K-5 Gender Identity Curriculum this fall.
SUPERINTENDENT SUPPORTS CHANGING SEX ED FROM OPT-IN TO OPT-OUT
Throughout the board sex education discussion, the superintendent appeared defensive, resistant to providing transparent information and uninformed. When Everett asked why the prior superintendent, after the passage of AB 329 in 2015, recommended leaving sex education as active parental consent (despite the law) the superintendent did not provide a straight answer. “Passive consent” (opt-out) means that students will automatically sit through sex education unless their parent provides “active consent” (opt-in) which consists of sending in a writing statement requesting their student complete a different activity instead of the sex education provided by the district.
Rather than directly answering Everett’s question, the superintendent launched into a rant stating he had requested that two former board presidents change the policy to an opt out, but neither was willing. He stated that he thought it was because the item was too controversial, failing to consider that perhaps it was simply that neither of the two former board presidents wanted the change made.
The district has received no notable or public complaints or lawsuits forcing the district to change the decades-long tradition of the CVUSD allowing an opt-in for sex education. It seems the superintendent and Board president Connolly agree they want the change. The superintendent is known for eagerly complying with union leadership’s demands, and this may be another example. The timing for forcing this change cannot go unnoticed as extremely controversial material for comprehensive sex education may be on the horizon for CVUSD.
One thing is clear after this meeting, parents want a say in what is taught to their children regarding controversial new sex education teachings in CVUSD classrooms.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.
Pat Lynch is a resident of Ventura County