CASTLE ROCK – What was expected to be a contentious school board race in Douglas County is coming to fruition.
According to Douglas County School District (DCSD) representatives, principals at two elementary schools had to call police after the political activist committee, Douglas County Parents, refused to leave the property.
The group supports the local teachers union-backed slate of Board of Education candidates.
In at least one instance, parents became hostile with the principal, officials said.
Both Flagstone and Sage Canyon elementary schools in Castle Rock hosted back-to-school nights to kick off the school year. Several parents complained after they noticed a group of people placing fliers on the cars in the parking lots and reported it to school administration.
School policies prohibit the distribution of non-school sponsored material without permission of the building administrator during school hours (which includes 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after start and end times) and school-sponsored events, such as back-to-school nights.
District officials said the group did not seek approval to put fliers out during the events.
“We understand that our community is passionate about political causes and candidates. We also support the right to exercise free expression,” said Will Trachman, DCSD Legal Counsel. “However, during yesterday’s incidents, permission was neither requested or granted to leaflet cars in school parking lots during Back-to-School Night (a school-sponsored activity). Our school leaders were simply responding to parent complaints and working to ensure that board policy was being followed at their schools.”
Social media users were quick to place blame the next morning, some calling those who reported the issue liars and others posting personal attacks against the principals.
SPEAK for DCSD Facebook page posted information about the incident from someone identified only as “community member”.
“Principals at Sage Canyon and Flagstone called the police on parents flyering (sic) cars and exercising their constitutional rights when no educational activities were taking place and in the evening. Flyers (sic) from “both sides” have been put on cars this week at various schools with no hassle or problems. If you think Reformers are just on the board of education, think again. Some principals also support the reform agenda and will do all they can to silence parents.”
The post attracted comments and further attacks on the Flagstone principal.
“The fact that this woman is employed by the district to be a roll (sic) model and building leader makes me sick,” one poster wrote. “She has ruined that school and driven out everything that once made it the best elementary school in Castle Rock. … If I were that principal, I’d be scared too.”
On the Elevate Douglas County Facebook page, supporters of the union-backed candidates continued their attack on the principals and blamed the former superintendent for their actions.
“What these two principals did is straight from the Liz Fagen playbook, which is curious as she’s been gone for over a year. I would have hoped we were past her tactics as a district,” said one poster who continued later with: “I’m very concerned that we have anyone in this district still carrying out Liz Fagen tactics like these two principals did.” And in yet again later: “I’m glad my kids don’t attend either of the schools where the flyers (sic) were removed BY THE PRINCIPAL. For. (sic) the. (sic) love. (sic)”
Only one of the four seats, President Meghann Silverthorn’s, is term limited. None of the other incumbents—Steven Peck, Judith Reynolds, or James Geddes—have said whether they intend to seek reelection.
The Douglas County Choice Scholarship program would likely be canceled from being reheard by the Colorado Supreme Court. The program is awaiting a decision there after the U.S. Supreme Court in June vacated its previous decision, which said the program was unconstitutional, and remanded it back to the Colorado court to review. The decision was in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the matter of Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, in which SCOTUS ruled that governments can’t discriminate against churches that would otherwise qualify for public benefit programs just because they’re religious institutions.
Trachman said the school district is grateful to all the Board of Education candidates for volunteering for “such a challenging job.”
“It is incredibly unfortunate when activities of this nature disrupt important events like Parent Nights, Back-to-School Nights, or other school-sponsored activities,” Trachman said. We are so thankful to our school leaders for all that they do for kids and families and we appreciate and recognize the difficult decisions they must make every day. We are confident that no matter the outcome of the election, the DCSD community will come together to put kids first.”