December 12, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

CO Students Protest Proposed Changes to ‘Censor’ AP History

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A protest takes place in Littleton, CO. All photos courtesy of Lindsey Stearns

On October 11, Colorado high school students from Jefferson County school district gathered in Littleton’s Clement Park to protest possible changes being proposed to their Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History curriculum—including suggestions to scrub the classes of materials that “condone civil disorder, social strife, or disregard of the law.”

“Censorship has no place in education,” said Ashlyn Maher, a senior at Chatfield High School in Jeffco Public Schools who was at Saturday’s protest, according to the Denver Post.

The Jefferson County Board of Education passed the proposal of an AP U.S. History review committee by a 3–2 vote in September, said John Ford, president of the Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA).

The proposal allowed each of the five board members to propose three nominees to the new curriculum review committee—15 in total. The final count would be whittled down to nine. Among the tasks of the curriculum review board would be to regularly review curricular choices and texts in their appropriateness—as dictated by the language of the proposal—with AP U.S. History listed among its initial projects for review.

The document reads:

“Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials, and benefits of the enterprise system, respect for authority, and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife, or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage.”

John Ford, president of the Jefferson County Education Association of him and his family.

John Ford, president of the Jefferson County Education Association, joined a protest rally with his family. Photo courtesy of John Ford

Students launched protests almost immediately after hearing about the proposal on September 22, says the Denver Post, walking out of classrooms—and protests have continued since.

Dan McMinimee, Jeffco Schools superintendent, released a statement on September 23, after initial student protests:

“I have offered to meet with any students and answer their questions, which is what I did yesterday with the Evergreen High School students and today with Lakewood High students. Other members of my leadership team have also been meeting with students, answering their questions.”

Changing the framework of a class may be under the purview of the Jefferson County Board of Education. However, the College Board, which oversees AP guidelines, has stated that the proposed changes from the Jefferson County Board of Education would strip Jefferson County’s AP U.S. History class of its AP certification.

“If a school or district censors essential concepts from an Advanced Placement course, that course can no longer bear the ‘AP’ designation,” says the College Board, in a statement on September 26.

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Click image to view curriculum review committee proposal from the school board.

According to JCEA’s Ford, on October 2, Jeffco students sat in on a school board meeting where its members amended and approved its original proposal, expanding its curriculum review board to a total of twelve members, including two students. At the most recent protest rally (October 11), students passed around a clipboard gathering signatures for a school board recall, says the Denver Post.

“I think kids need to see all sides,” said Chatfield High School math teacher Alma Moore. “I’ve talked to several of our AP History teachers, and other AP history teachers in the district, and they all say [this review committee] is ridiculous.”

Lauren Barack About Lauren Barack

School Library Journal contributing editor Lauren Barack writes about the connection between media and education, business, and technology. A recipient of the Loeb Award for online journalism, she can be found at www.laurenbarack.com.

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