Next Tuesday in T.O.: Who “owns” the children? Who sets school policy?

By George Miller


At this week’s Conejo Valley Unified School District Board meeting, opponents of a revised book selection and parental opt-out policy draft (Agenda item 11A) tried to overwhelm the meeting with numbers, intensity, arguments and sheer offensiveness, bordering on, if not crossing over, into intimidation. We heard estimates of an overflow crowd of 150-175, mostly opponents and about 50 of them students.

Photos below: left: Advocates of the policy want to put parents in control; right: opponents believe that teachers are the experts and should determine what is taught. Photos by Marc Langsam.


An issue on book selection/usage or the “core literature list,” as it’s called, has turned into a war in the District this year. Pitched battles have been fought in local media and at board meetings, even when it wasn’t on the agenda.

Ostensibly, it’s about what books should be on the approved list for teaching and whether and how parents opt out of materials that they deem unacceptable for their children. Some feel that there are highly unacceptable books on the list now and either want them off, or at least a stronger parental opt-out approach. We have run excerpts from some of the books before and find it hard to believe that their socially redeeming value exceeds their offensiveness, especially for 9th grade consumption.

But this is potentially a landmark dispute, where the real issues are:

  • Who “owns” the children and determines what they will be taught: the parents, or government schools’ faculty and administration?
  • Who sets school policy: The Board of Education or faculty/administration?

Opponents have been accusing the three board members who expressed support for the marked up policy draft of: “censorship,” religious fundamentalism, white supremacy and more. But what the policy does is clarify how literature will be selected and provide a straightforward and fairly objective method of identifying potentially objectionable material, informing parents and allowing them to opt out their children if they object. To say that this is “censorship” is absurd. Parents deciding whether their children should view objectionable materials is far from Fahrenheit 451. Since there are only a couple of hundred such books out of over 8000 on the state’s literature list and very few of these make it to CVUSD’s list, the potential impact is not that large.

Much of the faculty, administration and opposition groups maintain that they are the experts, should not be challenged, are insulted to be doubted, know better than the parents and the board, who should not even be allowed to challenge reading choices

District Superintendent Dr. Mark McLaughlin, at Board direction, appointed a committee to draft a policy. They met, wrote one, using an existing policy (6161.1) as a base and reviewed it with board members Sandee Everett and Patricia Phelps. Everett suggested changes, which the committee refused to make and refused to even discuss further. Everett says she used their draft as a starting point and marked it up with her suggestions. She presented this at the November 7 board meeting.

At this point, it appears that Board President Mike Dunn, Members Sandee Everett and John Andersen support the new policy as presented at the Nov. 7 meeting. Betsy Connelly and Patricia Phelps are in opposition. We endorse the policy. But, if I had a child in the district schools and was informed of such trash to be taught, I would likely tell him/her: read it, then let’s talk about why it is trash and what they were trying to accomplish by filling your head with it. Better yet, I would have my kids in private school or homeschooled, as a reputed 26% of Conejo Valley school-aged kids already are. Is the District intent on increasing those numbers by restricting parental choices?

Citizens Journal recommends that you read the presentation (below) yourself, particularly the comparison charts on the Superintendent Committee proposal  vs  policy amendment, rather than rely upon the often emotional and distorted words of partisans of either side.  The versions really aren’t as different as protesters would have you believe, except for more parental protection in the latter. No books are “banned,” and no trees felled – if you read the digital version. This will be voted on next week- so we encourage you to come to the meeting at 6 pm next Tuesday, November 14, 2017, Conejo Valley Unified School District, 1400 E Janss Rd., Thousand Oaks, CA.

Relevant policy documents:

Agenda Item Details

Nov 07, 2017 – Regular Board Meeting
Approval of Amendments to Board Policy 6161.1 – Selection and Evaluation of Instructional Materials
Discussion, Information


Shall the Board of Education approve amendments to Board Policy 6161.1 – Selection And Evaluation of Instructional Materials?


There has been an informal process in place within the district for students to request alternative core literature assignments, but due to its informality the students experience can be inconsistent. In addition, many parents and students do not know that this type of request is possible. The purpose of these policy amendments is to create a consistent process for parental notification and for the request of an alternative literature selection if necessary.


  1. Approve the amendments to BP 6161.1 as submitted
  2. Approve the amendments to BP 6161.1 as amended
  3. Do not approve the amendments to BP 6161.1


Alternative #1


This policy update will accomplish four main goals. First, it ensure parents are notified that their child can receive an alternative assignment if a book iss in conflict with the student’s sensibilities and/or values. Second, it establishes a standard for notifying parents/legal guardians if there are titles on their child’s syllabus that are annotated by the California Department of Education as having mature content. The CDE recommends that educators and parents should read such a book and know the child before giving the book to the child. Third, this policy update will bring the district into compliance with Education Code 60002, which requires that, along with substantial teacher involvement, the district shall encourage and promote the participation of parents/legal guardians and community members in the selection of proposed instructional materials. Fourth, it puts forth a process for an alternative book selection.

Respectfully Submitted by:

Sandee Everett, MSEd

Board of Trustees

Prepared by:

Sandee Everett, MSEd

Board of Trustees


Amended Board Policy 6161.1.pdf (252 KB)

Sandee Everett Presentation_FINAL2


Watch the five hour Nov. 7 board meeting if you dare!


Recommended Literature List – Curriculum Resources (CA Dept of …

Literature Links – School Libraries (CA Dept of Education)


Some relevant articles:

Conejo School Board Meeting- on core literature list | Citizens Journal …

Oct 2, 2017 – Please plan to attend the CVUSD School Board meeting tomorrow, Oct. 3rd, which begins promptly at 6:00 p.m.. Item 11A on Core Literature …

Conejo Schools “BookGate” war continues | Citizens Journal | Citizens …

Oct 6, 2017 – Board authorizes Supt. to develop a core book selection/use policy … (among other things) what to do about the core literature list controversy. … The Board authorized Interim CVUSDSuperintendent Dr. Mark McLaughlin to …. Indivisible leader Jon Cummings had this to say on their Facebook page after …

Round 2: Conejo School Board votes to accept … – Citizens Journal…

Sep 5, 2017 – CVUSD Board Member Betsy Connolly ….. Should the Board of Education approve the newcore literature titles for English Language Arts …


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

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Barry Gabrielson

School board ignores ‘The Conejo Way’, written editorial is based on distortions, fabrications, ignorance, bias, and being disingenuous.
The CVUSD voted 4-1 to allow the book, “The Diary of the Part Time Indian” into its book curriculum, Everett and Anderson voted yes, to be taught in the classroom. They voted yes to avoid our far left newspapers for falsely labeling this action as “Censorship”. This was performed to satisfy the majority of the nihilist humanist teachers and parents in this community. For the 20% or more, this Board wants to give moral Conservatives the opportunity to opted out of these nihilist, salacious and inappropriate books, that indoctrinate their children with this obscenity, degeneracy and lewd behavior, allow their children to read one of the classics.. This majority vote was to satisfy the far left nihilist secular parents and teachers; the opt out was to satisfy the moral conservative parents, this way, all parents get what they want for their children. The Unions and Teachers are irate regarding this win for both sides. They demand that all children be indoctrinated in this filth, not just secular nihilist parents and their children; this must include the Conservative parent’s children. Teachers decide what is taught in the classrooms, period. Conservative parents, who pay high taxes for public education (115K per teacher), have no say as to what their children read in this classroom, its 100% far left ideology for all, or else. This issue is all about “Control” of public education. Teachers Unions and Teachers won’t give up this strangle hold on continued indoctrination, will do anything to keep brain washing students that extremely low school standard test scores, an inappropriate education, with salacious books in the curriculum, written for 8 year olds, with no intrinsic value is the only way to go.

Eileen Tracy

About 8 months after high school graduation, I read and was amazed at content from a captivating book on the holocaust. How could I have gone thru 12 years o school and knew nothing on the topic. My elementary school was run mostly by German immigrants or their children. I paid tuition at a Catholic high school.

Anyways I was angry that we never knew about the holocaust. I’m not sure what my parent’s opinion was on the topic. I doubt that they would ever challenge school authorities. So I’m happy that this topic is under discussion in Conejo. Progress!

Timothy Bond - Unified Conejo

Thank you CJ and GM! Excellent article.

William Hicks. Take back control of local govt by engaging locally. It is a very bad idea to persuade people to wait around for the Feds to swoop in to solve OUR problems. Apathy is not helpful. In fact it helped get us where we are today.

Never mind if you have no kids. You pay taxes, and these kids could be the ones feeding you applesauce through a straw one day. This is the future of America.

TAKE IT BACK! Please come to the meeting.

William Hicks

The ultimate “opt out” is still to take your children out of public education. The “liberal/progressive cartel” has taken over at the State and Local level and there may be no hope that parents, and other tax payers, will overwhelm this dangerous ideology. Our only hope may be at the federal level with a new Director of The Department of Education. We can only hope that she has the will to provide choice in education with vouchers.