Teachers association president applauds student protests

More JeffCo student protests on Tuesday. 9NEWS at 5 p.m. 09/23/14.

KUSA - Students from at least seven Jefferson County High Schools took part in protests against the Jefferson County School Board on Tuesday.

"I think it's awesome that students understand and recognize their first amendment rights and they're taking action," John Ford, president of the Jefferson County Education Association, said.

Monday, dozens of students walked out of classes at Evergreen High School and protested outside the district's offices in Golden. Friday, students at Conifer High School and Standley Lake High School also formed their own protests.

The students are upset about a proposal to review the way Advanced Placement U.S. history is taught in high school. One part of the proposal says, "Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law."

"Trying to create a board that in some ways purifies our curriculum is a little bit concerning and somewhat chilling," Ford said.

School Board Member Julie Williams offered the curriculum review committee proposal. Williams issued a statement Tuesday which says her idea has nothing to do with censorship. She says she wants parents and community members to take part in the decision-making process by having a nine-person committee look at the changes in the A.P. U.S. History curriculum.

"It has an emphasis on race, gender, class, ethnicity, grievance and American-bashing while simultaneously omitting the most basic structural and philisophocal elements considered essential to the understanding of American history for generations," Williams said in a statement.

She points out that key historical figures such as Benjamin Franklin and Martin Luther King Jr are left out of the new A.P. U.S. History curriculum.

The protest is coming after a "sick out" staged by teachers closed two other high schools in the district on Friday.

"I have not talked to a single teacher that participated in the alleged 'sick out'," Ford said. "But, I understand they're frustrated and I get that."

Teachers are upset about the school board's plans to change their pay scales as well as the proposed curruculum review committee.

Ford said the new pay system was concocted behind closed doors.

"I mean the secrecy part of that, the salary scale scheme that they came up with and the way they did that with no collaboration at all with the teachers," Ford said.

School Board President Ken Witt says the new pay system is a win for all giving raises to 98 percent of all teachers. Witt says the board is engaging in more transparency by holding more meetings around the district and offering to have all district and union negotiations be done in an open setting.

Witt says the current student protests are fueled by misrepresentation.

"I am disappointed that teacher use our students as political pawns," Witt said.

Facebook pages have been setup that are organizing walkouts at Arvada,Chatfield,Ralston Valley,Pomona, and Arvada West high schools.

JeffCo Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee says he's been listening to the students.

"I respect the right of our students to express their opinions in a peaceful manner. I do, however, prefer that our students stay in class. I have offered to meet with any students and answer their questions," McMinimee said.

He says the issue students are upset about is just a proposal and has not been finalized. The next school board meeting is October 2. McMinimee hopes the district can back to the business of teaching kids.

"I think that's healthy to hear when you put something out there. I think it's healthy to hear that," McMinimee said. "But, I am hoping that now that kids feel that they've done this that now we can back to school as normal."

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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