Tumult Continues in Jeffco School District

By Natasha Thies

The Jeffco School Board proposal to censor Advanced Placement U.S. History classes were made public on Sept. 15.

Immediately plans were arranged and the administration was notified about a teacher “sick-out” in Jeffco Public Schools. In a preemptive strike against the action, the Jeffco school board sent out an email to all teachers Thursday, Sept. 18 warning that such actions are illegal under state law.

Regardless, Friday, Sept. 19 dawned and a total of 50 teachers in Conifer and Standley Lake high schools called in sick or took personal days. Administration was forced to cancel classes that day due to the lack of substitute teachers.

That same morning, students from the affected high schools protested, holding signs that read “my school, my voice,” among other messages. The teachers were mainly protesting a newly approved controversial teacher compensation plan as well as the proposed curriculum change.

The protesting wasn’t finished, however. They continued Monday Sept. 22 with over 100 Evergreen High School students walking out of class and carpooling to the county’s school administration building to protest what they believed to be censorship on the board’s behalf.

Rumors about more walk-outs in schools all across Jeffco on Tuesday came true when hundreds of students from at least five different high schools around the district voiced their opinion. Those schools include Arvada West, Golden, Pomona, Ralston Valley, and Wheat Ridge High School.

“After [Wheat Ridge High School principle Griff] Wirth talked to us [the students], a lot of us felt discouraged and most went back to class.” said Wheat Ridge junior Caroline McDaniel, in response to whether or not she felt the protest was effective. “Others made the decision to follow through, and yes, our efforts were effective. We had a lot of supporters driving by.”

Students used social media sites and word-of-mouth to spread the plans about the student-led protests.

Following the Tuesday protests, a Wheat Ridge High School teacher who wishes to remain anonymous compared the efforts to a three-legged stool. For the past six months, the relationship between educators and the school board has been tense. But with the support of the students and the parents, the tables have turned. Teachers, students, and parents each represent a leg of this metaphorical stool. Without the support of the students and their parents, educator’s arguments don’t have a stable base to sit upon.

Jeffco superintendent Dan McMinimee released a statement last Tuesday afternoon regarding the protests once again voicing calls for calm and open discussion and offered to meet with students.

“I respect the right of our students to express their opinions in a peaceful manner,” McMinimee said. “I do, however, prefer they stay in class.”

The proposal’s initiator, school board vice president, Julie Williams, was baffled by the protesting. She explained that “balance and respect for scholarship” is not censorship.

Wednesday brought the largest protest of the week with 700 students lining the county streets. Most of the students were from rival schools Chatfield and Dakota Ridge. Some students waved American flags and sported signs saying “Don’t make history a mystery,” which has turned into the trademark phrase for the protests against Williams’ proposal. Others drove around the intersection honking and screaming out open windows.

Twitter also began showing its support of the protesting and started ridiculing the Jeffco School Board by way of a new trend, #JeffcoSchoolBoardHistory.

Thursday brought no reprieve from the protests. Bear Creek made their thoughts known lining Kipling around the high school. Students walked out of first period after the pledge of allegiance and did much of the same things as the previous days’ protests.

“Most parents excused them [their kids]. Besides having one period marked absent, there were no repercussions.” said Molly MacEachen, a junior at Bear Creek when asked if there was any sort of consequences following the walk-out.

Meanwhile, McMinimee met with students at Chatfield and Conifer High Schools to answer questions about the new curriculum, as he had been earlier in the week with other locations.

“I think it’s important that they know I am trying to listen to what they have to say.” He stated, “I need to go directly to the kids. That’s why we’re in the business—for the kids.”

A smaller protest of parents and teachers on Friday morning ended the week of non-stop protesting. The gathering was located at the corner of Kipling Street and Bowles Avenue to raise yet more awareness to the issue.

The protest on Friday was a small one in comparison to the protests of the previous days. There is allegedly another larger gathering scheduled for early next week. There are also rumors about the student walk-outs continuing next week.