Free Speech

CVUSD Board Meeting - February 6, 2018

Jenny Fitzgerald's Statement regarding Free Speech

Mr. Dunn - I understand you received a letter from the ACLU, which I imagine you are inclined to dismiss. As someone educated in the law, I urge you not to do so. Your claims lack substantiation in general, as demonstrated by the inability to identify a single false statement that could be construed as defamatory. What I find most fascinating though, is your willingness to publicly assert legal conclusions in your capacity as an elected official and purportedly on behalf of the Board, when there are years of established case law that stand in opposition to your claims. Had you sought competent legal counsel prior to making your public statements, I’m sure you would have been informed that courts throughout our country hold First Amendment rights as paramount, and elected officials are accordingly subjected to a high standard of proof in defamation actions based on the important notion that the public should be able to speak out about their elected officials.

The courts of our country and state have held that even certain statements that would otherwise be defamatory are protected by the First Amendment because our society has a “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.” Your recent statements suggest a lack of respect for such national commitment.

Even more, your actions point to a personal agenda that disregards the public you serve. Your public statements, and the inaction of a number of your fellow Board members who so disappointingly failed to demonstrate good governance and speak up about your actions, are directly at odds with our Constitution - a document I, and I think most other public officials, happen to hold sacred. To attempt to threaten the employment and livelihood of community members for speaking out in opposition to a Board policy and actions of an elected Board member grossly abuses the rights that we as citizens are afforded.

In my experience, those that seek to silence opposing views through fear and intimidation do so because they cannot adequately support their own views and actions; So they instead seek to cease debate and open discussion. It’s a form of opposition seen in many autocracies, and in America is considered an abuse of power. The elected officials of this Board have a responsibility to the public you serve. We, all of us, are that public. You were not elected to represent just those portions of the community with which you agree. You have a responsibility to all of us, and in particular the students whose interests we’re here to represent.

The recent extension of your threats to a fellow opponent simply demonstrates your awareness that our community is ready for change, for the effective governance we deserve, and for Board members that will spend their time working to ensure our children are receiving a quality education. We are ready for representatives who will listen and collaborate with parents, teachers, students, and those with differing views, rather than spending time attacking and threatening community members.

While you attempt to categorize these threats as simple questions or inquiries, our community clearly understands what your statements and questions are and we will not stand for them.

These actions are disgraceful to our community. They do not represent the Conejo way. While you may have succeeded in silencing some from speaking up at future meetings, I believe whole heartedly that those individuals will speak up loudly and clearly in November.


Jenny Fitzgerald

February, 2018