A 16-year-old is concerned about teacher turnover. The kid plans a protest. Do we encourage the civic-minded student? Or do we have a 90 minute meeting with two school board members and the student? Closed doors. No parents?
The Douglas County controversy came to a head last week when the district released a report prepared by an investigator concluding that [Judith] Reynolds and [Meghan] Silverthorn violated no law or district policy when they sat down with Grace Davis, now 16, in a private setting at Ponderosa to talk about her plans to hold a demonstration on school grounds to protest teacher turnover rates.
Although the probe found that neither woman had intimidated, bullied or harassed Davis during the closed-door, 90-minute discussion, parents and community members weren’t mollified.
They turned out en masse Tuesday at a tumultuous school board meeting to demand — once again — the board members’ resignations. Stefanie Fuhr, co-founder of Voices for Public Education and mother of three children in the district, said that although Douglas County schools does not have specific policies that address adult bullying or protocols to follow for private meetings between administrators and minors, that doesn’t excuse Silverthorn’s and Reynolds’ conduct. [Emphasis mine. — Dave]
I’m 100% in favor of student originated protests which won’t interrupt teaching and learning. Follow the link, and you’ll see there are a handful of similar issues in Colorado. Children don’t have exactly the same free speech rights as adults, but they do have the opportunity to express themselves without fear. They also shouldn’t be intimidated by adults. (Obviously without disrupting school.)
I was in a meeting once with a teacher who on the previous day had called my child out of class to deliver a message about something. Doesn’t matter much now, but it was something the teacher had done which was unethical, and they wanted my child to drop it. This is the one who is just as stubborn as Dad. The teacher told my kid away from peers something like “Now if you want to make a big deal, we can involve the principal.”
When we sat down with the principal and teacher, I noticed the in-school police officer was right outside our meeting place.
I quoted the district bullying policy, which forbade that kind of statement. When the meeting was over, I made sure to sit down with the principal alone and explain the kind of jeopardy the district was in.