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Let’s start from the assumption that school board members should be expected to act with dignity when they engage with students. That was not the case recently in Douglas County, Colorado, and in Buffalo, New York.
In Dougco, as it is known, two school board members have been accused of trying to intimidate a student who wanted to start a protest about high teacher turnover. Parents and educators have started a petition calling for the resignation of Dougco school board President Meghann Silverthorn and VP Judith Reynolds. The board meets again May 10.
According to the petition, these school board members bullied a student named Grace Davis:
“During the Douglas County School Board meeting on April 19, 2016, Grace Davis, a student at Ponderosa High School, gave public comment about a meeting between her, Director Silverthorn, and Director Reynolds regarding a student protest organized by Grace.
“This meeting took place without the knowledge or consent of Grace’s parents. When there is a meeting between a minor and school administration, parental consent is a requirement. Grace describes how she felt small, intimidated and uncomfortable during this meeting. She goes on to describe her family’s attempts to resolve this issue with Silverthorn and Reynolds, with no results. To hear Grace’s public comments, click here.
“The audio of the meeting between Grace and Directors Silverthorn and Reynolds was also released on April 19. It is clear that during this meeting, Directors Reynolds and Silverthorn used their position to intimidate and bully Grace to deter her from proceeding with the planned protest.
Among the statements made by the directors:
·”*** Grace did not fully understand her First Amendment rights and this protest was not necessarily protected speech.
·” *** People with other motivations could hijack the protest.
· “*** Police officers could be hurt and Grace and her family would be financially responsible.
“Additionally, Director Silverthorn outright lied, claiming a police officer had been injured during a Denver student protest by “an angry motorist.” In reality, the officer was struck by a driver who had a seizure at a Black Lives Matter protest. For the full audio of the meeting, click here.”
In Buffalo, one of the wealthiest real estate developers in New York State, Carl Paladino, ran for re-election and was nearly upset by a high school senior, Austin Harig. (When Paladino ran against Cuomo, he became noted for his outrageous statements.) Paladino won his school board seatby only 100 votes out of 3,000 cast. He lashed out at the student, saying that Harig had been suspended from school for tardiness. How did Paladino gain access to Harig’s record. Harig threatened to sue, but the multimillionaire school board member laughed.