2018 Year in Review: Students, teachers and parents all held their own forms of protest in Summit County schools (No. 9)
This year has been a tumultuous one. But in Summit, the concerns of the outside world were most visible at the county’s schools and came in the form of the First Amendment, with protests and walkouts re-affirming the right of citizens to petition their government for redress of grievances.
At the beginning of the year, over 140 Summit residents held a rally in Frisco on Martin Luther King Day to draw awareness to the plight of DREAMers, young men and women who arrived in the U.S. as children without status but were given the ability to stay through the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
The rally-goers waved signs and chanted at the corner of Summit Boulevard and Main Street in front of the Frisco town sign, with some Dreamers stepping up to share their stories, showing how they have been exceptionally productive and good members of society who now live in fear of deportation.
One of the speakers was Mateo Lozano, who grew up in Summit County and was as much a member of the community as anyone else.
“I grew up with your kids,” Lozano told the crowd. “I watched Spongebob. I saw the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I know exactly what it’s like to be American. The only difference between me and the person next to you is a piece of paper. I don’t deserve to be deported.”
The next month, on Feb. 14, the horrific shooting massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, claimed the lives of 14 students and three staff members, shaking the nation to the core in a way not seen since the grade-school massacre at Sandy Hook back in 2012.
Rising to the call for a nationwide day of action on school gun violence a month later, Summit students staged three separate walkout, rally and sit-in events around the district.
At Summit High School, an ACLU-affiliated student group called People Power negotiated with the administration to allow students to stage a sit-in protest that kept students from leaving school grounds, but allowed them to sit and gather in the school’s common areas while writing notes and listening to speeches about the need to keep schools safe. The protest lasted 17 minutes — representing the 17 Parkland victims.
“We didn’t want to disrupt class too much, as the point of this isn’t to rebel against the school,” senior Priya Subberwal, now a graduate, said at the time. “It’s to draw attention to the fact that we’re protesting violence in schools. We wanted a small, but impactful statement where we would walk off schools and condense in one area for 17 minutes.”
In April, Summit teachers joined thousands of others from across the state at the state Capitol in Denver to protest low wages and potential changes to their benefit plans. In Summit, teachers wanted residents to be aware of how many open teaching positions there were across the state, and stood in solidarity with teachers from districts that aren’t as well funded as Summit’s.
“This is a fight for the future of our profession,” Summit High School teacher Kim Phipps said at the time. “If the state continues to treat teachers this way, there won’t be any teachers left.”
Finally, a few weeks after the new school year started, parents in several neighborhoods affected by school bus stop cuts were incensed. Parents in neighborhoods like Boreas Pass were forced to make their own accommodations on getting their kids to school, and were given little warning before the change was made.
“The district only gave us a weekend’s worth of notice before they eliminated the stop,” parent Charlie Brittz said at the time. “They gave us no estimate as to when service would be restored, or if it would be restored, and just said ‘that was their best option.’”
Summit School District defended the cuts as necessary due to a statewide critical shortage of bus drivers.
Brittz and other affected parents rallied together to confront the school district on the bus stop cuts, demanding restoration of service. A day later, the issue was at least temporarily resolved as the school district completely remade their bus schedule from the ground up, restoring bus stops until the end of the year, after which time they hope to have recruited and trained enough drivers to avoid new cuts.
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