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Anti-Reform Activist Uploaded Union Propaganda to School Servers, Accused Reformers of Favoring Segregation

New documentation obtained by Media Trackers reveals that political propaganda against the Douglas County (Colo.) Board of Education was anonymously uploaded to the district’s network and circulated for months among students, teachers, and administrators. The revelation comes on the heels of multiple cases of inappropriate use of government resources by teachers and administrators to promote political causes and candidates.

The specific document consisted of five pages of error-ridden talking points  that were compiled by local activist Beth Kerr. The document was then anonymously uploaded to the Douglas County School District’s (DCSD) shared Google Docs drive, which was accessible to anyone with Douglas County School District log-in credentials. Thousands of high school students, teachers, and other school employees in the county all possess log-in credentials.

The document was uploaded on May 16, 2012, under the alias “SpeakforDCSD.” The document was removed from the servers on August 15 when the community relations board notified school district administrators of its existence, according to Dwight Humphrey, the executive director of information technology for the district.

Beth Kerr, a teachers’ union supporter in the district, wrote and compiled the information contained in the document, which was entitled “Beth Kerr DCSD Research.docx.”  The document, which was riddled with grammatical and factual errors, attacked the motives of school board members, accused them of political bias, characterized some reform proponents as being in favor of segregation, and suggested that Superintendent Liz Fagan was using her current position as a stepping stone for future work in Washington, D.C.

According to Kerr’s document, although the school board is supposed to be “non-patrician [Ed.: We believe she means 'non-partisan']“, the current members are “all Republicans.” While school board candidates are prohibited from filing or being listed on a ballot as members of a specific political party, nothing in state law prevents candidates from informing voters about their political beliefs during the course of a campaign.

In another section of the document, Kerr accused Fagan of working in Douglas County as “a stepping stone to a bigger goal on a national platform committee or potentially a job in Washington, DC.” Kerr offered a caveat to that accusation, though, writing, “This of course if [sic] my personal opinion from what I have read.”

Kerr also introduced race into the discussion, and even accused some school choice proponents of being “pro segregation advocates.”  In a section of the document attacking “big money” interests for allegedly backing reform efforts in Douglas County, Kerr claimed that the Koch Brothers spent $60,000 on what she called “the ALEC program” to “get the [school] board elected.”  She characterized the Koch Brothers in that passage as “pro segregation advocates.”

Although Kerr noted several times in her document that she repeatedly met with school board and district leadership to discuss her concerns, she ended her document by accusing reform proponents of refusing to discuss the issues with her.

“The interesting thing that I have found is that those who are pro board and pro voucher are those who are least willing to have a discussion with me,” she wrote. “[T]his I find very interesting.”

But Kerr did not restrict her activism to merely uploading documents onto taxpayer-funded school servers. One e-mail sent from Kerr that was released as part of an open records request passed along information to other “dcsdk12.org” accounts specifically advocating for the election of Susan Meek, a failed pro-union candidate for school board last year. Included in her e-mail was campaign material for ballot propositions that were crafted and backed by the teachers union.

“Speak for DCSD”, the user name that was used to upload Kerr’s propaganda document to taxpayer-funded servers, is a social media group that focuses on education policy in Douglas County. “Supportive Parents, Educators, and Kids (SPEAK) is a place where teachers and parents are encouraged to speak freely about their issues, questions, and concerns in the Douglas County School District,” the group’s profile description explains. “We recognize that many educators in Douglas County do not currently feel as though they can speak freely, so we’ve put this page together to give them a safe way to post without having to share their identity.”

According to Dwight Humphrey, the school district’s information technology director, specific identification of the person who improperly uploaded the document to county servers was impossible.

“These are shared folder drives, not attached to e-mails or accounts,” he told Media Trackers. “We can’t really see what or who is behind it.”

 

This post was originally featured at Media Trackers Colorado

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