Boulder High School scandal comes to a head, Part 1

I’m going to do this in two parts, since this gets rather long.

Things came to what appeared to be a climax in the BHS scandal over the CWA panel on “STDs: Sex, teens and drugs” at the last School Board meeting on June 12. I didn’t get the chance to see it live, but the video for the public comment period was recently posted on BVSDWatch.org. Parents, students, even former BHS alumni came forward to speak to the Board about the CWA panel. The rule was that each person had 2 minutes to make their statement. Several people “doubled up”, where two people signed up for time, but one would donate time to the other, so one of them would have 4 minutes of time.

I thought quite a bit of what was said was interesting, giving a flavor for what opinion on this is like in Boulder. So I’m including many quotes below. This is not a complete transcript. I’m only including quotes that I thought would be of interest on this matter. With the exception of office holders, and some Boulder residents and students who have been on national media, I’ve decided not to associate people’s names with the quotes. You can watch the video if you want, where each person’s name and place of residence is revealed, but I want to give these people a modicum of privacy. I’ve also removed references to these people by other speakers. So these are not complete verbatim quotes. I’ve tried to make these edits obvious. I think what’s important is what they talked about.

The way it came down was most of the people who spoke were either in favor of the CWA panel, with some reservations, or were in favor of continuing CWA panels at BHS. There were more dissenters this time, so Priscilla and Daphne White didn’t feel alone in the matter, but it wasn’t enough to tip the scales in the other direction.

This is my own transcription of what was said. I have tried to quote people accurately. I can’t guarantee I didn’t make any mistakes. I welcome corrections. Just leave them in the comments to this post, and I’ll update this post accordingly. If you don’t want to identify yourself, just put a nonsense name (or “Anonymous”) in the “Name:” field of your comment.

I included my own commentary in between quotes.

The following is from a mother of a student entering Boulder High this fall:

I have a daughter entering Boulder High this fall. In Superintendent Garcia’s May 22nd report on the CWA panel of April 10th he admitted that a district practice and policy were violated. He said the panel did not reflect a broad range of views and perspectives, or provide opposing points of view. He also said some of the comments made were crude. I think they were far worse than crude. They were dangerous. He concluded that an assurance that the Boulder High School Administration would correct these errors before planning the 2008 conference. I e-mailed the Board, the Superintendent, and the Principal of Boulder High the week of May 21st, and urged you all to repair the damage done by reassembling the students before the end of the school year and presenting opposing views to the panel’s irresponsible and dangerous statements. Had you done this you would’ve been fulfilling the spirit of the dictates of Board Policy INB. This would’ve also shown me that you were concerned about the harm done to the kids, and that you are committed to their best interest. But you didn’t. Dr. Garcia’s assurance of corrective measures being implemented didn’t include correcting the current wrong-doing, only future wrongs.

Those kids left Boulder High that day having heard from apparently credible sources that it’s possible to experiment with drugs responsibly. I wonder how you do that with meth, and I wonder how many might just try it now. They heard the opinion that it’s natural to experiment with same-sex partners even when you aren’t homosexual, and that sex with someone you love is not necessarily better than with someone you don’t know. They get enough of this thinking from outside sources. They don’t need it delivered to them in a trusted forum such as their high school. You failed both the students and the parents by not reassembling them and repairing the damage done when we asked you to. I am concerned about sending my daughter to a school whose administrators seem more interested in protecting themselves than the kids. Thank you.

Some accusations have been leveled at the soon-to-be Superintendent, Chris King, that he’s been a part of the Boulder Valley School District’s “circle the wagons” response to this scandal. This is addressed by a mother of a student from Broomfield (part of the BVSD system), along with other remarks:

Hi, I’m . . . from Broomfield, which is part of the Boulder Valley School District. I’ve lived there a long time, and I’ve recently thrown my hat in the ring for Broomfield City Council. Many in Broomfield, including my family remember Chris King as a friendly and handsome young journalism teacher at Broomfield High School. Most of Broomfield appreciates our Board member Jean Paxton’s firm stand that the panel on sex and drugs was inappropriate, but many Broomfield parents have long felt they don’t have much voice in the Boulder Valley School District and were disappointed when the newly formed city and county of Broomfield didn’t get its own district. These School Board meetings are not broadcast in Broomfield because no one at BVSD has gotten back to Broomfield’s Channel 8 about the proper format. Your e-mail addresses are very hard to find on your website. Sometimes we in Broomfield feel like Boulder is very far away from us in many, many ways. I’m here tonight to ask Dr. King and the Board to reflect on why there seems to be every year or two a very public school scandal after a desperate parent feels the need to “go public” at this meeting to be heard. I also was one of these parents who tried to go through channels to resolve a very serious problem in a school but met a brick wall in BVSD. When I and other parents brought our complaints to this venue two years ago, a vigorous public debate also ensued. Complaining parents are often unfortunately misidentified as “the problem”. It’s not an easy or pleasant way to solve problems coming here, and making a fuss, but it does work. I can tell you from personal experience. So hopefully it will work this time, too. I’d like to ask the new Superintendent to commit to a new policy of openness in communication. Consider an ombudsman position to help parents communicate. . . . Thank you.

Channel 8 is a city channel offered through Comcast cable TV. City Council, and School Board meetings are broadcast on Boulder’s Channel 8 station. Apparently Broomfield has a different one. I don’t know how many others in the area have one as well.

The following is from a father of a student attending BHS:

My wife . . . and I are Boulder High parents and we are here tonight to support the decisions and actions of the School Board, Superintendent Garcia, Principal Jenkins, and most of all the students and Boulder High. On April 10th a wonderful thing happened at Boulder High. The World Affairs Conference was invited to talk about drugs and sex. The panelists, realizing that the majority of their audience had already tried one or both, came to the reasonable conclusion to provide detailed information about these subjects.

Talking about sex is important, particularly to adolescents fueled with hormones, who are faced with this issue on a daily basis. Details are important. It was refreshing when Bob Dole went public about his need for Viagra, but probably not useful for teenagers. It is also unlikely that adolescents will ask or even want to hear personal stories about sexual function or dysfunction from their parents. Talking about drugs is important, too. Denying the power of addiction allows addiction to win. People do drugs because it makes them feel better. Usually the better the drug makes you feel the more dangerous it is. If we do not provide adolescents with frank details about drugs they will have to rely solely on peer information to make good or bad decisions. In addition to the information the panel provided, a wonderful, courageous and very American event occurred. A Boulder High student stood up and voiced her opinion, which was completely different than the panelists. For this she received respect from the panel and applause from the audience. I can’t think of anything more useful, reasonable, or American that has happened lately. I am proud of the panelists, the dissenter, the audience, and most of all Boulder High School for providing an environment so this could happen.

Then something terrible happened. A group of hysterical, unreasonable, and un-American adults decided to spoil it: led by Bill O’Reilly who is well practiced at using fear and hate to find the villains even when there might not be any. Boulder High and the Boulder Valley School Board were beseiged by hate mail and hate phone calls. This usually anonymous and therefore cowardly harrassment included teachers and even the poor receptionist. The volume both in terms of quantity, intensity, and harrassment was astounding. Thank God I’m a secular progressive! I don’t have time to let the irony of that sentence sink in, but I would like to thank O’Reilly for the label. It is more descriptive and punchier than “Liberal”. Is the opposite of secular progressive “religious regressive”? If so, should we be looking forward to such grand old traditions like the blacklists of the 50s, and the book burnings of the 30s?

The event of April 10th is a shining display of reasonable thought, discussion, courage, and the American ideals of free speech, and freedom of thought. This example belongs to the panelists, Boulder High School, and its students, including the brave young lady who dissented. I hope they remain proud of it. I apologize to the students of Boulder High that we adults are presenting cultural, political, and climatic challenges that seem insurmountable, but from what I have observed, you have the courage, will, and reason to conquer those challenges. As you meet those challenges, please think about the phrases: “land of the free”, and “home of the brave”. They are usually said together for a reason. Freedom requires bravery, and fear is the greatest weapon against freedom. So please continue to tell us adults to pack up our fears and take them somewhere else. Boulder High remains the land of the free, and the home of the brave. Thanks for the opportunity to speak freely.

As if he was ever denied the opportunity to speak freely… I think he’s giving this greater significance than it deserves. He thinks CWA is so great. You know, a lot of this comes down to values. It’s striking to me that this aspect is being totally ignored. One group of people’s values is being stroked, and another group’s is being pilloried. One group is celebrating, the other is outraged. I wonder how the parents who think the CWA is so great for bringing “controversial subjects to our school” would feel if some panels came to BHS claiming that smoking was good for you, that global warming is a fraud, that the oil companies are actually the good guys, that President Bush is the best one ever, that the Iraq war is actually going just fine–I could go on. Any of these would be legitimate topics for discussion (though the premises could be wrong like some of what was discussed at the last CWA panel). Assuming such things were even allowed to be said at BHS, if these same people heard about it, I predict there would be a hue and cry in this community that would make this praise pale in comparison, because people’s values would be offended. Why isn’t anyone in the school district acknowledging this?

Perhaps the answer is that there’s a knee-jerk reaction in this town to anyone criticizing it. It doesn’t mean that problems don’t get corrected, but it’s a dysfunctional process. It takes people lighting a fire under the feet of public officials to wake them out of their complacency, and then the officials complain that it’s gotten so “hot”. If they’d be more responsive this wouldn’t happen.

The following is from Mansour Gidfar, a student at BHS. He’s been on the O’Reilly Factor, and probably some other media outlets I can’t remember:

Good evening ladies and gentlemen of the Board, Mrs. Jones, assorted spectators, and cameramen. I’m an incoming junior at Boulder High next year. I’m here tonight with a group of Boulder High students, if you could please stand up. Say hi to the nice people. And the reason we’re here is because we feel that one voice that has been left out in this discussion is that of the Boulder High students. So we’re here to correct that. Obviously not all of us can speak, because of time constraints and the risk of redundancy. These are our supporters. So, I’m just going to dive right into my feelings on the panel itself. Now I don’t think anyone can pretend that there weren’t controversial statements made, and I fully understand Daphne White and her family’s objections to these, and there were crude statements that I didn’t necessarily agree with, but overall I think this panel was a good thing. and as a high school student I can tell you that it’s wildly unrealistic, even if you preach abstinence 24 hours a day, to not expect a certain number of high school students be having sex and using drugs, and I think that what the panel went and did is that they provided a feasible course of action, should a student decide to say “yes” instead of “no”, and that’s a very good thing. I think if public outrage has shown us anything, it’s that parents are uncomfortable with the idea of approaching their students with a topic such as sex and drugs, and I think the panel’s frankness was both necessary and useful. A second thing I just want to touch on very quickly is that in this whole debate I think the students need to be given a little more credit as far as their capacity to make educated decisions, though. I think you will be very hard pressed to find a single student at Boulder High School who walked away from a 90-minute panel, and is going to base the decision to start having sex or start using drugs entirely on what four strangers had to say. Over and over again one quote I’ve heard thrown around is for example Mr. Becker’s reference to Ecstasy. There is not a single student at that school who is going to say, “Oh, well, I mean, he mentioned it in passing. I guess I should be doing Ecstasy now.” We have the capacity as young adults to make our own decisions and I understand that as adults and parents in the community people might feel compelled to speak up about this, and I think that’s a very good thing. Having said that, though, I believe that us as students should be given a little more credit as far as our decision-making abilities go. Thank you.

This assumption was raised by multiple students, that “the panel didn’t change anyone’s behavior,” so what’s the harm in it? Well, says who? These know-it-alls can speak for themselves, but they shouldn’t even begin to speak for the whole student body, because I bet they don’t know every single student in school.

Kids don’t think of it in terms of, “Oh, well, I mean, he mentioned it in passing. I guess I should be doing Ecstasy now.” If anything they’ll internalize the message, if they’re already receptive to hearing such a thing, and either use it as an excuse to continue doing Ecstasy if they already are, or to start doing it if they’ve been getting pressured to do it by their friends, or those they want to befriend. The arrogant optimism displayed by many of the students who came up to speak has been proven wrong in the past.

The following was from the mother of a student:

I have a student in the Boulder Valley School District. So I’m here this evening to share some feelings. My concerns are more that both sides of the spectrum are considered. To somewhat of a degree I feel that the communication to the parents wasn’t as good as it could be. I would like to see more choice in being able to say yes or no as to whether or not my student would attend such an assembly. I personally disagree with the qualifications, the screening criteria, and what was said. That’s personal, and I appreciate especially what the last student said, from Boulder High, that the dissemination of information is important, and I want that information to be continued to our students, but I don’t want someone else’s values to be taught to my son. The values are to be taught out of our home, to my son, and I want that choice to be respected so that I can do that. I can make that choice. So I would like the Board to perhaps approve communication for all the parents, and to the students, and to screen better. That’s all I’m asking. I appreciate your time.

The following is from another BHS student:

I’m a student at Boulder High, an incoming junior, just as Mansour is, and I’m here to talk about what–obviously you know what we’re talking about, the Conference on World Affairs. I’m sure you’re all painfully aware of the fact that many teachers and administrators have been threatened and have been persecuted by members of the community at large, probably across the nation as well. I’m here, first off, to support them, because I honestly believe that our principal, Bud Jenkins, is an excellent principal. And I also think that our teachers at Boulder High are some of the best in the nation. It’s proven. Boulder High, I believe, is somewhere around 170th school in the nation, out of thousands of schools–thousands. Also, we’re 2nd in the state. That has to be attributed to the excellent leadership at Boulder High, and of course, the students. Now, I’m here to talk about the students. As Monsour has already said, I’m here to talk about the voice of the students not being heard in this matter. You see, we’ve been discredited as well. We really have, because I honestly believe that Boulder High would not be Boulder High without the students. We all work very hard. We really do. And I feel that by getting all this bad press coverage and all this controversy, has ruined that reputation of the students. Now, no matter how young we are, no matter how, or who we find out information from, we do have the ability to do one thing: and that is to make the decision between what is right, and what is wrong. It’s a simple, basic instinct of the human race. Now, we all know that drugs are bad. We know that unprotected sex is dangerous. That’s obvious. Like I said, we know the difference between right and wrong, but the chances are that if we are going to make wrong decisions, then we’ve already decided to do so before this panel, and that panel will not have changed that fact, but what I think is most important is all of you as educators are entitled to give us the best education possible. Now, with every topic taught at a school there will be those who disagree with it. Some people disagree with evolution. Some people disagree that math will help you in the future, and some people will think that this panel was wrong. But just because people disagree with it doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be taught at our schools. That’s very important. Now, I think that you should look at the matter that way. Look at what’s best for our education for us. Personally, I’d like to learn math. I’d like to learn the theory of evolution, and I’d like to learn what was said at this panel. So I thank you very much for your time, and I hope you consider what I have to say. Thank you.

The following is from a mother of two students who just graduated from BHS:

First of all, I want to commend Helayne Jones, Bud Jenkins, and the rest of you for standing firm against certain members of the press who are trying to turn this into their own political agenda. I am extremely proud to be represented by you. But now I want to say that the Conference on World Affairs is one of the best things that Boulder High has going for it. As the mother of two graduating seniors, I attended the panel in question this April. In fact, I make it a point to volunteer each year for the Conference on World Affairs at Boulder High because it’s so fantastic. As a parent who was there, I found the discussion to be one of the most enlightened I’ve ever heard. I say this not just about the panelists themselves, but the students who spoke up following the presentation. I was extremely impressed by their questions, which thanks to our educators, were thoughtful, well articulated, and emotionally relevant. I was also very impressed when a young woman stood up and challenged the panel for what she saw as its one-sidedness. That took a lot of courage, as all of the panelists noted. Here is my main point, though. Let no one forget that Boulder High earned its ranking of 168 among the nation’s schools, not by stifling discussion, but by encouraging its students to think for themselves. Whether this independence results in one student challenging the panel, or 500 students independently weighing all that they’ve heard, doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we have right here in our community a young generation of intellectual and talented thinkers who will go on to improve the society on a global scale. Certainly these students have proven to me that they are far more intellectually capable than certain members of the press. Let’s give these students the tremendous credit and respect they deserve. Let’s continue to support the CWA at Boulder High. Thank you.

I looked this up recently. There are 7,450 high schools in the U.S. The rank of 168th puts BHS approximately in the top 2% of high schools in the country. So it’s worth noting. I personally believe that what was wrong with the CWA panel is there were portions of it that were inappropriate to the audience, and overall I think it was of low quality. It’s like Ward Churchill at C.U. People will defend him because he “provokes thought and discussion”, but his scholarship, as has been demonstrated by C.U.’s own investigative panel is of low quality–so low that one of their recommendations was that he be dismissed. Yet he still has many defenders in this town. It’s beyond me why intelligent folks want to entertain the thoughts of people who don’t even deserve to be put into the same intellectual category as themselves. It makes me think that while they are clearly smart in some ways, in others they’re just gullible, probably because what these nincompoops say fits with their own political ideology. It’s sad. I don’t know how else to explain it.

The following is from another BHS student:

I don’t think really it’s a matter of whether students are going to go out and do what they say or not, it’s a matter of what they said is appropriate, which obviously it wasn’t. You tell us to keep our comments here appropriate. Were the comments they made appropriate for 12th graders and 9th graders? I’m going to be a sophomore next year. I was a 9th grader during this panel.

This wasn’t the only panel that could’ve been controversial. Another panel a couple days before on marijuana awareness was very controversial itself. They got up there and told us that marijuana use was okay, and that alcohol, which is a legal drug if you’re over 21, was terrible and that you should use marijuana as a substitute, and talked about smoking marijuana with your parents, which is not appropriate at all for kids of our age. Before the panel, the guy running it said that they could only get away with this at this school, and I want to let them know that they’re not going to get away with it, because it’s not right and it’s not morally correct.

The next speaker was the aforementioned student’s mother:

As a taxpayer and a 22-year resident of Boulder I feel absolutely let down by all of you. You claim to be looking out for the kids, but I don’t see that at all. You allowed unscreened speakers to come into a public high school and spew explicit sexually graphic rhetoric along with condoning the use of illicit drugs down the throats of our vulnerable children. Shame on all of you. If this is what living in Boulder is all about, then please count me out. I think I will be looking for a new place to live.

Also the adults in charge of our kids refuse to take any accountability for this unfortunate travesty, and have forced concerned parents, such as myself, to seek justice. As mentioned many times that there was only one parent that was making this an issue, you are sorely mistaken. I know of many other parents, including myself, that refuse to let go of this issue until adults in charge do the right thing. All we want is a letter of apology written and delivered to every Boulder High family.

Private education is not an option for our family. We are forced to utilize the public school system. I feel that not only were my children’s rights violated, but so were mine. How dare Boulder High do this to so many taxpaying families. This is not how I want my tax dollars spent.

I hate to say it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some folks at that meeting muttering “good riddance” under their breath to this woman’s comments. Every person who spoke got at least some applause for what they said, but this attitude is a part of this town. If you complain the response you typically get is, “You don’t understand Boulder. If you don’t like it, then leave.” No public official would ever say that to someone’s face, but I’ve heard it in discussions between residents. Boulderites definitely have an opinion of the kind of community they want to create here. Many of those who are politically active have come out and said openly in other forums that they love the fact that Boulder is a “progressive community”, and they want to keep it that way. You definitely have to adhere to a set of social values to be socially accepted here. It doesn’t mean that you will be run out of town. I haven’t seen that level of intolerance here, but you’ll definitely be shunned by the elite.

The following is from a BHS student who was one of the students responsible for picking the topic discussed, “STDs: sex, teens and drugs”, and for picking the panelists:

I’m going to be a junior at Boulder High school this fall. BVSD, the Board of Education, Conference on World Affairs, and Boulder High School should not be punished for the panel on April 10th. I am one of three young women who chose this topic and who chose the four speakers to speak at this panel. We choose panels we think will be interesting, and will provoke valuable discussion and thought amongst the future leaders of our world. Besides a debate, we thought this would be a good opportunity for those students in our school who are involved with sexual activity or drugs to hear different courses of action, or simply gain more knowledge.

As one of the creators of this panel, I cannot agree with everything that was said during this session. However, I can and do feel that every bit of information and thought shared by these panelists with the students was valid and important.

There was argument that abstinence was attacked, however, Mr. Joel Becker was simply stating researched fact that abstinence should be practiced with background knowledge in the event that something goes wrong.

Personally I would argue that the panel wasn’t even about sex. It was a discussion of choices. Whether you make good ones or bad ones, it doesn’t matter, so long as you can live with the decisions that you make. The panel presented an array of choices that we as students have the opportunity and risk to choose or leave behind.

After I introduced our panel, a very shaky and nervous Antonio Sacre stood up and shared his story. He cautiously and discreetly mentioned that he got a girl pregnant, and she had to have an abortion, and while they were both in high school. Whether that child was born or not, the choice they made affects their lives now. As he said during the panel, every year he thinks about what could happen, how many years it would have been.

The panel didn’t attack one way of thinking, nor one way of action. It simply presented thoughts for students to tuck away for use later in life. No one is to blame for this panel and no one should be fired. We may not be adults quite yet, but we are capable of knowing ourselves. And knowing for ourselves which ideas we hear and which thoughts we tucked away, the ones that will lead to decisions we can live with. Thank you.

She illustrates something I’ve seen with a lot of the supporters of the CWA panel, that they gloss over the distasteful comments that were made by the panelists, and instead focus on the good things that were covered. I think all of these supporters have paid a great deal of attention to what was said. Many of them have said they’ve reviewed the transcript multiple times, due to the uproar over it. To gloss over the inappropriate things said misses the point of why there’s been a controversy: some of the messages openly encouraged kids to do things that are dangerous. Now, legally maybe nothing can be done about that, but I can’t believe a school that holds itself in high regard can just sit idly by and not interfere when such utterances are being made. As has been discussed in other forums on this controversy, not all of the students were paying attention the whole time. They may have picked up on some of the messages delivered, and not the others. It’s a lowering of standards that’s taken place, and that’s what’s troubling about it. Hopefully the corrections the School Board has mandated (I get to this later) will be implemented. I hope they raise the bar on who they’ll invite as well. BHS deserves better than what they got in April.

I disagree that abstinence was not attacked. It was criticized on multiple fronts, and nobody defended it, with the exception of Daphne White, who merely objected to it being attacked. The only lifestyle that was discussed was a sexually promiscuous one. Granted some cautionary tales were told about it, along with drugs, but there was also open promotion of both. I think the whole thing was summed up by Andee Gerhardt: Whatever you do sexually or with drugs, keep a balance. In other words, “Yeah, you’ll do all this stuff, but don’t go to excess.” That was the assumption put upon everyone there. Like I said earlier, I regard it as confusing. I can’t imagine such messages being delivered in a properly run health class on sex-ed. I can fully understand that those who believe in abstinence would feel pushed aside by the panel, and their values grossly offended.

The following is from a C.U. student:

I am a recent graduate of Fairview High School, and I continue to attend the University of Colorado at Boulder. I have been to many past Conferences on World Affairs, and I hope to attend many more. I think that I have somewhat of a unique perspective, because I am neither an angry parent, nor an involved student, but I remain a member of the community, and my life will be touched if anything occurs with the Conference on World Affairs. As it stands I think that there are two primary issues involved with this, as one person called it, scandal. The first is the appropriateness of the comments. I’d like to keep my comments on the appropriateness quite brief, because it’s an incredibly subjective topic. I’d simply like to remind the School Board that the Boulder Valley School District has always practiced a non-abstince-only-based sex education program, even when this was not the state policy, and that numerous studies demonstrate that school districts with abstinence-only sex education programs do not have notably lower levels of teen pregnancy. I’d also like to add that as a person who went to Fairview, we often felt rather superior to Boulder High School. I mean, we had the IB program, we had better SAT scores. The only thing that we ever envied was the Conference on World Affairs, and Boulder High’s close symbiosis with it. We had something called ‘Social Studies Day’ in which there was a day where we brought in speakers to Fairview, but that pales in comparison to the panoply of speakers available at the CWA. I’d just like to say that regardless of what you think of the appropriateness of the situation, or whether or not it should’ve been endorsed by the School Board, the symbiosis between Boulder High School and the Conference on World Affairs is one of the best things that the school has going for it, and it’s an amazing, amazing program, and it would be a shame to let it go to waste.

Okay, so the BVSD does not have an abstinence-only sex-ed program. I think we’ve established that. It seems like that’s all the CWA supporters have been complaining about though. They make it sound as though without this panel, all students would’ve known about was “don’t have sex” and “don’t use drugs”, without understanding what much of it was. Even the CWA panel talked about it in that light, making it sound as though all the students were taught was abstinence. Apparently this is not true. So what’s the beef, then? Why such a staunch defense of this panel? Like I said earlier, most of the valuable information that was discussed by the panel is also revealed in a comprehensive sex and drug education program in health class.

The following is from another BHS student:

I’ll be a junior next year at Boulder High School. In case you all are wondering, no, I don’t do drugs, and yes, I am abstinent. Rather than lighting up by the Creek, or partying my way to infamy, I prefer to spend my time doing my schoolwork, and running with the cross-country team. While I disagree with the panelists statements on sex and drugs, I find that the reactions by certain members of the state government and the mass media have been absolutely ridiculous. Yes, mistakes were made. Blatant encouragement of experimental sex and drug use was bizzare, and even moreso that there was no opposing view offered. And yet, among everyone I know, from straight-A preps to those who made other decisions before the panelists came along, nobody’s personal behavior has changed in the slightest. As students we’re not being given credit for our intelligence and values. By high school most people have already decided what is right for them, not what the rest of the world thinks is right, but what the individuals themselves believe is right. I can’t imagine the opinion of a single speaker swaying the established values of 2000 young adults so far to the left that an epidemic of drug use and orgies erupts. From the very first day we walked into school, we’ve been told that was wrong. While our values may evolve to reflect our own life’s experiences, rejecting every last scrap of wisdom our parents and teachers have endowed us with is an extremely difficult barrier to overcome. Our town, our schools, and our leaders do not deserve such disrespect for these shockingly abhorrent results on the students as some have so ominously foretold. We don’t need different administrators to filter the real world for our weak, impressionable minds. We’re not little kids anymore. We deserve better. It’s time to treat us, the students, as the adults we strive to become. Thank you.

Like I said before, this student can speak for himself. If he wants to be treated as the adult he strives to become why is he still living in his parents’ house, which I bet he is?

Back when I was going to BHS there was this great show on TV called “The Cosby Show”, with comedian Bill Cosby, who played Dr. Cliff Huxtable, and a cast of actors and actresses, portraying a black middle class family. There are some classic episodes from that show. One of them has Theo, Cliff’s eldest son, complaining to his father that he doesn’t respect him enough, and doesn’t treat him as an adult. He goes out of the house for a while, comes back home, and finds that all of his stuff is gone–everything, gone from the house. He starts calling for “Dad”. Cliff finally shows up, looks at Theo funny and asks, “Who are you?” Theo, shocked, says, “Uh, dad, it’s me, Theo.” Cliff says, “I don’t know you. Get out of my house.” Hillarity ensues. Theo wants to stay. Cliff says, “This is my house. Who says you get to stay here? To live here you’re going to have to pay rent.” Theo is shocked, “Rent?” Cliff says, “That’s right.” Theo says, “This is all the money I have,” and shows him his allowance. Cliff says, “That’s not enough.” Theo asks, “How much is it?” Cliff gives some figure in the hundreds of dollars. Theo is shocked. Cliff tells him to go out and get a job, earn the money. At the end of the episode Theo has earned enough money to pay “rent”. He’s set up a sleeping bag so he can sleep on the floor, and he has a lamp without a lampshade. Cliff ends the charade, but said he wanted to teach Theo a lesson, that this is what being an adult is. If you want to be treated like an adult, with respect to match, start acting like one. If you’re going to live under your parents’ care, you’ve got to live under their rules, like it or not. I took the liberty of making up the quotes from the episode. I don’t remember exactly how it went. I remember the gist though. Anyway, I think this student could use that sort of lesson.

Correct me if I’m wrong here, but in fairness I believe I heard that Mansour Gidfar and Jesse Lang, two students at BHS who have taken stands on this matter, are presently clerking for prominent lawfirms (or the same lawfirm) in Boulder. So they at least have started to do “adult stuff” like actually work for a living.

I think the real question that needs to be asked is did this panel help anybody? Isn’t that the role of a school, to help enlighten people some? It seems like what this student, and others were saying is that this CWA panel was a “throw-away”. It didn’t influence anybody. In my view, maybe it did and maybe it didn’t. No one can really say right now. Even if it only encouraged students who are already sexually active and/or doing drugs to continue doing so, isn’t that a problem? Are they just “throw-aways” too? What a callous attitude. If so, that’s a pretty callous attitude. You see, the reason why there are controls on what people can say in a school is that you have adults running the place, people who are supposed to be trusted and respected. This isn’t to say that they actually are, but that’s the expectation that’s set up. Whether teens acknowledge it or not, they understand this expectation as well. The whole point of school is, in essence, to influence the students. HELLO! And the adults are the ones who are supposed to be doing the influencing. If you put the CWA panel in this context you can see why some (I wish I could say most) adults in this community have been so upset about it. The panel didn’t just discuss matters in an objective context. The word “you” was used quite a bit, to directly address the students. Not exactly argumentative. This is the reason I say that the denial around this is disconcerting.

In the next part I get into the School Board’s response to the controversy.

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One Response to Boulder High School scandal comes to a head, Part 1

  1. […] Boulder High School scandal comes to a head, Part 2 In this part I’ll cover what the School Board members said at the June 12 School Board meeting on this controversy. This is my own transcription, based on the recording of this Board meeting released recently on BVSDWatch.org. I covered the public participation section of the meeting where parents and students weighed in on the controversy in Part 1. […]

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