Monday, November 17, 2008

The Camilla Letter

Camilla, a high school junior with an opinion, took the time to write an e-mail letter to the CTA (California Teacher's Association) concerning her disappointment in their $1 million donation to the No on 8 campaign. Participants in this electronic conversation are as follows: Camilla, high school junior; Barbara, Camilla's mom; Jim Rogers, CTA Coordinator; Debbie, Barbara's Cousin; and David Sanchez another member of the CTA Board of Directors. Just read the following transcript below to see the condescending response Camilla's thoughtful letter received from Jim Rogers (start from the bottom and read up):

Sent: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 7:39 PM

To: Sanchez, David

Subject: RE: Disturbing Communications with Jim Rogers of the CTA Board of Directors

From: Barbara X

Thank you for your prompt e-mail response and especially for your apologies to Camilla and for supporting her rights. We do appreciate that. I would like to reiterate my position at this point on this matter is NOT to debate same-sex marriage issues or the CTA’s political donation but rather to protest Mr. Rogers’ responses to Camilla (and my cousin) and to seek whatever disciplinary action deemed appropriate by the NEA or whatever governing board has jurisdiction in this matter. Please let me know the outcome of your meeting with the Board of Directors and what action(s) are planned.

Regarding your question about whether I was aware that the media had contacted you about this issue, I was not aware that this had transpired and was not contacted by any members of the media myself. As I mentioned in my e-mail to you earlier this morning, I did forward Camilla’s letter and Mr. Rogers’ response to about 25-30 family members and friends to make them aware of this highly inappropriate situation. I had no idea that it would be shared with so many others or that it would become so wide-spread, but this only validates the fact that this issue is of concern and is unacceptable to many Californians. Several of the e-mail responses I received told me that this should be shared with the public via the media. I told those people, after consulting with Camilla, that we would be willing to share this story if they so desired. I have not sought out the media but I do agree that the public has a right to know about this situation and that CTA members who do not agree with the policies of the CTA should voice their protests to your organization.

Barbara X

— On Tue, 11/11/08, Sanchez, David wrote:

From: Sanchez, David

Subject: RE: Disturbing Communications with Jim Rogers of the CTA Board of Directors

To: “Barbara X”

Date: Tuesday, November 11, 2008, 8:51 AM

Thank you for your email and concern regarding communication between your daughter and several of our Board members. You can imagine the number of emails we received from folks from all over the country, surpringly….many of them were non members who had responded to a church call to email our board. Some of the most hateful, vile, un Christlike messages sent to us. It was truly disturbing what some folks wrote and then signed it…yours in Christ.

With regards to your daughters email. It was well done and she was expressing her own viewpoint. I do recall receiving it. Question for you is…how is it that we got a call from the media about it? Were you aware that that had transpired?

If you have a chance to look at a CTA Policy handbook, check out who the State Council of Education is. They are the governing body of the California Teachers Association and they alone set the policy and direction for us. Over 800 educators from throughout California voted by more than 2/3 to take positions on the initiatives we made recommendations on. Same with the funding of those initiatives. It is not the CTA Board who makes those decisions, we are given the task of implementing those actions.

You are right in saying that we might not be in agreement on everything, in particular on issues pertaining to all of our members (remember…Prop 8 folks pay dues as well), but we must do so respectfully and move forward.

I will be seeing the board as a whole and will discuss your concern with them. Again, thank you for taking the time to express your concern in a non hateful manner. Big thanks to you for sticking up for your daughter. She’s lucky to have that kind of support. Please extend my apologies to your daughter and tell her I appreciate the time and effort she took to express her point of view.

David A. Sanchez

Sent from my GoodLink Wireless Handheld (

—–Original Message—–
From: Barbara X

Sent: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 03:04 AM Pacific Standard Time

To: Sanchez, David
Cc: Luckinbill, Mary Ann

Subject: Disturbing Communications with Jim Rogers of the CTA Board of Directors

Mr. Sanchez;

I need to bring to your attention a series of disturbing communications from one of the members of the CTA Board of Directors, Mr. Jim Rogers, the CTA/NEA Coordinator. Following my note to you, I have included a string of e-mails for your review in regards to this matter. The first e-mail was written by my 16-year old daughter Camilla and was sent to CTA Executive Officers and Board Members including yourself on November 5, 2008. So far I have received responses from three of the members of the Board of Directors, including Mr. Rogers. Of the other two responses, one was somewhat condescending but at least informative and mostly civil and the other was professional and appropriate despite the opposing views of this board member. (If you would like me to forward these responses to you as well, I will be happy to do so.)

However, the response received by Mr. Rogers (highlighted in red) was disrespectful, unprofessional, extremely condescending and downright rude. I was so shocked and outraged by his treatment of my daughter that I forwarded her letter and his response to about 25-30 family embers and friends, including many of her former teachers.

One of my cousins, Debbie (I have removed identifying last names and e-mail addresses in the e-mail string in order to protect their privacy) sent a letter to Mr. Rogers and forwarded it to me, along with his ensuing response (highlighted in pink) and her final communication to him in response to his comments. Please note that I did not solicit her letter nor did she consult me prior to sending it. In fact, I have not solicited any of the 40+ e-mail responses we have received from others who received the original letter of Camilla’s along with his response either from myself or forwarded from others. Mr. Rogers’ response to Debbie was ironically hypocritical as well as unprofessional and unthoughtful.

In way of background information, I did not encourage Camilla’s staying home from school and tried to talk her out of doing so because I understood that her missing school would not directly have an effect on the CTA but rather our school district, which already struggles under tremendous financial constraints. I also do not encourage her to miss school for reasons other than illness or emergency medical appointments and her attendance is normally excellent. However, she felt very strongly about this issue and wanted to make her voice heard and felt this was one way she could do so. I finally consented with the stipulation that she had to write a letter to the CTA voicing her protests, which she gladly agreed to do and spent a couple of hours doing. (She actually attended the first two periods that day, so it turned out that the school did not lose her ADA funding for the day.) This was her letter, written in her own words and with much time and effort on her part; I edited it later for proofreading, grammatical errors, etc. prior to sending it, which is the reason for the delay between when she wrote it and when I sent it I sent it for her in order to protect her e-mail address and so that if she received any responses, they would not be filtered out and lost in her spam or trash folder. I have forwarded the responses and numerous e-mails to her.

I am not sure how you view this matter but in my opinion, as well as that of numerous others who have responded on this issue, Mr.Rogers’ actions were way out of line with what should be appropriate behavior for an educator, especially one in his leadership position. He has blatantly violated numerous basic principles and goals outlined in the CTA’s Mission Statement and Code of Ethics (see attachment, emphasis on key points added by red highlights) and should be subject to whatever disciplinary action or remedies as specified by the NEA for his violations of provisions of the Code of Ethics (as noted in the attachment, highlighted in purple).

I understand that my daughter’s letter presents an opinion that is in opposition to Mr. Rogers’ as well as many others on your governing board, as evidenced by CTA’s large financial contributions to oppose Proposition 8.

While I share many of my daughter’s viewpoints and disagree with CTA’s financial contributions on this issue (as do many of the teachers we have heard from), both of us realize and respect that many others disagree with our viewpoint and we respect their right to do so. In return we expect respect for our differing opinions, especially from an organization which claims to be promoting human dignity and civil rights to students and to all members of society, regardless of their background. As I see it, this issue is NOT about Prop 8 but rather about the exercise of a student’s freedom of speech and how her sincere efforts were treated. I would hope that the leaders in your organization would be expected to encourage activism and involvement in the political process from students rather than to belittle or degrade them for doing so simply because of opposing viewpoints, whether professional or personal. The letter Camilla received from Dana Dillon would be a good example of such a response, one which seeks to educate and validate Camilla’s efforts despite obvious differences of opinion.

I know this has been a lengthy letter and I apologize for that, but I wanted to be sure you were made aware of the background and details of this matter in order to appropriately address it. I hope your response will be thorough and fair and I would appreciate your prompt response. Please contact me if you need additional information; thank you for your time and attention to this matter.


Barbara X

— On Thu, 11/6/08, Tony and Debbie wrote:

From: Tony and Debbie

Subject: Re: Preposterous behavior

To: “Rogers, Jim”

Date: Thursday, November 6, 2008, 2:04 PM

Mr. Rogers,

To call Camilla’s email or my email bigotry or hate is slanderous. I wish not to continue correspondence with you directly because you continue to reduce things to a personal level which is unprofessional. I only hope that you will take your elected position for what it is, a position of service and commence to leave your personal ideals out of the situation. Also, when the youth of America are exercising their right to democracy, please encourage it instead of suppressing it.




On Thu, Nov 6, 2008 at 11:58 AM, Rogers, Jim ( wrote:

Such hate and bigotry… Such a shame.

*(emphasis added)*

Sent from my GoodLink Wireless Handheld (

—–Original Message—–

From: Tony and Debbie

Sent: Thursday, November 06, 2008 11:57 AM Pacific Standard Time

To: Rogers, Jim

Subject: Preposterous behavior

Mr. Rogers,

Your condescending and pompous email is now being circulated on the internet to friends and family of Camilla. I have already put in a calls to State Council of Education Representatives to discuss your behavior. Regardless of your personal feelings on a matter, Camilla was exercising her rights as an American to discuss her views and opinions with appropriate representatives. The message you are giving reflects your personal and selfish interests (not appropriate as an elected board member) and also sends the message that it is not okay for citizens to express their views.

Camilla’s letter was thoughtful, respectful and eloquently written. Your response showed little to no thought and was not respectful. I will continue to make calls to ensure that this type of behavior is not allowed in the California Teacher’s Association.




From: Rogers, Jim (

Subject: RE: In Protest of CTA’s $1.25 million donation to the “No on Prop 8″ campaign

To: Barbara

Date: Wednesday, November 5, 2008, 11:37 PM

Thanks, Sweetie, but it’s over for now. And it’s really none of your business.

*(emphasis added)*

Sent from my GoodLink Wireless Handheld (

—–Original Message—–
From: Barbara

Sent: Wednesday, November 05, 2008 10:27 PM Pacific Standard Time

To: Sanchez, David; Vogel, Dean; Vaughn, Dan; Allen, Larry; Bridge, Don;
Bustos, Michael; Cabell, Tyrone; Cichocki, Mikki; Crummey, Dayton; Dawson,
Don; Dillon, Dana; Groth, Jim; Hasson, Dian; Heins, Eric; Henley, Lynette;
Jackson, Mignon; Meeden, Marty; Melendez, George; Ortega, Mary Rose;
Pena, Cynthia; Porter, Lloyd; Shatun, Bonnie; Stone, Michael; Rogers, Jim

Subject: In Protest of CTA’s $1.25 million donation to the “No on Prop 8″ campaign

My name is Camilla and I am a junior at Folsom High School. On October 21, I stayed home from school to protest the $1.25 million your association donated to the “No on Proposition 8″ campaign. I believe that this is something that CTA, which speaks for all teachers, had no right to do. Did you ask the teachers if this was okay with them? Did they approve this? You can tell me that your board and representatives voted and passed the decision to donate this amount of money for this proposition, but as I understand it, your board should make decision for education, not for political agendas. You spent the teachers’ funds on a very controversial issue with which many of them do not agree.

Marriage between a man and a woman has existed since the beginning of human life on earth. Should Proposition 8 fail, it would cause the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman to be diminished and its powerful influence on society to be lessened. The failure of Proposition 8 would result in the meaning of marriage becoming little more than a casual relationship between any two adults and the weakening of the importance of the roles of a father and a mother in a child’s development. Marriage is not just about love or the desires of the parties entering into it. It about providing what is best for children, ideally a mother and a father who love them. Does it really serve teachers and students best to sponsor changing the institution of marriage in this way?

While you have stated that you made this donation because all people should be allowed equal protection under the law, you must understand that many people do not agree that denying same-sex marriage equates to unjustified discrimination. Domestic partners, whether homosexual or heterosexual, already have all the same rights and privileges afforded to them by law as do married individuals EXCEPT that their union cannot be called “marriage”. I believe that this type of “discrimination” is very different from the withholding of basic rights to individuals based on their race or ethnicity, something that cannot be chosen or changed. Even if homosexual individuals do not choose their sexual orientation, their desire for their relationships to be considered equal in all ways does not justify changing society’s definition of marriage, especially when there are already laws in place which give them equal protection and rights.

I thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I hope that I will get a reply. I hope that you understand why I stayed home. It was not to get the day off but to say that I do not agree with this donation and am not for same-sex marriage and do not appreciate the representatives of the teachers in our public education system taking sides on such a controversial issue. I know that my actions did not adversely affect you but I did this as a matter of principle. I do wish to thank you for the good work you do in seeking better pay and benefits for teachers. My teachers make a positive difference in my life and I appreciate anything you do that will truly help them.