September 24, 2014 / 10:35 PM / 4 years ago

Colorado students stage walkouts to protest proposed curriculum

DENVER (Reuters) - Hundreds of high school students in Colorado’s second-largest school district staged a walkout on Wednesday to protest proposed changes to a history curriculum that would stress patriotism and discourage civil disobedience.

Student protesters marched outside schools waving placards bearing slogans such as: “My School, My Education, My Voice!” and “Don’t Make History a Mystery!”

The demonstrations marked the third straight day of protests at six high schools in Jefferson County, a suburban Denver school district of 84,000 students.

The controversy stems from proposed changes to an advanced placement history curriculum proposed by a school board member who was part of a conservative takeover of the body last year.

“Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard for the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage,” according to the proposal from board member Julie Williams.

Williams said in a statement she was surprised her opposition to the Advanced Placement U.S. History, or APUSH, curriculum, which is being proposed by the College Board, had drawn a negative reaction from students.

The Texas Board of Education had rejected APUSH in favor of its own state-mandated history curriculum, she said.

“It (APUSH) has an emphasis on race, gender, class ethnicity, grievance and American-bashing while simultaneously omitting the most basic structural and philosophical elements considered essential to the understanding of American history for generations,” she said.

Between 400 and 500 students walked out at two schools on Wednesday, district spokeswoman Lynn Setzer said. About 1,000 students in all have walked out of class for protests since Monday.

Superintendent Don McMinimee said in a statement he met with some of the students and stressed the proposed curriculum changes were not final.

“I respect the right of our students to express their opinions in a peaceful manner,” McMinimee said. “However, I do prefer that our students stay in class.”

Setzer said the students would not face disciplinary action.

Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Colorado chapter, applauded the students’ action.

“It’s ironic that an attempt to downplay examples of social change being accomplished through civil disobedience has spurred a community-wide crash course in just how important it is to be able to speak out and question authority in a just and democratic society,” he said.

Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Peter Cooney

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