People in the Santa Ynez Valley really just need to mind their own business. 

But they’re too entitled for that, aren’t they? 

After burning through several principals in a short period of time, Santa Ynez Valley Union High School still hasn’t replaced the most recent resignation, Michael Niehoff. Niehoff resigned last spring after dealing with too much community interference—meaning parents and not-parents from Solvang and Santa Ynez who just couldn’t help but insert themselves into the business of running a school and the culture of unity and inclusion that Niehoff was attempting to build in his short time at the school.

His last straw? The ridiculous conniption fit thrown over rainbow-painted crosswalks, a temporary nod to the schools’ LGBTQ-plus community during a week that was supposed to bring awareness about bullying and its adverse impacts. Instead of celebrating diversity, the school was thrown into the political culture wars, again.

Students, their well-being, and the quality of their high school experience and education were not at the forefront of that conversation. 

It’s no wonder the district has yet to hire his replacement. I wouldn’t want to be an administrator at that school. It’s a lose-lose situation. 

And it isn’t enough for SYV residents to blow up their own school system. They are now attempting to wiggle into decisions being made in Santa Maria, a more diverse school system (read: less white) serving a larger population of low-income residents (read: not like the Santa Ynez Valley). 

Common Sense Santa Ynez Valley is nicknaming its Santa Maria efforts We the People of the Santa Maria Valley—weird if most of its members aren’t from Santa Maria at all. But I digress! This group is stirring up shit.

It wants “we the people” to speak out against the Santa Maria-Bonita School District “before more of our children’s minds are violated” by whatever books it deems unacceptable for school libraries to keep in stock. They referenced “sexually explicit” reading material. You think the libraries stock soft-core porn? Or is the group referring to materials that mention LGBTQ-plus issues? 

I’ll let you guess, since the group isn’t ready with its list yet. 

I’m not sure how violated those minds are getting when only 24 percent of the student population met or exceeded English language arts standards on the state’s Smarter Balance Assessment in 2022-23. Perhaps we should be more concerned about student reading comprehension than banning books. 

The group’s initial appeal to local residents inspired some to show up to the district’s Sept. 27 meeting in support of “freedom of speech” and “books that include accurate history, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community,” according to district spokesperson Maggie White

Thank goodness for people who pay attention!! 

And thank goodness for the Santa Maria-Lompoc chapter of the NAACP.

“We’re going to fight against policies, procedures, and practices that harm communities of color and all students,” chapter President Lawanda Lyons-Pruitt said. “Our kids deserve better than that.” 

She believes that the group has plans to hit other districts in the area with its disruptive ask and said the local NAACP chapter plans to be there to counter its narrative.

I’ll be there, too.

The canary supports freedom of speech, not book bans. Send intel to [email protected].

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