“Evan is not here tonight, but he has given me permission to speak on his behalf. I speak on behalf of all the students that have been escorted out of the room tonight.”
I was stopped there. The security guard put his hand over the microphone and turned it away from me.
The Board member Ms. Dahlkemper began speaking to the officer, saying that I was not violating any board policy and telling him to let me speak.
I pointed out to the officer that she was talking to him, but he ignored me and continued his threats to escort me from the room unless I left the podium at that moment.
I stayed, trying to hear what Ms. Dahlkemper was saying, but then the security guard grabbed my arm and started to take me away. As I walked down the row of seats, an older woman looked right at me and said “Yeah, goodbye sweetheart.”
My name is Ashlyn Maher, I am a student at Chatfield Senior High School and a member of Jeffco Students for Change.
Thursday night, November 6th 2014, there was a Jefferson County School Board Meeting, the Jeffco Students for Change (JSFC) were in attendance along with many community members.
During the first public comment portion of the meeting, the Board president Mr. Ken Witt called Garrett Hjelle—a fellow member of JSFC— to the podium. Garrett read the board majority our demands, and was escorted out when his speech went over the allotted one minute time period. Our demands that he read to the board are:
- Public apology from the majority of the school board for referring to/and or treating us as “union pawns” and knowingly misrepresenting our image and intent as concerned students.
- Repeal the curriculum review committee, which was opposed by a significant number of JeffCo students, teachers, parents, and community members.
- Incorporate community input in future decisions instead of outside corporate interests and ideological leanings.
- Allocate resources to in-class instruction rather than board expenses that perpetuate an agenda to privatize JeffCo schools.
Tayla Madrid walked to the podium after Garrett was escorted out, and began to read a passage from the AP United States History textbook. She was barely able to get through a few sentences before the microphone was snatched away from her and she was escorted out.
The next student to be called was Tim Palaze; Tim walked up to the podium and read a passage about Malcolm X for one minute, and after continuing to read past the timer, was escorted out.
After another moment of silence from the students, we acted again. Students began standing up one after the other, reading out of the textbook until they were escorted out. As soon as one voice was silenced, another rose up and took its place.
After this had happen five or six times, there was quiet… Until the next speaker approached the podium.
A whistle was blown and all the students in the room stood with their hands on their hearts and began reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. All students standing held printed photos of important historical figures that had also practiced civil disobedience.
When the Pledge of Allegiance was finished, nearly all of the students peacefully left the room.
I stayed and listened to the public comments made by different groups of parents and teachers, most of those discussions were of the charter schools, so I enjoyed hearing them. When a JSFC was called, I stood and walked to the podium.
And this is where I began. “Evan is not here tonight and as given me permission to speak on his behalf. I speak on behalf of all the students that have been escorted out of the room.” I was stopped there.
When I was out of the room I attempted to explain to the Head Security Officer that I hadn’t broken any Board policy. Evan wasn’t in the room so I was speaking on his behalf, which I have done before.
Annoyed, he grabbed my arm and pushed me into the elevator, while telling me that I was still being escorted out, and he refused to answer when I asked why.
I exited the building and ran into two more security officers to whom I explained what had just happened. They kindly said that they would go back in to see if I could still speak on my own behalf.
I went to the JSFC that had gathered outside, and realized that I had let my phone inside the Board room. I went back to the doors, and found them locked.
I found a security guard that was walking about outside and got him to let me in, I went upstairs and found the guards that had asked about me speaking again, they informed me that because I was escorted out, I could not speak even on my own behalf.
I told them that I left my phone inside and was permitted to go in and get it. I happened to have set my phone next to my Physics Teacher, Mr. Brad Boyle, and while I grabbed it, I handed him my speech and told him that they were going to call my name again.
I walked back outside and was soon followed by Mr. Boyle, who had stood and attempted to explain what we were doing and speak on my behalf, and had been escorted out.
I was so honored and grateful that he stood up and joined the students, and he isn’t the only one.
Earlier in the meeting one parent got so fired up she stood and yelled at the board for avoiding and violating their own policies, but I digress.
After Mr. Boyle joined us outside we all gathered in the grass to discuss what just happened, we stood and talked for a few minutes.
And then the sprinklers turned on. We moved and more sprinklers were turned on, this pattern repeated several times until all the sprinklers in front of the building had been turned on. Strange time to be watering the lawn isn’t it? Eight at night…
We still refused to leave, as we were not done talking, so we stood amidst the sprinklers and continued our discussion until the Head Security Officer came out and informed us we had to leave the property because we were trespassing.
“Trespassing? What did we do wrong? Why do we have to leave? We aren’t doing anything except talking.” I asked.
He responded with “You are trespassing on this property because I say so and you need to leave now.”
I argued with him, I was waiting to hear from my mother before I left and I wanted to wait by the road, so eventually he let me stay.
Surrounded by two police officials, one parent, and one community member, I stood there, shivering in the dress I chose to wear, and started to comment about the interesting timing of the sprinklers, I also mentioned it was chilly.
To my surprise the Security Officer that had made everyone else leave said to me, very rudely, “Well since you’re crying about being cold you can go inside and wait in the lobby. It’s warm in the lobby.”
“Excuse me? I’m not crying about anything I merely commented on the weather.” I responded, quite annoyed. “Well you can wait inside.”
“No, thank you.” I said briskly.
I probably sounded quite exasperated, because I was. He then left to go talk to other officers. I left the property about fifteen minutes later.
When I got home, I decided to record the speech that the Board had denied me from reading. It is now up on YouTube.
The kind of disrespect shown to me, my fellow students, teachers and community members, was absolutely repulsive. I am sickened by it, my fellow students and I may have been disruptive but that was the only way we thought we could be heard, and yet, they still managed to ignore us.
The world deserves to know what people in power can get away with, even somewhere as seemingly insignificant as a School Board meeting. Disrespect is disrespect, and this crossed a line.
Students who read/spoke (not including other students who were there to support): Garrett Hjelle, Tayla Madrid, Dylan Ruet, Mickey Walsh, Tim Palaze, Evan Blaskowski, Ava Schuster, Thomas Siezmore, Mali Holmes
Schools Represented: Chatfield, Stanley Lake, Ralston Valley, Evergreen, Lakewood, Columbine, Conifer, and Jefferson County Open School. Along with Colorado college students and non-Jeffco high school students, there in solidarity.
Join me is spreading the word about what happened to these students, share my speech and quote this article!
(Below are various other videos and news coverage from the meeting. – jcsbw)
The initial speech by Garrett Hjelle:
The students repeatedly tried to get the Board to pay attention to them:
And coverage from Colorado Public Radio here: Jeffco Students Practice Civil Disobedience
DailyKos here: Colorado students disrupt school board meeting with protest
Chalkbeat here: Jeffco Students Interrupt Board Meeting