Censoring Our Learning


Newbury Park High School student Tam Le speaks out against the newly installed amendment regarding censorship at a district board meeting. Photo courtesy of @ReporterDawn on Twitter.

The board of the Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) passed an amendment on Nov. 14 — written by one of the board members, Sandee Everett — allowing parents the choice to opt their child out of certain books previously required in schools’ English curriculum. The policy was a significant step backwards in censoring students reading and thus further hindering students growing awareness.

School supposedly assists students in preparing for the outside world where all the “mature content” exists. In a society such as ours there is a point in time when burgeoning adults have to be fully exposed to the reality we live in. What better time than high school?

Already, students have uncovered dosages of racial bigotry, sexual assault, wars, shootings, etc. through current events that are splashed across every newspaper and television. Whether it be a comment made by a politician, corruption of the movie industry, or a Netflix show, teens have already been bared to our twisted society.

The problem is that parents seem to be unaware of teenagers’ perception of the world and the level of exposure that we have reached. Board President Mike Dunn said in an email to the Ventura County Star that “[the added] amendments will strengthen parent rights and help protect the innocence of our children.” I have duly noted the use of the word “children” that is intended to be condescending and prove that teenagers are far too young and innocent to handle mature content.

On the other hand, the decision made by a student to opt-out of a book is a conscious choice on their part that acknowledges personal beliefs and advocates the student’s independence. A parent that dictates the life of their teenage student harms more than helps student individuality and the growth of various qualities needed to become an adult.

Lora Novak, who has held the Chair position at Newbury High School for seven years, spoke against the policy at the Board Meeting; I agree with her position. “I believe that it is soft censorship [despite certain] proponents of the policy [saying] that it is not censorship, but it really is what I would call soft censorship. The second you start putting asterisks next to books and really sort of making it look scary… [you frighten] students and parents away from reading,” said Novak.

Additionally, since schools refuse to discuss these sometimes disputatious subjects (without the student having to initiate the conversation) students cannot logically and ethically debate and discuss what is presented in everyday life. “Controversial issues may be discussed in the classroom, provided that discussion or study of the issue is instigated by the students or by the established curriculum, not by a source outside of the schools,” states Administrative Regulation 6144 on controversial topics.

CVUSD already censors books with a preexisting opt-out policy, calling into question the purpose of this even more limiting policy. “It’s a misconception that we’re protesting the right for parents to opt their child out of reading a certain book. There’s been an opt out policy that’s worked for years,” said senior Tam Le who attends Newbury High School and also spoke against the policy.

Teachers should guide students to find truth and, as Ralph Ellison once said, “to see America with an awareness of its rich diversity and its almost magical fluidity and freedom. . . . Confronting the inequalities and brutalities of our society forthrightly, yet thrusting forth its images of hope, human fraternity, and individual self-realization.”