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Weld RE-5J students walk out of school to protest discipline of teachers; threat also reported

Posted: 4:53 PM, Dec 04, 2018
Updated: 2018-12-05 01:44:27Z

JOHNSTOWN, Colo. – Hundreds of Weld RE-5J students walked out of class Tuesday morning and marched toward the district office to protest and demand answers regarding the firing and disciplinary actions taken against several teams, the students told Denver7. 

“We have the right to peacefully protest. We are not being destructive, or hurting each other or ourselves,” said Roosevelt High School student Baileigh Llanas. “Honestly, [Superintendent Leslie Arnold] is power hungry. She got rid of a teacher that honestly means the world to us.”

Students at various campuses had planned the walkout via social media. A flyer posted on Facebook mentioned nine teachers that had been either fired or disciplined -- for unexplained reasons, the students say.

Several teachers from the district who spoke to Denver7 on the condition of anonymity said they had been retaliated against for speaking out about bullying or personnel issues. Questions to the district about the punishments were not returned, and the superintendent has not addressed the issues with the students.

“They feel like they can’t speak up and say how they feel at school because they feel like they could lose their job. Us as students – we don’t agree with that. We don’t feel it’s right,” said Zavier Botterill. 

“They’re wondering why when the superintendent took over, suddenly she’s relieving teachers of their duties when in fact there hasn’t really been any proof that they’re doing anything wrong,” said Michael Connor, the grandfather of a student who attended the walkouts.

“I know my parents and other parents have talked about pulling their kids from this district and taking them to other schools as they are worried about it,” said one student.

Roosevelt High School canceled classes for the rest of Tuesday after an anonymous tip reported to Safe2Tell mentioned a bomb at Roosevelt High School and a threat to shoot students participating in the protest.

Johnstown police searched the campus and said they did not find anything. A letter was sent to parents addressing the faculty’s disappointment in students who didn’t adhere to instructions to first stay inside the building as part of a lockout, and subsequently, to evacuate to a nearby church. Many students continued on their march to district offices instead. The letter from Arnold can be read in full below:

Dear Weld RE-5J Families:

Several events taking place in our district today require your attention.  This will be one of multiple communications to our community. These communications will also be placed on our website and Facebook page.

We received a Safe2Tell report this morning regarding a bomb threat at Roosevelt High School (RHS). The report indicated that if the RHS students participated in the planned walk-out today that there would be a person that would open fire on them.  It also stated that there was a bomb at RHS. This report initially resulted in a lockout for RHS, which was the target of the alleged bomb threat and potential shooting, as well as a lockout for Letford Elementary School because of its proximity to RHS. This lockout was under the direction of the Johnstown Police Department. This law enforcement agency later required the evacuation of RHS students to Grace Community Church, utilizing the district’s evacuation and reunification, so that they could continue their investigation of the bomb threat that was reported through Safe2Tell. Bomb sniffing dogs went through RHS and the building has now been cleared by the Johnstown Police Department and the Weld County Sheriff’s Department. 

Colorado Revised Statutes prohibits us from showing the report that was received via Safe2Tell.  The Safe2Tell Law is: CRS Sec 24-31-601. If you need clarification on the Safe2Tell law, please call 1-720-508-6800 (administrative office for Safe2Tell).

While the district’s evacuation and reunification plan is to transport students to Grace Community Church, many students refused to follow the protocol. Some of these students walked or drove away on their own, with some of these students gathering at the district’s administration offices and others to unknown locations. The failure of the students to follow the evacuation route and the reunification process has resulted in the difficulty and delay for many parents in reuniting with their children.

The safety of our students is of highest priority to all employees in the district. The district must take any threats received through Safe2Tell seriously, and we always work closely with and follow the instructions of our partner law enforcement agencies. On the occasions that the district must engage a lockout or an evacuation of a school, we need everyone to follow the safety and security plans. Cooperation by everyone from the students and staff, parents, and law enforcement, to the community is critical. We ask that everyone do their part to help keep our students safe.

Additionally, hundreds of high school students missed out on educational opportunities today due to this threat.  We want to make it clear to anyone who made false threats that the disruption of the educational environment is unacceptable. Students need to be aware that law enforcement agencies are taking these types of threats very seriously and are pursuing prosecution even when such incidents are intended as pranks.

Updates for this afternoon’s events:  All high school sports and activities will continue this afternoon as planned.  The Pioneer Ridge Elementary School choir concert tonight is canceled because the students were not able to go to the Roosevelt High School performing arts center today for rehearsal.  Pioneer Ridge Elementary will update the parents and students when the event is rescheduled.

Sincerely,

Leslie Arnold

Superintendent of Schools