Douglas County School District teachers and staff who called out sick earlier this month in protest of recent decisions by the school board were notified Tuesday by the district that their names could be released after someone requested a list of names under the state’s open records law.
Who requested the list of names or why is unknown. Teachers who were absent on Feb. 3 received an email from the district that only said an individual sought a list of names of employees who were out that day – information that is considered a public record – under the Colorado Open Records Act, according to a copy of the email reviewed by The Denver Post.
The request has sparked fears among teachers and others in the district that the list of names will be used to intimidate and target employees, according to a teacher and one school board member.
“It definitely puts out there that we are raging a war on teachers,” said Paula Dutenhoeffer, a teacher in the district who attended the protest. “To me it feels like they’re giving us a very clear message that teachers do not have a voice.”
The public records request asks for a database or list “of the names of Douglas County School District teachers and staff who submitted absence requests for February 3, 2022.” It does not differentiate between employees who called out to join the rally or for any other reason, such as being sick, according to the email reviewed by The Post.
Paula Hans, spokeswoman for the district, said she did not know how many names are being released. The district planned to respond to the public records request by close of business Wednesday.
Similar requests have been made before. For example, a parent in Golden requested the names of teachers who called out sick from high schools in Jefferson County to protest school board policies in 2014. The Jefferson County Education Association sued to stop their release, but courts ruled that the records are not part of a teacher’s confidential personnel file, reported Chalkbeat Colorado.
Tensions are also running high after flyers were found on six vehicles at Legend High School and Iron Horse Elementary in Parker that said teachers’ unions aren’t good for children and parents.
“Most Teachers Are Good and We Appreciate Them! You Are Bad! Get Out and Leave!,” the flyers read. “Douglas County Parents, Grandparents, and Taxpayers OWN the Schools! Remember That! We Approve The Curriculum, NOT YOU, NOT the Teachers Unions.”
“District security and our law enforcement partners are looking into this,” Hans said.
All of this comes on the heels of the recent firing of Superintendent Corey Wise.
Wise was fired in a Feb. 4 meeting that spotlighted the divide among board members and the broader community. Hundreds of teachers and other staff had called out sick the day before in protest of support of Wise and to demand transparency of the board.
The protest took place after the board voted for a review of the equity policy and allegations by the three minority members that others had issued an ultimatum to Wise to resign or be voted out. The district canceled classes the day of the protest because there were so many requests for substitutes and it was followed by a walkout by hundreds of students four days later.
After the rally by teachers, former district attorney George Brauchler called for the release of the names of employees who participated “so that parents can ask them and confront them,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.
Brauchler, a freelance columnist for The Post, denied filling the public records request seeking teachers’ names, saying that the request is just asking for teachers’ names and not other information, such as addresses or email information, that could put them at risk.
‘I’ve made no efforts to get that information other than referencing it on the radio,” he said.
School board member Susan Meek said she hopes the board will address the issue of the public records request during Wednesday night’s meeting. The board is expected to discuss next steps in finding a new superintendent.
“Teachers are not feeling safe,” said Meek. “People assume if your name was on this list you were at a protest.”
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