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Newbury Park elementary school sprayed with graffiti amid transgender controversy

Amid transgender controversy, Ventura County elementary school sprayed with graffiti
Amid transgender controversy, Ventura County elementary school sprayed with graffiti 03:02

A Ventura County elementary school was defaced with graffiti after a local newsletter criticized the school for affirming the gender of a transgender student and now local families and community leaders are fighting back. 

The graffiti on Maple Elementary School in Newbury Park appeared early Friday morning. It read "Pervs Work Here." Many people believe it was in response to an article that was published the day prior in The Conejo Guardian with the headline "Third-grade Teacher Promotes Gender Confusion in Classroom."

"It was so misinformed, the entire article," Lauren Najjarpour, who has a daughter in that third grade classroom, where this also a transgender student. 

According to the district, the teacher affirmed the child's new pronouns back in January by reading a children's book about a transgender boy called "Call Me Max."

"She just said that the student went by one name and the teacher said now we are going to refer to the student by this name, and she said we support all the kids in this classroom and that was it and it wasn't a big deal," Najjarpour said. 

However, at least one parent did think it was a big deal. He was quoted in the Guardian, which claims the district is promoting "radical sexual agendas."

Lauren Gill, a member of the Conejo Valley Unified School Board, said the teacher acted appropriately. 

"This is a place of learning, and every student has a fundamental right to be safe in a place of learning and everyone, regardless of their age, has the right  name and claim their identity," Gill said. 

This week, the superintendent put out a lengthy statement that reads in part:

"It needs to be made very clear that CVUSD students and staff are not pawns in the game of politics. I will not let certain individuals from within our community, plus a local publication spready falsehoods about our students, families, staff, schools, and local school district without fighting back with facts and information." 

Megan Goebel is the mother of a trans second grader, and she sits on the district's LGBTQ Advisory Council. 

"If we don't them the freedom to explore, if we tell them that these kinds of things are wrong, think about what that does to a child. It really crushes their spirit, crushes who they are. It makes them think they can't explore things even outside of gender," Goebel said. 

CBSLA reached out to the editor of the Guardian, and he declined an on-camera interview, but sent a statement that reads in part:

"We call on McLaughlin (the superintendent) to cease and desist making baseless statements, and retract his comments, or we will bring legal action against him personally and in his capacity as CVUSD superintendent." 

In light of the graffiti this week, Maple Elementary School parents and staff put up signs at the front of campus, and students wrote notes of positivity and inclusiveness. The editor of the Guardian said he does not support vandalism and does not know who did it. 

Both statements can be read in full below. 

Statement from Conejo Valley Unified School District:

"Dear CVUSD Community:

In the Conejo Valley Unified School District we proudly serve ALL students and even more proudly affirm to be a place where ALL students belong.

It is with great sadness and frustration that I share this with each of you. This past week, not only was our Maple Elementary School's exterior wall vandalized, but very inaccurate and hurtful statements were posted on social media about other Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) schools. At this point, it needs to be made very clear that CVUSD students and staff are not pawns in the game of politics. I will not let certain individuals from within our community, plus a local publication (the name of which is intentionally omitted from this letter), spread falsehoods about our students, families, staff, schools, and local school district without fighting back with facts and information.

As many in our community are aware, on Friday, May 27, 2022, hateful speech was spray painted in giant red letters across the front of Maple Elementary School. This act of vandalism came on the heels of a factless written piece focused on Maple Elementary School (including a photo of the school, along with its school logo printed on the front cover) being dropped on the driveways of homes across Conejo Valley by a local monthly publication. There have been many pieces written in this unreliable source about Conejo Valley USD schools, members of the school board, and district employees that are completely erroneous, mislead readers, spew disinformation, and contain no journalistic or investigative integrity. I will not stay quiet any longer. 

To know this publication released a piece on Thursday, May 26, 2022, and to see the hate on display the following day, raises real concerns about this small group of individuals who do not represent the values and beliefs of our school district. Just days after the horrifying events at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde Texas, I can only ask myself who could react in such a vulgar and intolerant manner by directing ignorance towards one of our elementary schools? This act is not isolated, but one of several recent concerning incidents within our community. On the very same day that graffiti was strewn on our Maple Elementary walls, a social media post from a possible school board candidate criticized Redwood Middle School for information the school provided in support of National Pride Month. This developing pattern of intolerance is deplorable.

Day in and day out, in the Conejo Valley USD we remain focused on keeping families informed and staying connected to the community we serve. There are countless ways for parents to get involved in their children's schools. There are also dedicated webpages, information session recordings, and FAQs posted on our district website for a variety of topics including health education, ethnic studies and more. When families or community members have questions on these, or other topics, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of looking to the District website for factual information or directly contacting your school site administrator as a trusted resource.

The Maple Elementary School community is an extremely special one. They are focused on promoting Friendship, Courage and Integrity amongst their young scholars. The written piece that was printed by the local publication referred to a single classroom lesson in one classroom that took place in January. This lesson was not part of any specific curriculum but was intended to fulfill this teacher's professional responsibility to create environments that are free of harassment and discrimination, for all students.

It is imperative for our community to know facts. First, sexuality and gender identity are not instructional content in elementary standards or curriculum. Second, we do have legal and professional responsibilities to create inclusive learning environments, which does mean actions that affirm students' identities. Fulfilling these responsibilities means that at Maple Elementary and across all District schools we: use inclusive language, use an individual's names and pronouns, and create a gender affirming classroom and school environments. These responsibilities are guided by federal and state laws (we encourage our community to learn about the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Act, enacted into California Education Code in 2012 to gain a better understanding of our professional responsibilities), local policies and regulations, and our District's belief that all students deserve an exceptional educational experience.

Our District staff have provided training to all elementary teachers and administrators, including Maple staff, on how to support our gender diverse students. This training informed teachers that we are not explicitly teaching students about gender as teaching about gender is not part of any approved District elementary curriculum. However, teachers have a legal obligation to create inclusive environments for all students - including our gender diverse students, in which we appropriately use student's personal pronouns, intervene to address bullying/harassment, and send positive messages to all students that everyone is welcome for who they are.

Not too long ago we faced a tragic event at Borderline and all came together as a community.  We now see vile signs of hate hanging on our local overpasses, anti-Semitic and racist tags at our schools, deliberate twisting of the words of our country's civil rights leaders' as a means to block ethnic studies, and homophobic social media posts.  And now we have to endure hateful words spewed across the front of one of our elementary schools. This is beyond despicable. 

The most important fact to be taken away from this message is that the Conejo Valley USD will not be deterred from supporting and welcoming ALL students. It is through the fostering of inviting environments that we help to ensure students feel safe, included and truly part of the CVUSD family, which allows them to learn and grow as scholars and importantly as individuals within our classroom walls.

Law enforcement is conducting an on-going investigation into what occurred at Maple Elementary. This investigation includes increasing patrols in the community surrounding Maple and going door-to-door to speak with nearby residents. We are grateful for our partnership with the Thousand Oaks Police Department and we will continue to work together to support the safety of our students, staff and school communities.

Please join us in being an ally to support all students. Do not fall victim to printed disinformation. 

Hate has no place in the CVUSD."

Statement from Conjejo Guardian Editor, Joel Kilpatrick:

"To the Conejo Valley community,

In response to the Conejo Guardian's story, "Third-grade teacher promotes gender confusion in classroom," CVUSD Superintendent Mark McLaughlin emailed a response apparently to all CVUSD parents and employees in which he resorted to bluster and slander because the facts are entirely against him. McLaughlin did not even attempt to argue that the Guardian article is incorrect in any particular.

We challenge McLaughlin to point to any inaccuracy or error in our article, or in any article the Guardian has published about CVUSD. We call on McLaughlin to cease and desist making baseless statements, and retract his comments, or we will bring legal action against him personally and in his capacity as CVUSD superintendent.

The facts of the story stand undisputed: A Maple Elementary third-grade teacher (whose name we elected not to publish in this first article) presented a girl student to the class as a boy with a new name (we elected not to publish the child's "new" name), then showed a video promoting "trans-genderism" called, "Call Me Max."

As stated in the article, the Guardian sought comment from the principal, Patty Lewis, and the Parent Faculty Association and received no response from either.

The article came about because a concerned father of a child in this third-grade class was so troubled that this had happened without parent permission or notification that he attended and spoke at a CVUSD school board meeting. He requested to speak with board members, but they would not contact him. Principal Patty Lewis and the third-grade teacher were similarly dismissive, according to this father, which led him to approach the Conejo Guardian. After verifying what had happened, we published an accurate story which McLaughlin has not sought to challenge directly because it is true and factual.

Perhaps more importantly, McLaughlin's letter marks a turning point for CVUSD schools. The Superintendent declares publicly, in his own words, that all students in every grade level, in any class in any CVUSD school can at any time be taught "trans-genderism" for the sake of "inclusion" — and parents don't need to be notified that this is happening. This is coming from the primary public servant over the area's public schoolchildren.

McLaughlin's tenure as superintendent has been marked by soaring salaries for himself and other administrators, plummeting enrollment, stagnant test scores and the aggressive introduction of viewpoints on sexuality and racism many parents find offensive. Perhaps McLaughlin will, with similar vigor, address those problems and concerns to a wide audience.

As to what McLaughlin says was vandalism at Maple Elementary, we would ask: Does the school have video surveillance? We demand that he release it. Does the school have security guards? Does McLaughlin have any information about who did this, and will he release all the information he has?

Further, does McLaughlin intend to force CVUSD schools to allow biological males to have full access to women's restrooms, locker rooms and showers? Will this apply to all grade levels? Does he intend to create and enforce a policy to discipline or correct students who use another student's or teacher's wrong name or "pronoun"?

In the case of Maple Elementary, will the third-grade female student who now "identifies" as a boy be allowed to use the boys' restroom? What will happen to students who fail to use this student's new name or acknowledge her "change of gender"? We call on McLaughlin to make clear and public statements for parents regarding CVUSD's policy about students, teachers, staff members and coaches who choose a "different gender," and how this will affect how school communities function under his leadership.

We again challenge McLaughlin or any CVUSD leader to refute the facts of our article. If they cannot, we demand that for the sake of integrity McLaughlin send an email to the same constituency acknowledging his misleading statements and apologizing to the Conejo Guardian for baseless accusations and a lack of integrity.

Joel Kilpatrick

Editor, Conejo Guardian"

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