As fall comes into full swing the midterm elections become a topic of discussion among voting-age high school students. With the entire House of Representatives’ terms coming to an end and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate are up for election, citizens will make their way to the ballots to cast their vote. Their decisions are often based on current situations in the country such as immigration, gun control and marijuana.
These are just a few of the issues affecting our country that will be the deciding factor in who wins a seat in Congress. Political controversy has escalated in the previous decade and especially in the last two years. With President Trump’s views on immigrants and how they should be viewed in society, along with gender equality and abortion, the country is in political turmoil. For these reasons, it is more important than ever that people turn up on voting day.
Voter turnout has decreased significantly since the mid-1900’s and is causing smaller towns and cities to be heavily one-sided. In some elections, less than 13% of eligible voters have cast, which means it is much harder for lesser-known candidates to gain traction and win. Before recently it was much more common to have similar numbers of votes for both candidates and now it’s more often than not that the outcome is a foregone conclusion.
Therefore it should be a priority for schools to educate the upper-grade levels who are approaching the voting age in how their votes make an impact and ways to stay up to date on events happening throughout their community and state.
In the Thousand Oaks community, the Conejo Valley Unified School District’s school board election is a topic that has caused an uproar amongst the community. As the teachers union put their support behind Cindy Goldberg, Bill Gorbach and Jenny Fitzgerald, many community members have come forward in letters to the editors to “The Acorn Newspaper” stating that the school board’s purpose is to place a check on teachers and administrators.
Cindy Goldberg, for instance, is a Managing Director for the Conejo Schools Foundation, a non-profit organization that works closely with teachers, schools, and administrators to provide funding for various programs.
Many community members such as Jeanine Wojowski have cited Goldberg’s position as a conflict of interest as she maintains many close personal and professional relationships with staffs across the district. These relationships could result in the potential
The race for three board seats speaks to the issue of partisanship in our community as the race has resulted in close to $100,000 being raised by the candidates. This is virtually unheard of in a local, school board election.
With issues such as immigration and gender equality becoming a better-versed subject it has also caused a backlash from certain groups who express their opinions in ways that neither respect nor contribute to the debate. In the Thousand Oaks school community pro LGBTQ+ groups have formed which can cause certain students to respond in negative and sometimes hurtful ways.
The problem with student reactions is that it drives the two sides and everyone involved in it farther apart because of the failure to engage in a logical and realistic conversation. High School students do not understand that there can be a medium where disagreement can happen while still being able to interact in a positive and constructive manner. It distracts from the main goals of school education while causing unnecessary conflict and rifts among student bodies.
As many liberal-leaning states and the country of Canada make the decision to legalize marijuana recreationally, many conservative voters question its effect on minors in those areas, even though they are still restricted from using and purchasing the drug.
The problem stems from the building of dispensaries for both the sale and use of the substance in suburban areas near high schools. For instance, in Newbury Park, there is a proposed location for the first dispensary in East Ventura County and is just under three
miles away from Newbury High School. Many voters fear that the implementation of the dispensary will increase the number of kids under the influence as it will cause more marijuana to be available to the community, which could eventually reach minors.
Among many of the hot topic political issues on the ballot, the safety of students and educators is one of the most prominent and sensitive. On average since 1999, incidents of school shooting have increased to 10 shootings annually, putting students in danger and loved ones on edge.
In the closely-knit community of Thousand Oaks, responses to school shootings have been well noted, as students and faculty members have attended numerous in and out of school protests, advocating for policies on both sides of the political aisle. While many people believe in the removing and restricting of guns from the community in hopes to eliminate the threat, others agree that the best way to keep kids at school safe is to arm both teachers and staff members.
Prior to the last couple years, little to no political action has been expressed to this extent in the relatively quiet community, but the shootings that have catalyzed such movement speaks volume to the concern and political engagement expressed by the students and staff.
For information regarding voting patterns by neighborhood in the Conejo Valley, click here.