As young people in America, our first amendment rights to freedom of speech, press, petition and assembly grant us the ability to stand up against any unfairness in our world, express ourselves without fear of persecution and essentially guarantee us the most free sort of living we can achieve.
Recently I was made aware of an instance in my own hometown where such rights of students were threatened in quite a concerning way by elected school board officials.
It would be nearly impossible for me to summarize everything that has happened in the Douglas County School District over the last several years to lead up to these recent events, but to summarize, teachers and parents are unhappy due to reasons including, but not limited to, school board reform, unjust methods of teacher evaluation, the onslaught of excessive standardized testing and generally unpleasant and unsatisfactory work environments. Teachers and principals have been dropping out of the district like flies and in turn, students are unhappy. They don't want to have to see their favorite teachers go over and over again.
Enter Grace Davis, a high school sophomore who attends school in the district. She saw what was happening and was upset by it, and in turn she organized a protest at her high school which many students attended. Grace was completely within her rights in doing so. The protest was peaceful and positively motivated. Grace should have been praised for standing up for what she thought was wrong. The district should have listened to her. If the school board officials genuinely cared about Grace's concerns, she would have received a positive response from them where her concerns were addressed. Grace certainly got a response, but it wasn't the one she deserved.
Instead, Grace was invited to a private meeting by board members Judith Reynolds and Meghann Silverthorn. After declining a request to meet off campus, Davis agreed to meet with the two women on campus at her school. She assumed her parents had been contacted. They had not been.
This is the first red flag.The only possible reason for the board members to not ask for the parent's consent in meeting with their daughter is simple: they did not want her parents to know. To add on to that, they did not make the other board members aware of what they planned to do. Weird, right? Don't worry, it gets weirder.
The conversation, or rather, the interrogation, between Reynolds, Silverthorn and Davis is available in its entirety on YouTube.
I I encourage you to listen to it to see for yourself, but its content is shocking and disturbing.
During the course of the 90-minute conversation that took place when Davis was supposed to be in class, she was accused of not actually knowing what her first amendment rights were. She was blamed for an instance of a policeman being hit by a car that was later proven to have occurred during a completely separate protest. Her concerns were thrown aside, and the board members instead attacked her personally. They used scare tactics to attempt to silence Davis. It was implied that Davis did not have a legal right to stage a protest, which she absolutely does.
There is a lot of content covered in the audio, which, by the way, was recorded by Davis herself, not the board members, of course. I find the bit about first amendment rights to be the most unsettling.
And here's where we get to the part about why you should care.
When the women accused Grace of not knowing her rights, I really just heard them trying to suppress her rights. I heard bullying tactics used to push her down. And if this can happen to her, why can't it happen to you? Elected adults in positions of power shouldn't speak to students in this way. They are twisting the truth and trying to make young people uninformed and confused. They are making an attempt to prey on the naivete of teenagers. It didn't work on Grace, but not everyone is so strong.
Reynolds and Silverthorn have since been asked to step down from their positions. Neither woman has done so.
If you care about your first amendment rights, this story affects you. If you have any opinions ever about anything, this affects you. If you are young, this affects you. If you believe in standing up for what is right, this story absolutely affects you.
I urge everyone to learn what is going on in Douglas County so you can make sure it doesn't happen in your own school district. Fifteen-year-olds being harassed and bullied by adults during school hours is only one of the issues this district is facing, and trust me, you don't want to see this happen in your hometown.