EXCLUSIVE: Chino Valley School Board Faces Another Investigation from California Department of Education
The California Department of Education (CDE) is investigating the Chino Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) over a tablecloth display, they informed District Superintendent Norm Enfield in a Thursday letter. The letter gave CVUSD until after the Christmas break to submit extensive documentation regarding its flag policy. But the new investigation only serves to extend a coordinated targeting campaign, Chino Valley School Board President Sonja Shaw told The Washington Stand. “When our staff needs to be focusing on our children, they tie them up looking through emails,” she complained.
The CDE’s latest investigation originated from an October 20 complaint filed by the daughter of a CVUSD teacher. According to the complaint, on September 6 her mother “was asked to remove her tablecloth” because “it is a display that goes against the Board’s current policies.”
The tablecloth (pictured below) reads, “hate has no home here” in the colors of the Pride flag. Underneath, cartoonish human hands hold five, heart-shaped emblems. The leftmost is obscured, but the others are the slogan “Black Lives Matter,” the American flag, a peace symbol, and the Pride flag (from left to right). “The table cloth is a representation of diversity, freedom, and acceptance of our country,” the teacher’s daughter explained.
On June 15, 2023, the Chino Valley School Board amended its ceremony regulations to forbid the display of any flag “other than the United States of American and state of California … unless it is a country, state, or United States military flag used for educational purposes within adopted curriculum.” Any other exceptions “must be approved by the superintendent or designee prior to displaying if and only if it is used for purposes of education and only during the related instructional period.” It defined “flag” as “a display of distinct color and design used as a symbol, standard, signal, or emblem.”
The teacher’s tablecloth appears to be identical with the “3 ft x 5 ft Hate Has No Home Here Flag,” available for $7.95 from Walmart, and produced by Anley Flags, a company located roughly 20 minutes from CVUSD in West Covina, Calif. From the full picture, the obscured emblem can be identified as a trans flag with the bottom two stripes mistakenly reversed.
“The current school board of CVUSD has shown nothing but ignorance and closed mindedness through the policies that they have enforced for their students and staff,” concluded the complaint. According to Shaw, the complainant is an alumna of the school district but is not currently involved in its operations.
Shaw responded to this accusation by offering two reasons for the CVUSD’s new flag policy that had nothing to do with LGBT discrimination: avoiding lawsuits and reducing staff conflict. A Denver-area public school was recently sued over a policy that did not allow a Straight Pride flag to be displayed alongside the Progress Pride flag. Shaw said CVUSD’s new policy would help the school district avoid such lawsuits. In addition, she said the school district had “a history of a lot of conflict between teachers” over what flags were flown or not flown — conflict the new policy now renders moot.
But Shaw also defended the school board’s decision to keep politics out of the classroom. “The decision to keep classrooms neutral and focused on academics has been politicized, with some teachers wrongly using schools to push personal ideologies which is encouraged by teacher unions as we have seen on their webpages in the past few months,” she said. “Utilizing classrooms as a platform for promoting political agendas detracts from essential academic learning.”
“Teachers don’t have a right to express their political beliefs in the classroom,” Family Research Council Senior Fellow for Education Studies Meg Kilgannon told TWS. “Students have a right to be educated in an environment free from political agendas and bias. If this teacher wants to use this tablecloth in her home, there she has freedom of expression. The classroom is not an extension of her home or her person. The CDE investigation of this matter is an abusive distraction from educating students.”
Shaw added that the flag policy only governs the behavior of school staff. It does not limit students’ freedom of speech, and CVUSD students remain free to wear pride flags and other political symbols.
Nevertheless, the CDE regarded the complaint as a sufficient reason to launch another official state investigation into school board policies established under the recently elected pro-parent majority. In August, California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) launched a civil rights investigation, leading to a lawsuit, into a school board policy that would keep parents informed about their students’ gender identity. A California court temporarily blocked Chino Valley’s policy, days before a federal court preliminarily blocked another California school district from enforcing an opposite policy, which would keep parents uninformed about their students’ gender identity.
The CDE required that CVUSD submit any documents “related to any current CVUSD policies regarding the display or removal of symbols, decorations, signage/banners and /or flags in CVUSD classrooms or campus-wide areas.” This documentation must include the date of adoption of the policies, internal communications about the policies, implementation and enforcement, and any complaints dating back to July 2021. The letter took two meaty paragraphs to define what documents would qualify, including a list of 27 different types of media that ranged from contracts, email, and meeting minutes to telegrams, scrapbooks, and “tape or disc recordings.” CVUSD has until January 19 to turn over the information.
“This is the first stage of the investigation. The CDE expects to request additional information,” the letter noted, adding that “the investigation will require significant coordination with CVUSD staff.”
The CDE did not respond to a request for comment.
Shaw complained that state bureaucrats were “tying up our staff, who have to go through thousands of emails. When our staff needs to be focusing on our children, they tie them up looking through emails.”
“This misuse of education wastes valuable time and resources for political optics rather than prioritizing students’ abilities to excel in real life — mastering reading, writing, math, science, and critical thinking,” Shaw reasoned. “The Department of Education urgently needs to reassess its priorities and allocate resources more efficiently. Valuable time and resources are being squandered, leaving our children persistently grappling with challenges in academic proficiency.”
Shaw acknowledged that investigations can play a legitimate role, but she said, in this case, “they’re fishing for something, and they can’t find anything, and they’re grasping at straws. We don’t do what we do out of hate.”
“Citizens in California don’t want the California Department of Education to persecute school districts,” Kilgannon said. “Parents and voters want excellent schools, safe schools, high achieving students. So, they want the CDE to support districts that are struggling due to lack of resources and ensure safety and opportunity for students in schools in high crime or high poverty areas.”
“This case is a prime example of the weaponization of government for progressive political ends,” Kilgannon added. “When the CDE is used to investigate a situation like this one, that doesn’t impact test scores or student achievement, the public can see that this is government weaponized for an authoritarian political agenda. Instead of helping the marginalized, CDE is playing favorites.”
“California deserves better,” insisted Kilgannon. “Chino Valley school administrators should not be burdened with document demands for a ‘the process is the punishment’-style investigation. Let the schools focus on the students, not politicized power-hungry state bureaucrats.”
Shaw agreed, “The Department of Education’s agenda has continued to be exposed — it has transformed into a political vehicle for advancing a leftist ideology.”
However, Shaw remained resolute in her determination to continue standing for parents. “Despite attempts to coerce submission, we remain steadfast in our pursuit of what is legal and, most importantly, moral,” she said. “Despite alleged harassment and discrimination from Tony Thurmond [and the] Department of Education, our commitment to doing what’s right for all students remains unyielding. We will not cave into what I call the political cartel and their relentless tactics.”
Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.