School Board Protests The Talk of Bellwether Jefferson County

Photo courtesy Jefferson County Education Association

At 64th and Wadsworth yesterday.

At 64th and Wadsworth yesterday.

Following this week's adoption of a watered-down version of a highly controversial curriculum review of Jefferson County's AP U.S. History, students, teachers, and other residents turned out during yesterday afternoon's rush hour for a huge protest. Groups of protesters took up positions at intersections along 22 miles of Wadsworth Boulevard, Jefferson County's highest-traffic arterial surface street. Photos via Twitter, and as Chalkbeat Colorado's Nicholas Garcia reported last night:

The aim of those gathered along the 30-mile stretch of Wadsworth Boulevard, a major traffic conduit in the Denver suburb, is to raise awareness for their concerns regarding Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk, who make up the new majority on the Jeffco school board…

“First is was [the school readiness evaluation program], then it was full-day kindergarten, then it was more money for charter schools,” [Jefferson County mom Amanda Stevens] said, continuing to list more controversial decisions…

Critics of the [history review] proposal, originally introduced by Williams, feared the committee would eventually lead to censoring an advanced U.S. history class.

On Thursday night, the board majority approved a sort of half-compromise on a 3-2 vote. Instead of creating a brand new committee, they amended current district policies that govern challenges to curriculum to include students and board-appointed community members to a panel to review materials. The committees will also now report directly to the board instead of the superintendent.

AP's report:

Protesters packed street corners on Friday afternoon in organized rallies along Wadsworth Boulevard for more than 22 miles, from 120th Avenue south into the Ken Caryl area…

The Colorado board didn’t vote on its original proposal to review the history course with an eye toward promoting patriotism and downplaying social disorder – language students have blasted in waves of school-time protests across the district. However, students and other activists say the board’s new approach to include students on existing curriculum review committees doesn’t satisfy them because they believe board members will ultimately try to change the history course to suit their views.

“This isn’t over,” said Ashlyn Maher, 18, a Chatfield High School senior who has been helping organize protests over the past two weeks. “We are going to fight until we see some results.”

The issue has grabbed national attention, and some protesters said they hoped Jefferson County’s grappling with it offers lessons to other districts.


CBS4 carried the story last night with some aerial footage:


We were given an informal head count of around 2,500 total participants along the entire length of Wadsworth Boulevard between 4-6PM yesterday. As the protests went on, Democratic candidates like Congressman Ed Perlmutter (photo after the jump) and state Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp worked the crowds in attendance at various points along the route. With at least the visibility of the recent en masse student walk-outs, and covering a much larger area at rush hour, it would have been difficult for a very large percentage of Jefferson County residents to miss what was going on.

Although the curriculum review "compromise" proposal had the most politically incendiary language originally proposed by board member Julie Williams stripped out, the change to a review committee that answers directly to the right-wing controlled school board majority, as well as the ability of the board to pack the new committees with politically like-minded "concerned citizens," leaves opponents with little confidence. Even without Williams's stated desire to review history curriculum to ensure it "promotes patriotism" and does not "encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law," the board majority's clear desire to meddle with history curriculum for these purposes has been broadcast for (quite literally) the entire world to see.

The last few weeks of international newsmaking controversy in Jefferson County have introduced a volatile electoral element in what is arguably the state's foremost political bellwether just days before mail ballots go out to every registered voter. It's difficult to predict exactly what effect these protests may have on next month's elections, but there is no realistic scenario in which this becomes a positive for Jefferson County Republicans–or the statewide Republican races counting on a good showing there. As we've discussed previously, board member Williams is directly tied by immediate family members to numerous Republican legislative candidates running in Jefferson County. But the larger danger is this: that the lay public in Jefferson County realizes what is happening is politically partisan.

To the degree less-interested voters figure out that these highly popular and heavily-covered protests, and the underlying issue of protecting history courses from political witch hunts by unscholarly political activists, all have a common origin with Republicans they can punish at the polls now–even though the new school board majority is not on the ballot? For Republicans, the worst-case scenario here is, in a word, bad.

It's going to factor on Election Day. The question we have to wait to see answered is, how much.





25 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    I think it's a stretch to think that average voters will quickly link the protests directed at the school board with the elections. People who want that link to happen need to do more than write comments on a web site message board.

    Personally, I wouldn't object horribly as my party came up with some "dregs from the bottom of the barrel" for candidates this time around. 

    • Gilpin Guy says:

      Sounds to me like you're whistling past the graveyard CB.

      "Nothing to see here so move along."

      Wonder how many 18 year olds are registering as Democrats at this rallies?  Perfect territory for registration efforts and I don't mean for Republicans and these kids are probably going to vote for Democratic candidates for a long time.

    • marklane1351 says:

      I believe it was the great sage Tip O'Neil who said "All Politics is Local." It was me that said never piss off Jeffco voters just before election time!

  2. JeffcoBlue says:

    People who want that link to happen need to do more than write comments on a web site message board.

    On it, don't worry. 🙂

  3. Gilpin Guy says:

    In retrospect, this could the watershed event of the 2014 election.  It is like the town hall meetings in 2010 where the Tea Party was born.  Republicans couldn't have stepped in it any deeper or revealed their vile hatred for the truth and dirty desire to control all Americans.  They couldn't have picked a worse time to pull the mask off of their ugly personalities.  Right before a critical election in a critical county.  Big mistake.

    • Davie says:

      Dumphucks doing what they do best, dumbphucking themselves at the worst possible moment.  Beauprez showing his ugly side politicizing a tragedy that Hick has done everything to rectify.  Gardner getting the Whopper of the Week award for lying, plainly and simply, letting all see exactly what a scumbag he is.  Lamborn, digging his own grave, encouraging the worst instincts of his supporters, committing sedition in the pursuit of raw power.

      I hope to be there one day soon to light a match at the funeral pyre of the GOP, so that rising from the ashes will be a new party of true conservatives that understand the responsibilities and the glory of wielding creative power to build a better world, the purpose for which our founders, with their vision, established a nation of which we are the inheritors.  Will we have the wisdom to keep it?

      Every election matters.  I'm glad to know all of you that are here making a huge difference yes

    • JeffcoBlue says:

      Based on the reaction on my neighbors, I agree. Everyone is watching this, and not even the Republicans I know will defend te school board. They DO know as Pols suggests that this is a partisan attack.

      I think Julie Williams is going to hurt Republicans waaaay above her station.

  4. notaskinnycook says:

    It would bother me to read about what the Jeffco Board is attempting if I wasn't pretty sure that it's going to blow up in their collective face. That it could torpedo the entire Republican ticket, up and down the ballot is just thick, fudgey frosting on this cake.

  5. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    "Whistling past the graveyard…….."  Hey, I live in HD 23 where we got the unvetted Nate Marshall as our candidate to take on Max Tyler. Remember Nate; who turned out to be a white supremacist? Then the next candidate didn't get papers filed in time (Jane Barnes, supposedly a past school board member, but I never heard of her). The party had to go to court to even get her onto the ballot.

    I won't get into the state Senate candidates in the county except to say Laura Woods comes across as dumber than a fence post. She talks loud about school choice (= vouchers) without realizing those are forbidden by the State Constitution (among other shortcomings).

    Jeffco Repub. party really needs common sense conservatives, like Rob Witwer, as candidates instead of the continuing barrage of the "nuttier than a fruitcake" style of candidate.

    • BlueCat says:

      But this is focusing lots of negative attention on the right and their agenda which is the agenda of all the Republicans who have won primaries and are running for or serving in elected office of any kind. I think many 18 year olds who are a part of this and their supporting friends and family members will be more likely to want to do something, like voting in the midterm they might not have bothered with before, because of this. It doesn't take much putting two and two together to see that this is coming from the Republican far right which is pretty much the Colorado GOTP period.

      Perlmutter doesn't need help but voters who come out to vote for him are likely tp vote for other Dems including Udall.  This district is right next to Littleton and could also help with the youth and parents of college bound kids vote for Romanoff. He's had ads out directed at students and their parents all along.

      I believe that by keeping this in the news for weeks instead of a few days it also helps bring more money in for Dem candidates from sources hoping to tip a close one by showing that at least part of Jeffco is fertile ground for picking up some more voters who are sick of the right's extreme agenda. In the absence of an exciting presidential it injects more energy.

      You're right that it's not going to make a huge or even just plain big difference but you don't need huge or big in close elections. You just need a little more than the other side's candidates. I do wish the Udall camp would get more positive about his accomplishments in their "I approved this message" ads. Considering his aggressive opposition to questionable tactics in the massive spying on US citizens, supporting students and parents who oppose substituting a Disney version of history for honest exploration of our warts and all past and present should tie right in to a strong appealing message. 

    • FrankUnderwood says:

      This has been going on for 20 yrs now. Remember when the GOP had Bonnie Allison, Norma Anderson, the Witwers and going back further Al Micheljohn. They started the purification process w/ Arrington, Paschall, Pffifner, Ken Arnold, etc. These freaks this cycle (Waters-woods, Sanchez, Justin Everett, etc) is just. The next generation. It’s nice to know that even Jeffco GOP has some boundaries and Nate Marshall was one of them.

  6. DaninDen says:

    Witt interviewed by Caldera taped before Fri meeting seemed to outline outcome of “input by students, etc” .. are there sunshine provisions for the board?

  7. Gilpin Guy says:

    It's all a matter of timing.  The wife beater and violent criminal advocates blew their wad in 2013 with the recalls.  The hot button issue this year is the freedom squelching actions of the tone deaf and petty tyrants who want to force their indoctrination and propaganda on an intelligent populous that is mobilizing at the right time to take down their surrogates who are running in this years election.  Passion means turnout and right now the political passion is running against the tyrants.  The huge Tiananmen Square like demonstrations in Hong Kong just emphasizes this fight against tyrants in power.

    It is a big swing from the gun nuts refusing to recognized legally passed legislation to them weakly defending the stupidity of these petty tyrants.  A one or two percent swing in races like SD 16 will be enough for Democrats to maintain control of both legislative bodies, the governorship and maybe pickup a federal office or two.  Timing is everything.

    • bullshit! says:

      I'm ready to believe. Let this overreach come with a political cost that makes them dearly regret it.

    • dustpuppy says:

      The D's are going to hold the Colorado Legislature, even strengthening it, after voters remove their GOP idiots.


      P.S., Alaska's only House Seat just went Democratic today just before the votes has gone underway. Go find out why.


  8. Pam Bennett says:

    This is being followed by the east coast media, including a couple of articles in the WashPo.

    The shame is JeffCo schools were once the best.

    It comes down to GOTV for all elections.  In particular school board and special elections.  The Republicans have been targeting these for years, and have DougCo and JeffCo school boards now under control.  Dems need to get more voters to vote and that takes work.

  9. Arvadonian1 says:

    Boy is it ever.  My partner and I were at the movie theater in Golden this weekend talking with a couple of our friends about the school board fiasco while waiting for "Gone Girl" to start (great movie, by the way).  The people in front of us and behind us joined in—all of us were appalled about the board actions.  Never, and I mean NEVER, have we ever had anyone join in on our political conversations (and we have them often) in a public setting.  Now granted, this is anecdotal, but if the Dems were smart, they would force every Republican candidate who is seeking Jeffco votes (that includes all statewide candidates) to take a position on this before November.

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