By Pat Lynch
Yesterday I attended an event held at Godspeak Calvary Chapel in Newbury Park entitled Alternative Christian Education Conference. (Note: in one flyer the conference was alternatively called Conference on Public and Private School Options). Sandee Everett, board member of the Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD), was one of the guest speakers. Board trustee Jenny Fitzgerald also attended as member of the audience.
Later that same day, Jenny Fitzgerald wrote a blistering attack against Sandee Everett on Facebook. Here is a direct link to Mrs. Fitzgerald’s Facebook post, and in case the post is taken down or modified, here is a link to Fitzgerald’s original post that I screen-captured on August 11, 2019 for a historical record.
I attended the same presentation by Everett that Fitzgerald attended, but there seem to be very few similarities between our memories of the event. Since the attack by Fitzgerald appears to be both defamatory and inaccurate, I will address Fitzgerald’s attack point by point.
I would also like to thank Sandee Everett for providing me a copy of her full powerpoint presentation, available here, which was very helpful in this process. The entire video of Mrs. Everett’s presentation is provided here, so there should be no doubt what she did and did not say.
First, the title of Fitzgerald’s Facebook post is “Our School Community Under Attack from Within.” In fact, Mrs. Everett only mentions CVUSD once in the entire presentation. That one mention is just that CVUSD has reviewed the California Department of Education recommended Positive Prevention Plus sex education curriculum. No attack here, and not even a hint at whether this review is a good or bad thing. Just a statement of fact and this is the only time Everett mentions the CVUSD in her entire slide presentation.
Second, under the heading “What’s Our Agenda,” Fitzgerald starts by saying, “According to Dunn and Everett’s presentation today…” The fact is that there was no presentation by Dunn and Everett. There was a presentation by Dunn and then there was a presentation by Everett. They were both assigned different topics. Fitzgerald appears to be intentionally trying to combine the two presentations so that she can falsely attribute Dunn’s comments to Everett. This is a very underhanded attempt at deception on the part of Fitzgerald because Everett actually began her presentation stating something to the effect that Dunn’s “research and opinions differ from mine.” Note: That is a paraphrase because I did not record her exact words. This article will be updated with the exact quote once the video is available.
Third, Fitzgerald states that Everett called our schools anti-Christian. This is a false statement by Fitzgerald. Everett never uses the word Christian in her presentation and never criticizes CVUSD during the presentation – not even once.
Fourth, Everett never criticizes (or even mentions) the book, Heather Has Two Mommies at any point in her presentation. In fact, upon my review of Everett’s presentation, it is clear she never makes any anti-LGBTQ statements. The purpose of Fitzgerald’s post appears to be to paint Everett as anti-LGBT, which is a difficult task, since she never said anything like that. Asked about this, Everett responded:
“In my entire tenure on the CVUSD board, I have never said anything remotely negative against LGBT students for the simple reason that I am not against ANY students. In my training as a school counselor, I had the wonderful opportunity to work for a year as a high school counselor and I worked one-on-one with students from a wide variety of backgrounds. I love and respect all students and I believe that every student should have a safe and nurturing environment in which they can academically succeed.”
Fifth, Fitzgerald includes a screen shot of a slide depicting a frog boiling. This slide is from Dunn’s presentation, not Everett’s.
Sixth, Fitzgerald states that Everett attacked the Acorn, charter schools, private schools, public home schools, the California Teachers Association (CTA) and CVUSD Teachers. Of this list, the only ones that Everett actually mentioned are the Acorn (as biased) and the CTA, stating truthfully that they lobbied for the new sexuality education and gender spectrum curriculum. Everett also mentions charter schools, as covered in the next section. Everett does not mention any of the other items at all.
Seventh, Fitzgerald claims that Everett criticizes AB 493 because it requires teacher training in charter schools to support LGBTQ+ students and improve school climate. Everett’s presentation does indeed mention AB 493 on one slide. Here is the exact text of the slide:
New Gender Theory Will Impact Everyone
- Not just an issue for public school students – Charter Schools also
- AB 493: Required LGBT Materials and Training for Charter School Teachers
- Going through the state legislature now is Assembly Bill 493. This bill would change existing law and would force public AND charter schools to conduct sensitivity training to its certified personnel and teachers in grades 7 to 12 in “support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ)” students.
- Schools would also be required to provide “community resources” positively affirming and advocating these lifestyles to youth. The bill is specifically clear that ONLY materials and resources from organizations and groups that positively promote these lifestyles is to be used by public schools and charter schools.
Since the text on the above slide just indicates what the law requires, and does not make any judgement about whether these things are good or bad, I asked Mrs. Everett to clarify what she meant. Everett’s response:
“This slide has to be taken in the context of the previous slide, where I describe the controversial new belief that there is something called “assigned gender,” which is described as parents and doctors, at the time of birth, just guessing a baby’s gender since the baby can’t talk and tell the parents its true gender identity. Many people find this position offensive and contemptuous toward parents.”
“The slide in question quotes from the bill AB 493 and the main point is that all this new and unproven gender identity theory is not just being forced on the public schools, but also now on charter schools if the bill passes. The last bullet point refers to Planned Parenthood potentially being actively promoted in both public and charter schools. This is an issue because so many parents have a negative opinion of Planned Parenthood and their strategies with minor children.”
Eighth, Fitzgerald then provides a long opinion about how gender identity training is sorely needed to prevent bullying but provides no evidence backing up her opinion. She vaguely refers to “abundant research,” but does not clarify what that is. Much of the existent research on the subject is from the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) which is unreliable because of their flawed statistical methods. The most common criticism of GLSEN data is that there is an extremely high self-selection bias in their surveys.
In reality, there is little data on the prevalence of transgender bullying, and zero longitudinal data on the effectiveness of transgender anti-bullying programs, since they are brand new. These new programs of introducing gender spectrum concepts to children are completely experimental and no one knows what the long-term effects will be. Regarding the lack of data on the extent of the transgender bullying problem, it is very strange because there is no legitimate reason that there ISN’T data. The State of California clearly thought that transgender bullying is a big problem, because they passed AB 329 in 2015, but inexplicably failed to add a question about it in the most recent California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS). If they had really wanted factual data about transgender bullying, they could have just added a question about it in the CHKS, but they didn’t.
The CHKS does ask, though, about sexual orientation bullying. In my recent article on Antisemitism at the California Department of Education (CDE), I show from the CHKS survey data that bullying due to race, ethnicity, country of origin and religion happens three times as much as sexual orientation bullying. If the State of California was sincere in their position that AB 329 is about bullying, they would have included in the law the protected groups that are actually getting bullied the most.
In the same section, Fitzgerald correctly states that Everett favors punishing bullies, but falsely states that Everett never recommends anything else. In fact, slide #2 in the presentation states that “Most parents would be supportive of their children being taught not to bully or say anything negative to other students because of the way they think, look, dress, act or believe.” Clearly, Mrs. Everett does indeed support anti-bullying education, but just doesn’t agree with the CDE that only one particular special interest group deserves to be protected.
Ninth, Fitzgerald accused Everett of bashing the public schools, but Everett never did this. In fact, at the end of her presentation, she explicitly endorsed the public schools and encouraged parents to get more involved.
Tenth, Fitzgerald accused Everett of pitting public schools against other options, but Everett never did this.
Eleventh, Fitzgerald criticized Everett because a few audience members laughed at one or more of her slides. Asked about this, Everett said, “I didn’t intend any of my slides to be funny, but if there was any laughing, it would not be my place as a speaker to chastise the audience.”
Twelfth, Fitzgerald quotes a scripture at the end of her attack on Everett:
“There is only one lawgiver and judge, and he is able to save and to destroy. But you who judge your neighbor, who are you?” (James 4:12)
Fitzgerald does not indicate why she includes this Bible quote, but it is reasonable to assume that she is implying that Mrs. Everett’s presentation was judgmental. In my review of Everett’s presentation, there does not appear to be any judgement. Ironically, Fitzgerald is the one that comes across as judgmental.
Fitzgerald also states at the end that “hatred and vitriol were spewed against children.” I did not see any hatred or vitriol being spewed against children by any of the speakers, and certainly not by Mrs. Everett.
It is unclear what motivated Jenny Fitzgerald to launch such a hateful, deceitful and unprofessional attack against Sandee Everett on Facebook, but we deserve better from our elected officials. Mrs. Everett definitely deserves an apology. Jenny Fitzgerald is an attorney who should know better than to engage in such blatantly dishonest rhetoric in the public square. Fitzgerald should resign if she can’t control her hate speech.
Pat Lynch is a resident of Ventura County