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Jefferson County Parent Teacher Association leaders have drawn criticism for making suggestions about gun violence against a new school board director.
In a January 30 Twitter exchange regarding the school board’s role in proposed PTA committee appointments, Jeffco PTA president Michele Patterson wrote: “[Julie] Williams has publicly stated she dislikes PTA, it shouldn’t be her.”
PTA vice president Shawna Fritzler responded: “probably not. I’m too liberal. Cleaning my guns tonight…”
“Will you teach me to shoot? ;)” Patterson Tweeted back.
Since last November’s election, local PTA leaders have publicly belittled Williams and other board members several times. But one local education group believes the January 30 exchange to be particularly disturbing.
“I find it offensive that leaders of our JeffCo Parent Teachers’ Association would publicly joke about learning to shoot in context of being frustrated with a school board member, given the history our school district has had,” said Sheila Atwell, executive director of Jeffco Students First.
Jefferson County was the site of the infamous April 1999 Columbine shootings, the most lethal mass murder incident ever perpetrated on an American high school campus.
In October 2012, then-school board president Lesley Dahlkemper cited sensitivities surrounding the incident to denounce as “reprehensible” her colleague’s reaction to a local radio host’s comment that the “superintendent should be shot” because of perceived fiscal mismanagement.
The school board formally censured then-director Laura Boggs for appearing to agree with the comment during an on-air phone interview. Issuing an apology to superintendent Cindy Stevenson, Boggs said she did not fully hear the host’s remarks.
In November 2013, Jeffco voters elected three new conservative candidates — Williams, John Newkirk, and Ken Witt — to a majority on the five-member school board. Shortly after they were sworn into office, PTA leader Patterson publicly accused conservative board leaders of violating the law in their hiring of a new attorney, while disregarding concerns about conflicting interests among her liberal allies.
Patterson later complained that her criticism of the board had led to “bullying, harassment & threats” against her. She did not mention receiving any sort of threats related to gun violence, like the remarks that showed up in her January 30 Twitter dialogue.
“I would hate to see the reputation of the PTA tarnished by the actions of a few members, whose unsubstantiated accusations and distortions of the new board’s actual record have created an unacceptable culture of fear amongst parents and teachers,” Atwell said.
Meanwhile, PTA vice president Fritzler last week announced the creation of Support Jeffco Kids “as a direct result of the recent decisions made by the current Jeffco Board of Education.” The announcement came three days after Stevenson declared at a raucous meeting that she was accelerating her decision to resign as superintendent, because she could not work well together with the board. On February 3, Stevenson had given notice that she accepted a position with the Colorado Association of School Executives.
Support Jeffco Kids is registered as a 501c4 tax-exempt group that can engage in certain types of political activities. Fritzler told YourHub reporter Josie Klemaier little about the group’s plans, but denied interest in organizing a recall against conservative school board members.
Tags: 501c4, Cindy Stevenson, Colorado, Columbine, education, gun violence, Jeffco Students First, Jefferson County, John Newkirk, joking, Julie Williams, Ken Witt, Laura Boggs, Leslie Dahlkemper, Michele Patterson, Parent Teacher Association, political, school board, Shawna Fritzler, Sheila Atwell, Support Jeffco Kids, Twitter
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