Community debates asterisk

Members of the community made allegations about the qualifications of the Panther Prowler adviser, Michelle Saremi, as tensions soared during the May 7 Conejo Valley Unified school district meeting.

The board was discussing the adapted version of board policy 6161.1 (now 6161.12), which removed an asterisk which removes a warning for mature content on certain books.

Barbara Sponsler gave a public comment, in which she made a number of allegations, the most notable being when she said that the Prowler magazine editorial, “Shows the depths to which the teachers will go to brainwash their students.” However, to California education code 48907 teachers are not allowed to interfere with articles, because under California law a school publication receives the same rights as any professional publication.  

When Board President Dr. Connolly was speaking, Trustee Everett rolled her eyes and sighed, and when President Connolly staggered each members times so that all the board members could speak and have their voices heard, Everett looked Dr. Connolly in the eyes and said, “Are you trying to take away my freedom of speech Dr. Connolly? This is ridiculous.” and Connolly responded with “I’m sorry you feel that way but it’s my decision that the other members who you sit on the board with need an opportunity to participate in this discussion.”

Viewers of the meeting also actively participated in the conversation, including when Trustees were speaking, causing Trustee Jenny Fitzgerald to call a point of order to remind everyone that their behavior is inappropriate.

Trustee Everett also argued that students who opt out of a book should remain in the room, but fellow Trustees such as Jenny Fitzgerald pointed out that to have a student opt out of a literature piece only to be in the room during class discussions about the possibly sensitive material does not make logistical sense.

Trustee Bill Gorback called a question on the motion, essentially giving the board a vote on whether to continue the discussion of the specific item. The motion passed 3-2, with Trustee Cindy Goldberg and Sandee Everett voting against it, which lead to the vote on board resolution 6161.12, a hot button issue in the community for over a year. The vote ended up with Betsy Connolly, Bill Gorback, Jenny Fitzgerald, and Cindy Goldberg voting in favor of getting rid of the asterisk, with Everett being the sole vote against.

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