SCHOOL BOARD DESTROYS FREE SPEECH–SMASHES PROP 8 SIGN
November 3, 2008
This morning several individuals from the local Conejo Valley School Administration in Thousand Oaks, CA, destroyed the giant proposition 8 sign that school officials say was placed too close to their property.
Residents erected the sign yesterday on the property but it lasted less than 24 hours before school officials destroyed it. There was a disagreement about whose property the sign was on, but rather than discuss the matter in a reasonable way, angry school officials marched out to the location saying they were going to “nuke” the sign. Local resident, Kitch Laxdal, was walking in the area and went over to the administration building to see what the commotion was about. She mingled with the administration staff and commented that the sign “sure made a big impression.” Comments she heard were quite harsh and very angry, “We’re going to Nuke it!” she reported them as saying. She thought it was an extreme reaction and kept walking. Kitch notified the owners of the property, who notified Darryl, the owner of the sign that there was some commotion regarding placement, and that he’d better come down and talk to these people. Darryl (who wishes his last name to be withheld) and the owners of the adjacent property were on hand and called Tim Cooley to help remove the sign peaceably. They told the school administration staff that they didn’t have to destroy the sign, that they’d be happy to take it down as soon as the tools arrived. The man in red (later identified by readers of this blog as Jack Wilson, ) of the administration staff told the witnesses, “It’s coming the hell down NOW!” Residents continued to plead with him, offering to remove the sign but the administration officials refused to allow the sign to be removed peaceably and began destroying it instead. Darryl had his camera on hand and was able to photograph the destruction(see pictures below).
Tim Cooley, who arrived shortly after the destruction began, had been hoping to help dismantle the sign before it was destroyed. He reported that he saw the school officials throw the sign face down onto the lightbulbs. They then walked on the plywood backing, crushing it in places and breaking the bulbs further. Tim said that the destruction was done with obvious malice, the intent being to destroy the sign. Darryl reports that the lightbulbs were smashed, and wires ripped out, and the plywood backing was crushed.
Officials then ripped out the extension cords and took them to prevent the sign from being erected in a new place. Tim and Darryl as well as the other witnesses on hand called police who made a report. The police went and spoke with the school officials about the vandalism and were shown a recent property map that they claim proves their ownership. The sign was placed on the public easement adjacent to the school property and is technically owned by the school. The easement is used by Edison power company for access to the power lines in the area. Residents say that Edison gave them permission to use the easement for their personal use (they currently have horses on the property).
Police spoke with the school administration staff and asked for the stolen property to be returned. They were able to return the cords to the proper owners. A report was made but charges have not been pressed by the owners who say that though the administration officials were outrageously in the wrong, they would rather spend their efforts, time and means in the passage of proposition 8. Similar stories of vandalism and destruction have been heard all across the state. Both Tim and Darryl say that the best possible ending to the story is not in legal action and focusing on the negative actions of the school, but in focusing on the good.
Darryl was able to replace the bulbs and wiring and stabilize the crushed wood enough to install it in a new home. The First Baptist church welcomed the rebuilt sign saying it was “an honor” to be the new custodians of the giant sign. That in itself was quite a story. See the rebuilt sign and the rest of the story here:
Update: The Assistant Superintendent is the one who actually gave the direction to destroy the sign. It wasn’t just some janitors or groundskeepers, this was from the top. In addition, it has come to my attention that the Superintendent himself, Mr. Contini has been defending the actions of his staff and disputes the witnesses’ accounts. I would invite Mr. Contini to speak with me directly on this matter. I would be happy to put him in contact with any of the witnesses who contributed to this story.
Jo-Ann Yoos 805-497-9511 ext 213 firstname.lastname@example.org