Hundreds show up for Jeffco School Board meeting

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. -- For the first time in a week-and-a-half, Jefferson County Schools ran as normal on Wednesday. Despite concerns about the statewide student attendance count, in which attendance helps determine state per-pupil funding, student groups did not boycott school or walk out of class as part of their ongoing protest of a controversial curriculum review committee.

But the quiet won’t last long. Thursday night the Jeffco board of education will take up the curriculum review proposal that helped trigger the national spotlight, and students will be part of a large rally outside of the meeting.

Jeffco Stand Up, the student group that helped spearhead student walkouts across the district, expects to have representation from at least 10 Jeffco high schools at the rally. On Wednesday evening, the leaders of Jeffco Stand Up wanted to make one thing clear.

“Students do understand what’s going on," said Bethany Keupp, a 17-year-old student at Standley Lake High School. "It’s not our teachers forcing us to go stand out on street corners. We decided this on our own and we care about our education.”

The students have drawn national attention and even praise from the organization behind AP U.S. History for protesting the school board proposal that originally called for a curriculum review committee that would discourage civil disobedience and promote patriotism. But board member John Newkirk says that's not the proposal the board is considering.

“Honestly, those students have been misinformed,” Newkirk said.

Newkirk removed that controversial language, calling instead for a committee to "Review curricular choices for accuracy and omissions, conformity to Jefferson County academic standards, and to inform the Board of materials that may reasonably be deemed to be objectionable."

“I think they very clearly stated what their intentions were and them trying to change the language now does not change that those are still their intentions," Keupp said. "I don’t have any reason at this point to put my faith in what they say.”

On Wednesday, Newkirk spoke to a group of students at Evergreen High School and said he is also open to including them in any future curriculum review.

“Maybe we have a teacher on this committee. Maybe we have a student that has taken it and then one that is in the midst of it," Newkirk said. "I think that’s a good idea.”

Board Member Jill Fellman also spoke to students Wednesday. Fellman says she does not believe the board needs a new review committee because the district already has a review structure in place. Whether or not the board changes that structure, she says students need to play a bigger role.

“We have teachers, educators, principals, parents, citizens … and students," Fellman said. "Let’s make it broader.”

Though Keupp says she's encouraged to hear students are a bigger part of the discussion. She says none of them are hopeful.

“In the months that I’ve been following this board they have never given the community the whole truth," Keupp said. "I’m not going to believe that, because they changed the petition, they are listening to the community now and all of a sudden they are going to let us be involved. I still think their original intentions are still there.”

Several students plan to speak both inside and outside the board meeting on Thursday. Keupp also plans to present the board with a petition that has generated nearly 40,000 signatures on MoveOn.org.

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