By Jeff Todd
DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– The Douglas County School Board work session abruptly ended Tuesday night because of a protesting crowd, amid deep contention over the actions of two board members. The board and its meetings have been surrounded in controversy for months and will continue until at least July.
“I think they’re hoping people have short memories. I think they want people to forget I don’t think they’re going to,” said Jen Virden a concerned Douglas County parent.
The school board meeting came one day after the public release of a $178,000 report that totaled 69 pages. The report stated Board President Meghann Silverthorn and Vice President Judith Reynolds did not violate any district policy when they held a private meeting with a student.
16-year-old Grace Davis recorded the meeting.
“Just the way they were looking, and I know you can’t know that from the recording but just the body language, posture, felt like they were trying to intimidate me,” Davis said.
The meeting happened on March 4, about a week before Davis had scheduled a student protest on teacher evaluations. Silverthorn and Reynolds maintain they had safety concerns about the protest and wanted to make sure Davis knew the consequences.
“The investigation that came out it’s not against any policy but it’s ethical to get a parent’s permission and every time I went to meetings with administrators beforehand my parents were contacted beforehand,” Davis said. “We paid over $177,000 to be basically told our policies are terrible for board members interacting with students and other staff.”
“I think the report clearly shows there was no intimidation there was no bullying. There was a very clear intent on our part to make sure as board members all of our students were safe,” Silverthorn said. “I think knowing what we know now, we can certainly look at how the interaction could have been different but overall I maintain I would still want to know what her concerns were.”
Many parents were upset that the meeting scheduled for Tuesday was changed to a work session and didn’t allow public comment.
Silverthorn said the issue has been tabled until July 19 when the attorney who wrote the report can give a presentation and report to the board.
On Tuesday, Reynolds read a statement telling the public in part, “The personal attacks of the last few months have been very hurtful. We need to conduct the business of our district in an orderly manner for our students, our staff and our taxpayers.”
Board Member David Ray gave a statement in an email to CBS4, “Essentially the report communicates to the victim that she has no right to her feelings because there is no policy that legislates against how she was treated. When we rely on written policy to enact common sense and decency, we have lost our moral compass. This is what has occurred in this situation that has again lost sight of what is most important – the wellbeing of our students.”
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.