CFER Foundation


Published November 30, 2023

Poway Unified Leaders Broke Their Own Rules- The Woke Agenda Destroys Public Education

DEISchool Board

School board members, elected by voters, should protect the students and act as gatekeepers for public education. Appointed school leaders should answer to the board and the community, uphold high professional standards and preserve excellence.




In early November, CFER raised awareness on some important developments in the Poway Unified School District (PUSD), where its superintendent engaged in a series of bad conduct involving a sports team at Del Norte High, while its board trustees refused to hold the superintendent accountable. CFER President Frank Xu joined the local community at a board meeting to demand actions and voice outrage.

Sadly, the PUSD leadership has continued to ignore the community’s call for integrity, transparency and accountability. Not only has the school board failed to conduct a fair and thorough investigation into Superintendent Marian Phelps’s wrongdoings, the board has but also deliberately sought cover-ups for her misconduct. The case is so egregious that the directly impacted student and her parent are now taking the whole leadership team to court for violating the student’s constitutional rights to free speech, due process, a public education, and equal protection.

The events and facts disclosed in the legal filing expose a number of problems inherent in the woke education agenda, which prioritizes ideology over learning, feelings over facts, and double standards over merit.

  • Superintendent Phelps violated school board policy prohibiting employee-student personal contact for non-educational purposes, by harassing students for self-gain and intimidating witnesses in person and on social media. Subsequently, the school board’s glaring failure to supervise and discipline the superintendent who violated the policy means the board cannot enforce their own rules.
  • As a leader touted for her work in anti-racism, equity and restorative justice, Superintendent Phelps did not walk the talk by harshly retaliating against students and staff and threatening those involved with punitive measures.
  • The PUSD Board contravened a series of policy safeguards preventing harms to students and families, which exacerbated the substantial emotional stress caused by Phelps towards the plaintiff and other relevant parties.
  • Phelps’s actions, including abusing her powers and engaging in conflict of interest, stood in sharp contrast to the ideological slogans she preaches. Laughably, her misconduct constituted serious “microaggressions,” which the superintendent vows to combat in PUSD.
  • The board’s intentional cover-up showcases these leaders’ desperation to bend the rules and the law to defend the status quo and their power structure, at the expense of public trust.

Alas, these bureaucrats and ideologues cannot even obey the rules of their own making! After all, woke education rule-making is a shape-shifting and corrupt business in which different standards apply to different people in different situations.

There is no transparency. For instance, in response to growing pressure from parents, staff and community members, the PUSD Board either openly lied about and exaggerated the number of public meetings done for the purpose of investigating the matter. Or, they just blatantly violated the Brown Act by not publicizing the three meetings they said they had to discuss the case. When public education leaders shift their focus from academic excellence to ideological inculcation, from evidence-based rulemaking to slogan chanting, from getting the job done right to covering for each other, students, families and the entire community suffer. It is no wonder that academic performances at PUSD, a top school district, have deteriorated in recent years and chronic absenteeism has risen to unprecedented levels.

We hope the student and parent plaintiff will prevail in their lawsuit. Their courage to stand up and resolve to seek justice through the court system are what is needed to save public education from the woke agenda. More importantly, we hope that the silver lining in this unfortunate case will come soon, so that the school district leadership can return to fact-based policy making, and return to ensure high-quality learning. School board members, elected by voters, should protect the students and act as gatekeepers for public education. Appointed school leaders should answer to the board and the community, uphold high professional standards and preserve excellence.

Going forward, CFER will work with more communities and parents throughout California to defend and improve public education through local organizing. If you believe in what we are doing in this regard, will you support CFER today with a kind donation?


Wenyuan Wu

About Californians for Equal Rights Foundation (CFER):

We are a non-partisan and non-profit organization established following the defeat of Proposition 16 in 2020, with a mission to defend and raise public awareness on the cause of equal rights through public education, civic engagement and community outreach. In 1996, California became the first U.S. state to amend its constitution by passing Proposition 209 to ban racial discrimination and preferences. Prop. 209 requires that “the state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” CFER is dedicated to educating the public on this important constitutional principle of equal treatment.


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