Evidence is mounting that protesting students in Jefferson County, Colorado – who claim to be concerned about “censorship” in a school board committee’s plan to review the new Advanced Placement U.S. History framework – were urged on by teachers and teachers’ unions at the national, state, and local levels because they were enraged that a conservative-led school board moved the district toward a merit-pay system.
Colorado Politichicks journalist Kathryn Porter investigated how students arranged to protest during class time. She writes:
When questioned on why they protested during school hours, students replied that they did not cut class to get out of work. Ashlyn Maher of Chatfield High School said that the first three hours of class time were allocated to protest at her school. They then returned to class for the last four hours. She clarified that the purpose was to bring attention to their cause.
Thomas Sizemore of Lakewood High School stated, “Lakewood was different because we didn’t want to skip class. We wanted to emphasize that we value education and believe in our cause.” According to Sizemore, most students at Lakewood protested during homeroom or their “off blocks” when they weren’t in class.
Though students mocked those who said they were “pawns” of their teachers and the teachers’ union, and insisted they received no outside assistance from teachers or the union, Porter indicated that the Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA) led a rally prior to the board’s October 2 meeting and gave students a platform to speak on the back of a truck bed that had been set up with a microphone and speakers.
Meanwhile, large bags of popcorn appeared, donated by a local movie theater, Porter said.
“The union hosted a press conference at 4:30 before the meeting (they even provided popcorn!),” wrote Sheila Atwell at JeffCo Students First. “They then led a march from JeffCo HQ to Colfax and back and many students from around the district came and attended the march.”
JeffCo Stand Up, a Facebook site claiming to be about “students standing up for public education, and spreading the word to the JeffCo Community about the actions of the School board,” contains an ad for the teachers’ union’s Boots on the Boulevard II, #StandUp4Kids event held on Friday, October 3, the day after the JeffCo Board of Education meeting.
Even the JeffCo PTA is on board with the teachers’ union, as evidenced by the same ad, which they, too, posted.
Breitbart News reported previously that Colorado Education Association (CEA) President Kerrie Dallman, a JeffCo teacher on leave, boasted about the union’s organization of Boots on the Boulevard in her address to the National Education Association during the summer.
“Our community is concerned about what is going on in our school district!” says the Boots on the Boulevard ad. “Our school board majority is not listening to us!”
“If you live or work in JeffCo, have a child who attends a JeffCo School, or share a passion for public education, please make your own sign and come stand with us!” the promo continues.
As Colorado Peak Politics observes, the JeffCo Stand Up students’ Facebook page also contains a lengthy description of the teachers’ salary system and the changes to salary structure made by the JeffCo Board of Education.
The protesting students claim this is what they are “about”:
They [JeffCo school board] have decided to move all teacher salaries to $38,000 and give them raises based on their evaluations which are only measures of how good teachers are at filling out paper work. This is a waste of time and takes attention away from the classroom, and away from us students. If our teachers are not given they [sic] pay they deserve and were promised, we will lose quality educators when they move to districts that will allow them to support their family, and instead we will have teachers that don’t care about us students one bit. We cannot allow this to happen to JeffCo. All of our children deserve the same great education that all JeffCo students have gotten for generations.
“Parents of JeffCo, we hope you’re paying attention because your children are being used,” wrote Colorado Peak Politics. “Evidence continues to mount that the student protests in JeffCo are anything but student-led. Rather, it has become clear they are being entirely orchestrated by the union in service to their obstructionist, anti-reform agenda.”
Colorado Peak also points out that organizers of the student protests “were very concerned about butts in seats on pupil count day, which is the day that districts report how many students are in attendance for funding purposes.”
“Few people outside of teachers and school administrators have ever heard of pupil count day, so the movement’s sudden awareness of its importance leaves us wondering who is really calling the shots,” the post continues.
As Breitbart News previously reported, emails obtained from an elected union representative of JCEA show that the representative urged teachers to participate in “sickouts” to protest the school board’s move to a merit pay system. Large numbers of teachers who called in sick led to the closures of several district high schools.
Additionally, in a video produced by an organization called JeffCoTruth.org, students revealed that their teachers urged them to protest and let them know they were angry because they were not getting the raises they think they deserve.
Writing at The Complete Colorado, education policy analyst Ross Izard of the Independence Institute said, “Thousands of kids and teachers have been misled into fighting a vicious political proxy war between the union and the school board.”
“All the while, the union’s leadership stands aside, happily watching the misinformation genie they released run amok at the expense of JeffCo kids’ education and safety,” Izard added.
Last week, the JeffCo Board of Education approved an amended proposal to form a curriculum review committee that will include students and members of the community. Democrats, who are in the minority on the board, opposed the change because the committee will report directly to the board instead of to the administration, says Fox31 Denver. However, according to Atwell, having the curriculum review committee report directly to the board “by law, means the review committee’s meetings will be posted and open to the community.”
The fierce debate over a board member’s proposal to review the new Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) framework, a normal function of the school board per the Colorado Constitution and the school board’s own policies, has taken on a life of its own over the past several weeks. Students walked out of classes, claiming to be engaging in “civil disobedience” against “censorship” by the school board, and teachers organized “sickouts” that led to high school closures, both amid the backdrop of organization by the Colorado Education Association (CEA), the Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA), with help acknowledged from the National Education Association (NEA).
As Breitbart News reported, students arrived at the board meeting carrying petitions, sponsored by leftist group MoveOn.org.
Also, Politichicks’ Porter reported that students “arrived en masse with a message for Fox News correspondent Gretchen Carlson, who referred to the protesting students as ‘punks.'”
Wearing buttons that read, “Fox News Called Me a Punk,” students said they were proud to display them.
“We are simply protesting for our education, and we’re protesting for our right to have an intellectual and critically taught class,” said Dylan Johnson of Golden High School. “And that is simply what we want. And if that makes us a punk, then I’m proud to be a punk.”
“We are using our First Amendment right of speaking out about what we believe in,” added Michael Kerl, who also attends Golden High.
At the board meeting itself, student Eric Temple spoke directly to Julie Williams, the board member who originally suggested the proposal to review the new APUSH curriculum.
“Let me say to Ms. Williams, thank you for your lesson in civil disobedience,” Temple said. “What I have learned from you is there is a time and place for civil disobedience, and that time is right now.”
However, writing at The Complete Colorado, Ari Armstrong observed that the student walkouts “almost certainly do not” constitute civil disobedience.
“Civil disobedience is such an important part of American history – and of history elsewhere – that students should understand fully what it means and be able to identify important examples of it,” Armstrong wrote.
“Certainly many of the students think that they are, and many observers claim that they are,” he noted, pointing out that civil disobedience is defined by Merriam-Webster as the “refusal to obey governmental demands or commands.”
“Curiously, so far as I have noticed, no one has bothered to explain what law or government mandate the students have allegedly broken that would make their actions an example of civil disobedience,” Armstrong continued. “If the students have not broken any law or government mandate, then they have not practiced civil disobedience. They have protested, to be sure, but a lawful protest is not civil disobedience.”