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CVUSD Covered Up Maple Elementary’s History of Vandalism, Blamed Guardian Instead

When The Conejo Guardian broke national news about a Newbury Park third-grade public schoolteacher subjecting her students to a pro-gender dysphoria video without informing parents, Mark McLaughlin, superintendent of the Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD), was quick to smear the Guardian after a vandal painted the words “Pervs Wk Here” on the school wall.

But when the Guardian and others demanded more information about the vandalism, the district went silent. Now, emails obtained by a freedom of information act show that Maple Elementary was vandalized with racial slurs and other epithets in a separate incident ten days before the Guardian published its expose — a fact that school district leaders never made public, leading media outlets like CBS Los Angeles and the Acorn to associate The Conejo Guardian with the second instance of vandalism without acknowledging the first.

According to newly revealed emails, Maple Elementary was vandalized with racial slurs and “inappropriate pictures” on May 14-15, a full ten days before The Conejo Guardian broke a story about the introduction of mature sexuality into the third-grade classroom on May 25. Police responded to the May 15 incident, according to the Thousand Oaks Police Department.

On May 20, Maple fifth-grade teacher Kerri Yim emailed Lisa Miller, then-assistant superintendent of student services at the district, with the subject line: “Recent Vandalism at Maple.” The message read: “Dear Dr. Miller, I wasn’t sure who to contact, so I decided to reach out to you because of the DEI presentations you’ve led. Maple was vandalized last weekend May 14-15th. Our principal, Patty Lewis, discovered it Sunday morning, took pictures, and reported it to the district. She told the staff that the ‘visitors’ ‘used chalk in Kindergarten play area to write all over one classroom door and black top with bad language, racial slurs, and inappropriate pictures.’”

Yim continued, “I hope this incident has been reported to the police. Personally, I’d label it a hate crime.”

This email was sent 5 days before the Guardian published its story about Maple Elementary in print and online.

Internally, CVUSD assistant superintendent of instructional services Kenneth Loo forwarded the message to Mark McLaughlin and others on May 23, but none of them contacted Yim at Maple.

Receiving no response, Yim forwarded her own email to CVUSD board member Lauren Gill, the trustee representing Maple, and the local union representative on May 27, asking to know if the May 14-15 vandalism had been reported to the police. On that very day, a second act of vandalism was perpetrated at Maple and, within days, blamed on The Conejo Guardian by McLaughlin, board members and local and national media.

Without disclosing Maple’s history of vandalism, McLaughlin released a statement that read: “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.”

He then continued, “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.”

Though he was aware of the May 14-15 vandalism, McLaughlin never made it public.

CBS Los Angeles reported on June 2: “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. … 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.’”

The Acorn chimed in with a story titled, “Superintendent points graffiti blame at publication,” written by former Acorn reporter Dawn Megli, a favorite of local teachers’ unions. Her article explicitly connected the Guardian to the second act of vandalism at Maple — without mentioning any prior vandalism at the school.

The Acorn’s Megli wrote, “Superintendent Mark McLaughlin responded to the graffiti on Memorial Day with a districtwide email that linked the act to an article published May 26 by the Conejo Guardian. … In his message, McLaughlin strongly criticized the Guardian without naming it, calling it an ‘unreliable source.’”

These internal emails were obtained by a request made on June 7, but the district attempted to delay their release until Nov. 30, after the school board election. Under pressure from The Conejo Guardian and others, they released some emails in late September. Still unanswered is how many other acts of vandalism have occurred at Maple in recent months and years.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I am confused (I often am). If, somehow, as Kerri Yim states in her letter to Lisa Miller, Principal Patty Lewis “discovered it [vandalism] Sunday morning [May 15], took pictures, and reported it to the district.”, then what was the purpose of Yim’s letter? Miller would not be expected to already know all this?

    Any of the vandalism images released and are they any worse than what the children are exposed to in school?

    Not familiar with the area but it would have been great if any nearby properties had cameras showing the area involved. Has police log been checked?

  2. I reached out to CVUSD for comment on Oct. 14 regarding both of Conejo Guardian’s breaking news items this week – the apparently known and concealed vandalism at Maple prior to the Steven Schneider story and the political sign theft by a one-time Lauren Gill campaign staffer, Carrie Howard, who also spoke just this last board meeting in favor of the BOE. (Leaders of Indivisible Conejo are two of her fans she counts on Instagram according to at least one screen shot of her account.)

    The executive assistant to the superintendent sent this reply to my request on Tues., Oct. 18:

    “Good Afternoon Mr. Toton,
    Dr. McLaughlin has received your email dated 10/14/22 and has stated that there will be no communication from the District regarding the theft of political signs or regarding the Maple Elementary statement referenced in your email.
    Thank you.”

    When will this board of education admit wrong-doing by itself and by its known associates? How can you trust a board with this breach of integrity? It’s shaping up to be a mini LA City Council scandal right here in TO, except de Leon, Cedillo and Martinez didn’t project their misconduct onto journalists and parents. They took responsibility, albeit two refuse to cede power. Typical.

    One BOE member recently said to that I should not read the Conejo Guardian! What? That was quickly walked back and apologized for, but it goes to show the quickness of defense BOE will exert when having open dialog with a parent and in the face of serious investigative journalism that other local rags fail to exert. CG is a wonderful muckraker. I hope this BOE member decides to engage instead of avoid.

    I further hope this election brings serious dialog back to the board, ala Sandee Everett who would pick apart the agenda and question everything, just like Mark McLaughlin said he wished us parents would do after public comments, after work and while our kids wait for us at home. He doesn’t remember or acknowledge the Teen Talk agenda items is why parents are in the room for more than two years now. It is unsettled despite his assertion there is nothing CVUSD can do. Parents have presented options. CVUSD is in the vast minority in adopting Teen Talk statewide. So is 76 percent of school districts now at risk of being sued by CA or did they listen to parents and figure it out? Rhetorical…the latter.

    The entire debate has devolved to hyperbole and dishonesty and dismissive monologues that resolution with the current board may not be achieved without a significant trustee change and a new superintendent.

    No school official deserves to be physically threatened or assaulted for their wrong-headedness, but exposure of wrongdoing and passionate debate about disagreements are the lifeblood of our republic.

    Where irretrievable tax dollars are spent to foster values that many, if not the vast majority of the population, hold opposing values, those responsible officials and policies are available for a check and balance accounting. This shall never stop.

  3. If the board had any professionalism or integrity, McLaughlin would have been fired over this. How can this unhinged, unprofessional person be allowed to continue in his position of power over CVUSD? HE is the creator of district-wide misinformation. HE hides facts about classroom curriculum from parents by lying about Teen Talk (sex ed that he personally endorsed and uses in CVUSD) – he emailed EVERY parent in the district and said his version of TT is only taught in Canada. There are numerous video clips of him laughing at concerned parents voicing concerns at board meetings. He unprofessionally fired off another email to CVUSD parents attempting to wiggle out of trouble after it went viral that he told concerned parents during a board meeting that it’s normal for a 12-year-old to masturbate in front of fellow students during school. He is apparently incapable of taking responsibility for his decisions and comments. He is incapable of an apology and a change in his behavior during board meetings. How long will this corrupt board keep such a superintendent? He CLEARLY cannot handle himself professionally. There is plenty of board meeting video documentation of him crying, lying, bullying and pointing fingers away from himself when he is caught in one of his shenanigans. He is incapable of bringing community members together and working with concerned parents. There are so many amazing and quintessentially professional superintendents out there, but this board insists on a first time superintendent who is in completely over his head. He cannot lead. No one follows him. He is a union puppet that’s paid $300K annually to blast parents with self-serving emails a while childishly conspiring with Dawn from the Acorn (caught red-handed). The district could easily get sued and lose a lot of money over his attempt to frame The Guardian newspaper for the graffiti at Maple. Will the board care? Of course not. Like dysfunctional parents, the board will excuse Mark’s juvenile, hot-headed behavior and pay out the lawsuit like they always do. Time for change!

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