Divisiveness Fostered by the CVUSD School Board

The divisive environment that has been fostered by certain members of our School Board is one of the main reasons I am running for, and intend to secure, a seat on the Board in the November, 2018 election. Looking back at the events of this week, I cannot stop thinking how the children of CVUSD deserve much better. The thought that a school board member would seek to silence a dissenting voice in our community by directly engaging her employer is unacceptable behavior from an elected official. There is no valid explanation or justification for the action taken, and to suggest an acceptable rationale for this behavior grossly disregards the fundamental principles that our democracy holds dear.

There are a multitude of options available to engage constituents on issues of concern, including social media postings, tweets, letters to the editor, phone calls, or even face to face meetings. One must question why each of these options were overlooked in favor of one which instead threatened the livelihood of a community member, her family, and that of her employer.

These types of actions invoke a much broader concern beyond the specific facts at issue. When an elected official actively suppresses the voice of a community member who speaks out in opposition, it sends a deafening message to those generally not inclined to voice their concerns - should you choose to speak up with an opinion/view that I do not agree with, your livelihood and potentially even your safety will be threatened. These autocratic actions have no place in our democracy, where dissent is not only welcome but encouraged.

Sadly, my disappointment in the above-referenced actions do not begin and end with the board member in question. I am also concerned about those board members that have stood idly by while the events of this week have unfolded. For those members of the Board, I have heard no expression of shock, no statements that the actions taken do not represent their perspective or values, no statements that such actions strike at the core tenets of what we as a society value so highly - the ability to participate in our political process.

That those board members would not seek to protect the right to free speech of a member of their community, regardless of whether they agree or disagree with the content of that speech, falls well short of what we expect from our elected officials. The message sent by those members of the Board is clear – you have the right to free speech, as long as it is something with which we agree.

Such message is not reflective of the democratic principles that we teach our children about, and this is not the example we want to set for them about what participation in political discourse looks like. Regardless of your political leanings, I think we can all agree that our children are watching us and relying on us to set them on the path to adulthood. Is this really the type of message or example we want to send them? Don’t they deserve better?

If you are someone considering speaking up, I encourage you to do so and hope that you will not be guided/persuaded by fear or the efforts of certain board members to silence you. Your voice is important and valuable. As a fellow community member, I will stand with you and support your right to speak up.

We can disagree without being disagreeable; The voice of all community members – not just a select few – is critical to ensuring board policies are created and implemented with students’ best interests in mind.

Jenny Fitzgerald

January, 2018