A new story out of the scandal-plagued Jefferson County school board late last night, following an ugly exchange between the chairman of the new conservative majority Ken Witt and a Jeffco student representing the group Jefferson County Students for Change. A complaint filed by Jeffco parent Wendy McCord today recounts what happened:
Bullying is defined as “any written or verbal expression, or physical or electronic act or gesture, or a pattern thereof, that is intended to coerce, intimidate, or cause any physical, mental or emotional harm to any student.”
Witt made a defamatory statement regarding a District student, who is a minor, at the Meeting. He not only accused her of using racial epithets, he also directed district staff to post social media screenshots that identified the student by name. In addition, Witt said he refused to have anything to do with the organization that this student represents.
Aside from the obvious hypocrisy that Witt won’t associate with students who essentially “liked” a Tweet but continues to sit next to (and serve on the Board with) a woman who posted material from an identified hate group encouraging parents to keep their children out of schools to protest a day designed to prevent bullying of LGBT students and staff, Witt’s statements were completely unacceptable.
Since the moment Witt, Newkirk and Williams took office, they have repeatedly embarrassed this District. They continue to degrade and demean not only our staff but, as evidenced in this circumstance, our students. These are the very stakeholders the Board and all district staff are supposed to protect.
In the video above, you can see minority board member Jill Fellman responding to the student, suggesting that the board use available time in a future meeting to have a conversation with the student group Jeffco Students for Change. Witt interrupts Fellman to accuse the leader of this group, who was one of the handful of people still in attendance at this meeting after midnight, of “favoriting…on Facebook er social media” (Witt is a little unclear about what kind of social media he is referring to) “racial epithets about district staff.” On the basis of this, Witt announces that he “will not have any association with this group.” It’s not seen in the video, but Witt directed to have a Tweet identifying the student in question projected on the large screen at the front of the room.
Readers will recall that the communications director for Jeffco schools, Lisa Pinto, has claimed she was racially insulted via Twitter over a post from an anonymous spoof account about “burritos” being served–in fact a reference to the meeting we helped publicize earlier this year between Witt and the conservative board chairs of several other Colorado school districts at Lakewood’s Jose O’Shea’s Mexican restaurant. This case of silly misplaced outrage formed the basis of a notably unsuccessful countermessage campaign from the Independence Institute, hoping to garner sympathy for Pinto–and shift attention away the ongoing PR disaster that is board member Julie Williams, or the district’s increasingly bad-faith contract negotiations.
It’s necessary to explain all of that in order to understand just how off-base Witt was in attacking this student and the student group represented. Once you understand this, Witt’s ridiculous bullying of a student he is charged with representing over merely “starring” something entirely inoffensive, projecting the student’s name for all to see in the board room and disparaging an entire group of Jeffco students over it…well folks, it’s pretty outrageous conduct. Not to mention, given the recent controversy over Williams’ sharing of a hate group’s call to defend discrimination, hypocritical in the extreme.
Which seems to be the rule these days on the Jeffco school board.