Silverii: Don’t attack teachers for speaking up when the school board tears the district apart

Silverii: Don’t attack teachers for speaking up when the school board tears the district apart
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Schools in Douglas County were closed earlier this week after at least 1,500 teachers called in sick to protest the illegal and unethical actions of the recently installed conservative school board majority. The school board president and vice president violated state open meetings laws by meeting in secret with the district superintendent to intimidate him into quitting rather than face the public humiliation of being fired.

Some Coloradans responded to news of the “sick-out” by attacking the teachers.

Superintendent Corey Wise worked his way up in the district, serving the community for 25 years before being shown the door by hard-right partisans who want to dismantle the school’s equity policy, whitewash history, and silence the voices of the employees of the district. The conservative school board majority, elected just last November, needed just a matter of weeks to tear the entire district apart.

On Thursday, teachers, paraprofessionals, and support staff joined in a brave act of solidarity with one another, producing enough absences to create what the district is calling a “no-student contact day,” effectively canceling all classes in all public schools in the district. Good for them. In a district without collective bargaining rights for school employees, the only way teachers and staff can make their voices heard is to coordinate actions like this. Expressing concern that the new majority on the school board is trying to oust the district superintendent behind closed doors is a pretty good reason to take action.

Conservative commentators on Twitter and right-wing talk radio, including two columnists for this newspaper, quickly coalesced around the idea that the best course of action to quell this unrest would be to publish a list of the names of every teacher and employee who joined in solidarity with one another to protest the illegal actions of this school board majority. These people are encouraging the intimidation of teachers.

Teachers are not public figures. They are not politicians. They are not in management or leadership. These are the underpaid, overworked, passionate professionals who get up and go to work every day in a district whose new leadership refuses to respect the concerns for their health in the midst of a deadly global pandemic and schemes in back rooms to fire a widely respected and dedicated school superintendent.

It isn’t cute. It isn’t funny. And it certainly isn’t “accountability.”

Violence perpetrated by political extremists is increasing in Colorado and across the nation. The December shooting spree that took the lives of five Coloradans was executed by a monster whose mind had been destroyed by racist and sexist propaganda ended two blocks from my house.

In a state with this much gun violence, with as many mass shootings as we have had, with the rhetoric on the right turned up way above a boil, publishing the names of teachers who stood up to their school board directors is dangerous and disgusting.

God forbid these careless partisans succeed in their efforts to publish the names of these teachers. God forbid the growing militia wing of the Colorado GOP gets a hold of it. God forbid someone gets hurt because of the ideological crusade of a few loudmouths on Twitter and right-wing radio.

I hope those pushing this insanity allow themselves to imagine for one minute the panic that they would feel if someone published their name on the internet while accusing them of harming school children. And then I hope they look in the mirror, feel the immense amount of shame they deserve to feel, and consider making a real effort to contribute to this conversation rather than encouraging obviously dangerous behavior.

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