In Colorado, Denver and surrounding area high school students walked out in protest against a new school board decision which taught them not to protest. The county-wide school board decided to have teachers instruct on a curriculum which supposedly encouraged patriotism, respect for authority and the guarding against any educational materials that “encouraged or promoted civil disorder.” In responding to that, hundreds of students, parents and even teachers decided to give the school board some lessons in civil rebellion.
On Tuesday, hundreds of students attending schools from all around Denver and across the entire Jefferson County school system, which is the second-leading district in all of Colorado, poured out of their respective high schools and moved to nearby busy streets in protest. They were holding signs and defending the entire purpose of learning about the restless and unbridled stages of the history of America, including the right to protest.
One teenage boy, who is a junior at Arvada High School, stated that the school board was crazy. He explained that he wanted to be a teacher someday and that what the board was doing was what was truly unpatriotic. He said that they should not be allowed to dictate what teachers could teach as U.S. history and that their decision was really stupid.
The students decided to walk out after a nasty school board occurrence in 2013 and months of hostility over teacher pay, charter schools, kindergarten expansion and a projected review board, which praised Advanced Placement of United States History and also health classes for elementary schools. The teachers’ union, in which members ended up forcing several high schools to close by calling in sick, have been in constant conflict with the new school board. However, the board had gotten high praise from a conservative group known as the Americans for Prosperity-Colorado. It is affiliated with the Koch brothers and a list of foundations which their family supports.
It was back in April of this year that Dustin Zvonek, who is the director of the group, wrote an editorial that the new school board’s election was exciting and hopeful for the county, the school district, and, in fact, all of Denver. However, nothing has been settled in Jefferson County. The school board decided to withhold any discussion of the curriculum review commission until a gathering that is to be held in October.
Ken Witt, the board president, admitted that several words were possibly too blunt and more pointed than they really needed to be. He explained that the board was in charge of making decisions about school curriculum and that the evaluation committee probably needed to give a wider range of parents and community associates the power to scrutinize what was being taught in schools. He stated that some individuals had made censorship accusations just to provoke and distress the student body.
However, on Tuesday, those claims were more than enough to bring those students out in swarms. They carried signs that stated, “It’s world history, not white history,” and others that referred to Cesar Chavez and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leaders of the protests advised others to keep out of the streets and to not speak curse words. Sympathetic mothers, fathers and other community members brought poster boards and magic markers as well as water for the students to drink.
It was almost from the beginning that the three conservative newcomers to the five-person board conflicted with the two other individuals. Steady streams of three to two votes began to symbolize the harsh divisions between the board and also the community in general. Criticism of the new majority was directed at the board for employing its own lawyer, saying it was a pointless expense.
The school board was also blamed for conducting school business while outside of public meetings. In February of this year, the school district’s superintendent stated during an overflowing, passionate meeting that she was leaving after over a decade of service due to the fact that the school board did not respect or trust her. The person who replaced her, an assistant superintendent from another county, received more accusations that the new school board in Jefferson County was attempting to direct the district to the far right of the political scheme. Mr. Witt rejected such disapproval, stating he was only trying to improve the achievement of students by allowing equal footing to charter school pupils and giving rewards to educators who performed their jobs well.
In March of 2010, there was a comparable debate which agitated the Texas Board of Education as its associates voted to adopt a similar social studies curriculum that praised American capitalism and made sure that students would be taught about the conservative movement’s rise back in the 1980s. Apparently, students in Texas did not fight against it. However, Colorado students were having nothing of the sort.
Another student in Denver noted that as kids grew up in the school system, they were always taught that the United States was the greatest country in the world, the land of the free and the home of the brave. However, she added for all the good things America has done, it has also done some terrible things and that it was very important to learn about all things the United States has done or Americans are doomed to repeat the past. That was why the students decided to rebel against the new school board majority in the suburbs of Denver. They were definitely performing civil disorder at the present time.
By Kimberly Ruble