Col. school board members who prompted widespread student protests face recall election
The president of the Jefferson County, Colorado school board and two other members will face a recall election following changes to AP history textbooks that prompted student protests last year, Talking Points Memo reported.
Voters will decide on Nov. 3 whether board president Ken Witt and colleagues John Newkirk and Julie Williams will be removed from their positions, after being criticized by a local advocacy group, Jeffco United For Action, for emphasizing “positive aspects of the United States and its heritage” as well as “patriotism,” “essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system,” and “respect for authority” in the course curriculum.
At the same time, the curriculum downplayed “civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”
“They really are driving away our teachers by showing a great amount of disrespect for them,” the group’s co-founder, Wendy McCord, said in July after turning in signed recall petitions. “They are dismissive of students and parents who have concerns and try to express them as well.”
Nearly two months after the protests began, more than two dozen students were ejected from a board meeting after reading from their textbooks and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance during the proceedings.
“Our problem is that you, the board majority, passed a redundant, and highly opposed curriculum review committee because you have other motives,” one student protester, Ashlyn Maher, said online after being denied a speaking opportunity at the meeting. “You want to limit what we learn so you can push your own political opinion. Our problem is that the nation you want to build consists of people who cannot think critically. We as students want to develop our minds.”
The recall election was scheduled alongside the regular election, in order to avoid an extra $500,000 to the district. The Denver Post reported that state Secretary of State Wayne Williams contacted county clerk Faye Griffin seeking more information.
“Your limited window for setting the recall election date presents challenges no matter which date you choose,” Williams stated. “Because of this timeline you will need near-optimal circumstances to place both recall and coordinated content on the same ballot and meet the ballot-mailing deadline for the coordinated election.”
KMGH-TV reported that the three board members facing a recall released separate statements, none of which addressed criticism over the changes to the history curriculum.
“I recognize that change is difficult, but our students deserve a great education,” Witt said in his statement. “In the last election, our community loudly demanded a focus on improving academic achievement, fairly funding all public students, and expanding choice.”