BY FREDA MIKLIN
Of the 122 people who signed up to speak publicly at the August 9 Cherry Creek School District board of education meeting, a significant number did so to express their agreement or disagreement with CCSD’s mask policy, which changed four days later from not requiring masks to requiring them for all adults and students in grades K-6.
Although the meeting began promptly at 7:00 p.m., the public comment portion did not start until 8:25 p.m. and at least 40 people who signed up to speak didn’t stick around. Of those who spoke (we stayed until 10:15 p.m.) there were more who expressed the belief that masks should be required of all students and staff than there those who said they were relieved that masks were not being mandated and the choice was being left to individual families, but virtually every person who spoke was unwavering in their beliefs.
Parent Paige Briski asked that she would like to receive “an email from my child’s teacher before they utilize the culturally responsive teaching modules,” because, “You as a board unilaterally voted in this curriculum without parental knowledge or consent,” adding, “And secondly, stay in your lane, teachers need to stay in your lane!” Those words drew hoots and hollers.
Molly Lamar, mother of four, said, “Transparency is a consistent issue with this board and public trust is a fragile thing…You are changing curriculum, you are changing policy, and you are changing funding. What you should be changing is how you communicate. If this board cannot do better, it should be replaced.” More hoots and hollers.
Max Gimelshteyn, a father of two, said, “I’m here to voice the concerns of hundreds of parents that were not able to get on the list to speak tonight…I’m very grateful for many of the programs that you’ve presented and that’s one of the reasons I didn’t move to Aurora…The assertion that the school is simply trying to teach history better is frankly disingenuous and I think anybody doing it is probably aware of that…The so-called cultural response education that is being implemented in K through 12 education often violates the First Amendment and civil rights because it is not being taught as a theory, which would normally require a subject to be analyzed, scrutinized and debate. Instead, it’s being practiced as ideology, attempting to coerce children into a certain belief system. It violates First Amendment rights because our government cannot compel…students to profess political, religious or ideological beliefs.
UnSuk Zucker said that she is a parent and former educator in CCSD, as well as a Beyond Diversity recipient and trainer. “I am speaking from experience, not from theory, based on what I’ve pulled from files online. The work of the equity office is not new and has been in place for many years because it supports the education that’s best for all. It benefited my husband and me when we were CCSD schoolteachers and now our son benefits from the culturally responsible teaching…One of the greatest challenges for any classroom teacher is how to effectively tap into the scholarship in the cells in contrast to the scholarship on the shelves that is typically white.”
Shelley Stancer, a CCSD teacher, said, “As someone who has participated in the Beyond Diversity training three times, the way it’s been represented so far is completely out of context.” She added, tongue firmly in cheek, “I hear that there’s a CRT (critical race theory) curriculum I’m teaching. I haven’t received that so I don’t feel prepared for Monday–because it does not exist. I’ve also heard the terms culturally responsive teaching used the same as CRT. Those are two totally different things. If you’re going to speak about it, educate yourself. Neither of them is a curriculum that anyone is going to teach any child.” She added that her children attend Denver Public Schools (where masks were already required) “and they’re OK wearing masks because they’ve been taught that it’s not just about them. It’s about the bigger community.”
Jamie Logan, a CCSD teacher and a parent, said she was talking to “We love your kids. We love every student…I promise you that I haven’t been spending all summer creating this evil plan to indoctrinate your child with self-loathing and hatred…These claims are laughable…It’s not what we do.” She continued, “Please respect my profession. You teach your kids values in your home and I get to teach your kids to be critical thinkers, ask questions, be curious, collaborate…We will be talking about race in school. It’s really hard. I get it.”
Gerad Smith said, “I represent an organization called No Left Turn in Education (NLT)…I’m going to disabuse you of some of the lies of the pro-CRT crowd. Our members include Democrats, Republicans, independents. We’re parents in this district. We know garbage when we see it, and that’s why we’re here.…”
Chalene Spencer, mother of six, said, “There is no way I would ever mask my child when the survival rate is just as high as birth control (sic). I was excited to send my kids back to school this year but that is not happening because of the lack of transparency that I’ve seen in this district…If you are afraid, mask up or stay home, but my family and I will not comply.”
Then Associate Professor of Medicine and Assistant Director of Emergency Preparedness at the University of Colorado Hospital Dr. Jason Persoff stepped up to say, “COVID is my life…This is a very dangerous situation. The idea that children aren’t affected by COVID is strictly wrong. It is less likely to cause hospitalization or death in children, however about 14.3 percent of all the (COVID) cases in the nation are in children. They are showing up in emergency rooms.” On the topic of who is getting sickest from COVID, Dr. Persoff said, “As a physician who admits patients to the hospital, we have not admitted a single patient at the University of Colorado that I’m aware of in my role that was vaccinated. Vaccinated people can spread the disease but people who are unvaccinated, unfortunately, can die from that. Part of the role that I have is to help people transition to death, unfortunately, who chose not to be vaccinated. That’s not what this issue is about. This issue is that this disease can continue to be spread. All of us are sick of COVID…The way out is through good science…I implore you as the board to mandate masks. This is not the time to be reactive. The escalation is going to be logarithmic and this autumn is going to be tough. Thank you.”