With several days worth of chants and placard waving, Jeffco high school students expressed opposition to oversight of the district's AP U.S. History course.
Students across Jeffco walked out of class to protest a resolution to review the Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) curriculum for five days in a row. Students from 14 of the district's 17 high schools took to sidewalks along major intersections waving posters in support of the AP U.S. History curriculum and characterized attempts to review it as censorship.
The resolution, penned by Board Member Julie Williams, stated the curriculum should present positive aspects of the nation's history, and not “encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”
The language of the resolution, along with contention surrounding recent compensation and performance decisions, prompted the Sept. 19 absence of more than 50 Jeffco teachers and closure of Conifer and Standley Lake high schools and ensuing protests.
“I must not have explained myself clearly. I thought everyone, or at least everyone involved in education understood the huge debate and controversy surrounding the new APUSH,” Williams wrote in a Sept. 23 news release. “To be accused of censorship? Seriously? That is just ridiculous. I am advocating for just the opposite.”
In a televised interview she gave with Fox 31 News, Williams says she is proposing the review of items within the curriculum, and not suggesting the “altering, censoring or omitting of anything.”
CCM attempted to contact Williams five times over the week of Sept. 22, with no response.
In her initial proposal Williams stated several major historical figures were omitted from the newly released APUSH curriculum framework, including Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. She also said Martin Luther King Jr. was missing from the new curriculum.
The APUSH framework is intended as a general outline that does not contain names of all historical figures mentioned in the textbook and materials. However, the framework reveals Jefferson and Adams are specifically mentioned, and items such as the Civil Rights Movement and the Declaration of Independence are to be given significant class time, according to the course timeline.
The College Board, an organization in charge of the review of AP courses nationwide, issued a statement Friday, Sept. 26, in support of the student protests, stating if any context is censored or removed from the curriculum, it would no longer be viable as a college-level course.
“If a school or district censors essential concepts from an Advanced Placement course, that course can no longer bear the “AP” designation.” the statement read.
Over the course of the week, the student protests were covered by national and international news sources, such as CNN, the AP and the Guardian.
Williams' proposed curriculum review committee is scheduled for discussion at the Oct. 2 board meeting. Students have said they will attend and possibly protest the meeting.
In an interview with Board President Ken Witt, he said he was disappointed in the student protests, saying the protests had “certainly some teacher involvement” and education should come first.
“I'm confident they're passionate and convicted, but they are badly misinformed,” he said. “Many of them are simply believing there is a resolution out there censoring history — there's no such thing.”
He said he is not an expert on the course, but believes a review is necessary and hopes the proposed committee would give a “good cross-section of voices and a quality review of curriculum.”
For now, the formation of a review committee is pending.