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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. - Student walkouts continued at two Jeffco Public Schools on Wednesday as the debate continues to heat up over education in Jefferson County.
7NEWS was at Chatfield High School as hundreds of students left class just after 8 a.m. Jeffco Public Schools also confirmed to 7NEWS that students at Dakota Ridge High School also walked out Wednesday morning.
At issue is a proposal before the Jeffco Schools Board of Education. The Board is considering whether to form a committee to review the content of the Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) curriculum.
Wednesday marked the fourth consecutive school day that has been disrupted by protests.
The protests started after last Thursday's school board meeting. The agenda for that meeting included teacher compensation and the formation of a committee to review curriculum. The next day, Standley Lake High School and Conifer High School canceled classes for students because of a high number of teacher absences. Teachers returned to work Monday, but student protests over the curriculum continued.
The proposal for curriculum review was tabled Thursday, but is expected to be addressed at the next board meeting.
-- HISTORY MATERIALS TO PROMOTE PATRIOTISM? --
The board member who proposed the curriculum review, Julie Williams, issued a statement Tuesday.
She said there is a huge debate and controversy surrounding the APUSH requirements. She called it untested and unresearched. (Read about APUSH here.)
"APUSH rejects the history that has been taught in the country for generations," Williams said in the statement. "It has an emphasis on race, gender, class, ethnicity, grievance and American-bashing while simultaneously omitting the most basic structural and philosophical elements considered essential to the understanding of American History for generations."
However, the proposal submitted to the board said the committee would make sure that U.S. history materials "promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage. Content pertaining to political and social movements in U.S. history should present balanced and factual treatments of the positions."
Under Williams' proposal, each board member will nominate up to three candidates for the committee and then the entire board then would vote to select the final nine members of the committee.
"The charge to the committee is to review curricular choices for conformity to JeffCo academic standards, accuracy and omissions, and to inform the board of any objectionable materials," the proposal said.
The proposal suggests that the committee’s initial projects will be the review of the AP US History curriculum and elementary health curriculum.
The board proposal has drawn reaction from ACLU of Colorado Executive Director Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, who issued a statement Wednesday that reads in part:
The ACLU of Colorado is watching with a concerned eye attempts by Jefferson County School District officials to institute an apparently ideologically-motivated review of the district’s history curriculum.
State-funded school curriculum should promote academic integrity, not ideological agendas. A committee that polices educational materials for insufficient devotion to patriotism or a lack of respect for authority runs the real danger of substituting propaganda for education.
It's troublesome, especially during a week in which the ACLU and anti-censorship advocates across the country recognize Banned Books Week, that the curriculum review committee would be charged with identifying and referring so-called 'objectionable materials' to the school board. 'Objectionable' is a standard that lends itself to censorship by empowering a small few to judge content based on their own personal or religious beliefs.
Again, the board proposal was tabled Thursday, but is expected to be addressed at the next board meeting.
-- CONTROVERSIAL SCHOOL BOARD ELECTED LAST YEAR --
The controversy in Jeffco Public Schools started last November when three open seats went to candidates who banded together as conservatives.
Two days later, longtime superintendent Cindy Stevenson abruptly announced her retirement tweeting "I can't lead and manage because I am not respected by this board. I can't make decisions. This board does not respect me."
In December, the Denver Post reported that the Board hired an attorney to represent the school board without seeking proposals for the contract, publicly vetting the candidates or getting cost estimates. The newspaper reported that the school district already had an attorney, but the new board members wanted their own representation.
Six months later, the Board of Education faced off against hundreds of angry parents when the board hired Daniel McMinimee as the new superintendent. Parents and community members were upset that only one candidate was announced for the position, they were upset about his $280,000 salary and they were upset about the lack of time allowed for comments on the contract. When the contract was finalized, the salary was reduced to $220,000, but the deal included up to $40,000 in performance pay and another $20,000 in retirement plan reimbursements.
Now the Board of Education is dealing with teacher compensation and curriculum controversies.