Boots on the Boulevard Sees Hundreds on Wadsworth Protesting School Board




Students, parents, teachers, and community members protest Jefferson County School Board policies and proposals on Wadsworth Boulevard in an action dubbed Boots on the Boulevard. photos: Tiburcia Vidal/The Nation Report

DENVER-Over two weeks of protests, walkouts, and demonstrations in the state’s second largest school district have taken place against members of the Jefferson County School Board by students, parents, teachers and community members. The board’s attempt to create a curriculum review committee is at issue since it would alter the current curriculum to promote what some board members have called patriotism and positive aspects of US history while at the same time would discourage civil disorder, civil resistance or disregard for the law, including civil disobedience. Community members have called the move censorship but school board member Julie Williams, one of the members whom the greater community is targeting, told meeting participants that she was never encouraging censorship. Protesters who attended claimed otherwise. Jennifer LaDuke Smith is the mother of a kindergartner, “Julie Williams, if your point was to create community engagement, you have succeeded, mostly by being ignorant. You, disrespectful to parents, teachers, students, and your constituents. Hell hath no fury like a parent scorned!” School board members, Witt and Newkirk also became the targets of a recall proposal and that was especially true Thursday night when they voted in support of the reform committee as LaDuke continued, “John Newkirk, Julie Williams, and Ken Witt operate in such a secret, divisive, and dismissive approach, that even when you present the issues, I call on you to resign!”


School board president Ken Witt in a previous statement referred to Jeffco studens as “pawns” of teachers after droves of them walked out of class over the course of the past two weeks in protest of the board’s practices. Witt’s statements provoked a submovement of groups who designed t-shirts that bore the word PAWN with a slash across it. Ashlyn Maher, in response to Witt, protested at the lawn gathering of board meeting attendees by saying, “We are no one’s pawns. We can speak for ourselves.”


Last Thursday’s Jeffco board meeting was attended by hundreds and an overflow station was set up in an adjacent lawn. From a distance, an onlooker might infer that the crowd was watching a football game rather than a school board meeting because of all the clapping, cheering, and waving. Towards the end of the meeting the school board narrowly, in a 3- 2 vote, approved what they said was a “compromise” arrangement that would reorganize existing curriculum review groups that would involve more student, teacher, and community contributions. Those in attendance were not swayed.

IMG_0034Today, Boots on the Boulevard continued with another week of protest along the Jefferson county area of Wadsworth Blvd. that extended from Wheat Ridge to the Littleton/Columbine area. Hundreds lined the Boulevard and held signs that read, RECALL THE THREE STOOGES, WE WANT TRANSPARENCY, and WE SUPPORT TEACHERS. Everyone interviewed by The Nation Report was calling for a recall of the three candidates.



“It says ‘Colorado Pay Attention’ and it’s just saying that we need to be aware of what the school board is doing and what they’re trying to change,” 9th grader Danissa said of the sign that she was holding when she was asked if she’s seeing the results of her protesing, “Kind of. I think this is going to raise more awareness and really make Colorado pay attention.”



Briana Oxinger’s sign read, HONK IF YOU WANT A RECALL, “I do want a recall. I want to recall all of what I feel are injustices to student body and all of the new things they’re going to be implementing like the censorship of history. I think it’s just not appropriate for kids to be not taught everything.”

What would be missing from your curriculum? “All of the bad things that America has done because we’re not perfect and I think that kids should be taught both the good and the bad so they can form their own opinion.”

Were you surprised by the vote last night?

“I was kind of surprised by the vote.”




“My name’s Brian Sunderland and I’m a teacher at Wheat Ridge High School. We really shouldn’t be too surprised by much that happens with what the board does right now. I mean, it’s things that we’re really expecting and we’re just trying to show our support for teachers.”

“I’m here today just because we don’t agree with many things the board is doing. There’s a lack of transparency which some of the board candidates ran on and so if we can come out here and as you can hear from the honks. I hope you’re hearing the honks behind you. People support us and we feel strongly especially about the recent ideas that the board is proposing with AP US History that we really need to draw attention to this issue and I think you can hear we have the support.”


High school senior Juliana was protesting on Yale and Wadsworth, “My sign says ‘OUR STUDENTS DESERVE BETTER’ and right now we’re really protesting some unfair policies by the Jefferson County School Board which really prevent students from getting the full education that they deserve and from really allowing them to develop critical thinking skills among other skills that are really necessary for bright futures. So for us, this isn’t just about this week’s current events, it’s about future events in the future generation.”

What led up to today?

“We’ve just really seen a shift in our Jefferson County School Board from where their polices are oriented-they’re not as much student oriented as they are politically oriented and we just want to bring it back to what we think is important.”




“I am Jess. This protest is a lot more about the teachers because it’s not just the censorship of AP US History, they’re also choosing a lot of things regarding teacher’s pay, and cutting certain programs so really the teachers are supporting us and we’re supporting the teachers.”

Where do you think you’ll go from here? Will you continue? Will you escalate? Will you do whatever it takes?

“Actually we have another walkout hopefully district-wide planned Monday because of the school board decision last night. Because they said that they had come to a compromise as far as censorship but they really just changed the wording of it and so we’re just going to keep going until an actual change is made.”


A continuous stream of honks from supporters driving by in cars continued through the evening until 6 p.m. when the protest began winding down. Protesters affirmed that they would be back.

Refufia Gaintan/The Nation Report


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