There was no doubt that Jeffco Students for Change showed up at the school board meeting last Thursday.
However, exactly what the two dozen or so students belonging to the organization wanted to protest or voice their concerns about was lost. They spent more time disrupting the proceedings than they did speaking to the board.
Although a couple students got their comments out, they started the demonstration when they refused to stop talking and leave the podium when their allotted time was up. They also tried to speak on behalf of others — both students who were in the room and students who were already escorted out.
Students randomly stood and read excerpts from history books, and at one point blew a whistle and then recited the Pledge of Allegiance, all while other members of the public were attempting to speak.
The ruckus drew several heated comments from board members Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman to Board President Ken Witt over how he chose to handle the situation.
“NO,” Dahlkemper yelled at one point. “These are our students. Let them speak.”
She and Fellman repeated their objections several times, adding the students had a right to speak. Audience members were also yelling in chaos at Witt. Witt said they were not following rules, and he would not allow them to disrupt the meeting.
Jefferson County School District has a policy that allows people to sign up before the meeting to talk to the board about items on the agenda at the beginning of the meeting. The board reserves a specific amount of time at the beginning for the comments based on the number of people who sign up.
Before the meeting, the students gathered in the grass and ate pizza waiting to take their turn at the podium.
At that time, Ashlyn Maher, a 16-year-old senior from Chatfield High School, said the group was there to express concerns over items on the agenda that included two charter school applications and a curriculum review committee that sparked student and teacher walkouts several weeks ago.
Ashlyn said the disruptions were planned. The adults in the room encouraged their efforts.
Security spent most of the time escorting students out of the meeting.
After blowing the whistle, the students were all sent into the hallway, where they, again, began yelling and chanting loud enough to be heard inside the boardroom. They were eventually made to leave the building.
At the end of the public comment period when a couple of students wanted to express their real concerns, they were not allowed back in.
Ashlyn, who was in tears after being escorted out and told she could not talk, said she did believe they got their message across.
“And we’re not done yet,” she said. “There is no policy that allows them to escort me out of the room.”
Sherrie Peif reports on education for CompleteColorado.com
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