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HR students participate in school wide walk-out

Mia Warren, senior, who helped plan this protest, said, “These students really dug deep into their hearts to not only support their right to an equal and ethical education, but for others who may have a voice in their community.” Photo by Carlynn Claypool

On Feb. 7, 2022 HR students participated in a school wide walk-out at 1:10 p.m. Students chose to leave class and protest the DCSD school board and the recent firing of former Superintendent Cory Wise.

The DCSD Board of Education directors had a meeting on Friday, Feb. 4, 2022 to discuss the future of the former superintendent and whether or not he should continue to be in that position. That meeting concluded with a 4-3 vote in favor of firing Wise. Elizabeth Hanson, Susan Meek and David Ray were in the minority and Becky Myers, Mike Peterson, Christy Williams, and Kaylee Winegar were the majority voters.

Students and teachers throughout the district were unhappy when first hearing rumors about some of the district directors’ desire to remove Wise and were eager to take action drawing light to this situation. On Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022 over 1000 teachers and staff members within DCSD schools called out, causing classes to be cancelled that day. They gathered in Castle Rock, outside the district building, in hopes to save Wise from being fired, but were unsuccessful.

As well as protesting the firing of Wise, students also participated in the Monday walk-out to express concern about the possible changes to the equity policy. At HR, there were an estimated 600 to 800 students involved making it one of the largest protesting groups in the district according to Dr. Chris Page, principal of HR. 

One surprise for HR administration monitoring the protest was when students from Cresthill Middle School joined the high school students. Page said, “It surprised me that [the Cresthill students] were actually pretty good. It seemed like they got why they were here.”

Amber Rosacker, math teacher, said, “Teacher voices and student voices are important in the district.” Photo by Carlynn Claypool

Student Perspective

The protesters at HR predominantly consisted of students from HR and the nearby school, Cresthill Middle School, with a few parents and other school’s students dispersed throughout the crowd. Students used cheers such as, “Go home Becky,” “Equity, Equity,” and “DCSD deserves better,” in order to get their points across. According to Page, “There’s an 80% chance that you won’t actually see anything from [the protests] other than news coverage.” 

For some students, action was an unrealistic goal from the beginning, so they adjusted their goals. One student with a less action dependent goal was Addison Yakubovich, a sophomore who’s mother is a teacher in the district. Yakubovich said, “I’m hoping that they at least see that we have a voice and we want to choose what our education is like.”

For students, this walk-out was not only in protest of the firing of Wise, but they were also protesting “against all four of [the board members] and the secret meeting with Cory about being fired…” and “to keep the equity policy in Douglas County,” according to Haley Allert, senior.

This walk-out was a necessary action against the school as many students believe this issue not only affects their education, but also their futures and lives. Allert, commenting on the possible change to the equity policy, said, “as a woman who likes girls, getting rid of the equity policy means I could be denied an extension or extra credit.” She went on to talk about how this change could similarly affect people of different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds.

Yakubovich, commenting on the effects of the school board decision, said, “It affects my education, my future, and it also affects my mom’s job. I don’t think any of that should be acceptable.”

Protest Procedure

As with the various drills that are executed within schools throughout the year, there are certain procedures and step-by-step processes that are followed during student-led protests to ensure the safety of all students and staff members who participate. Page said, “Prior to, I made sure to communicate out with the staff expectations around staff behavior: What will be expected for students and not expected for students.”

With students being allowed to leave the building freely during the protest, HR was susceptible to students lingering in the hallway and possibly using it as a reason to get out of class. To help prevent this, administration and staff members monitored the hallways and made sure students were either at the protest or in class. 

During the protest, administration, staff members, and security were all present to ensure the safety of the students, from monitoring traffic to asking news media to leave if they were on school property. Page also sent out emails to parents during the protest to keep them updated on what was happening and additional information such as changes in student pickup areas.

The staff was told not to influence the student’s decisions on whether they walked out or not and to serve their roles as educators. Regardless of a student’s decision, teachers had to respect it and continue on with class for the students who chose not to participate. Amber Rosacker, math teacher, said, “I just continued to be respectful to the kids who were in here. Kids made their choice and it was okay.”

This seemed to be a common theme throughout HR. Andye Wolff, teacher at HR, said, “Everyone was very polite. They had an assignment they needed to get done.; most of them got it done and then left. They were very responsible about it.”

Another crucial element administration and security had to monitor was that students were executing their right to protest respectfully and peacefully without breaking any laws. Page said, “I was proud of our students for standing up for what they believe in, but most importantly, I’m proud of them for doing it in a respectful way.”

Allert said, “I really hope that the adults and parents in the community learn who Cory Wise is and understand what he stands for.” Photos by Carlynn Claypool

Moving Forward

With all the protests that occurred throughout DCSD, there is a lot to discuss and debrief and many may wonder where they are going to go from here. Page said, “I think a lot of that’s going to be answered if they do their board meeting [Tuesday] night in their study session. I would hope that they say something about it and what they want to do next.” Students created a way for their voices to be heard and are hopeful for progress and changes to be made.

Though, the protest that happened Monday should not get in the way of student education moving forward. “At the end of the day, civil disobedience is sometimes a necessary piece of our society as long as it’s done constructively in the right way,” said Page. “I do think there were parts of this that were the right way, but now how do we get back to the case at hand which is education and making sure that it’s not a walk-out every other day.”

Within the last five days, the district has had two walk-outs take place which may not feel necessarily normal for members of the community, but the schools are trying to bring back that feeling of normality. “[HR staff is] trying to provide the best balance of what normal should be here for our kids and for our community without losing sight of what it is that the protest was for.”

Kara Lyons, Editor In Chief & Carlynn Claypool, Community Chair

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HR students participate in school wide walk-out