Former Delta County School District students pressure district to end racism in schools

Jordan Evans (L) and Marisa Edmondson (R) are graduates of Paonia High School and are pushing the Delta County School District to  actively work to end what they see as pervasive racism in Delta County Schools

Two alumni of the Delta County School District (DCSD) began an all-out effort last year to pressure the Delta County School District to address the pervasive racism and discrimination they and others say they have experienced in Delta County Schools. Edmondson says while they have made some progress, the School District and School Board have largely stonewalled them and resisted the change.

In June of 2020, Marisa Edmondson and Jordan Evans, two alumni of color who graduated from Paonia High School (PHS) in 2016 and 2018 respectively, submitted an open letter to the Delta County School District (DCSD) about the racism they experienced during their time in the Delta County public school system, and asked the District to take clear steps to “dismantle the toxic and at times overtly racist culture that exists in Delta County Schools.” Their open letter was accompanied by signatures of 500-600 supporters of efforts to push the District to address the racism in Delta schools.

In her own testimony to the Delta County School Board, Edmondson said that as a Latina, during her 12 years in Delta County schools, she was called slurs and derogatory names including “Little Mexican,” heard her classmates rant that “all the Mexicans should go back home,” felt hyper-sexualized by both students and school staff and had to put up with racist jokes about Mexicans “hopping the border.” When she told the offenders how this made her feel, Marisa said, she was “gaslit and ridiculed as being ‘too sensitive.'” When she told her teachers about the problems, they were dismissive and told her to “just ignore it, it’s not a big deal.”

An open portal for people to tell their stories about discrimination in Delta schools

To better show what students have had to endure, Evans and Edmondson created an open online portal through which people can tell about their experiences being confronted with racism and discrimination in Delta schools and remain anonymous if they choose. Testimony received through the portal revealed that students of color in Delta County schools have had rocks thrown at them, have had a school wrongly report them to the police for crimes they did not commit, and that another problem is that students in Delta County schools also get bullied, belittled, mocked and harassed for being gay, lesbian and transgender.  Some have even had to endure physical altercations. One person recalled that while a sophomore in high school, one Delta County School Board member publicly stated that transgender students should be castrated. (This board member was Katharine Svenson who, in 2013 became known as “the castration school board member” for comments she made after the Colorado Civil Rights Division ruled that a 6 year old transgender student could use the restroom of her choice in her public school.)

One person wrote that when her son was in 3rd grade at Delta Elementary School, he came home tearful after school one day. When she asked him why, he said his classmates had told him that “Mexicans come in packs and they all need to be lined up and shot.” She said the family handled the matter themselves because, she said, “the schools prefer to just pretend these issues don’t exist.”

Many of the comments reiterated the same perception that Delta County School District in general preferred to sweep such behavior under the rug and dismiss it instead of address it.

“Diversity library” donated to raise awareness of racial bias issues

A few of the racial equity books Decolonizing Delta County School District donated to the school library. Many were bought locally.

With the help of The Learning Council, a non-profit public alternative learning center in Paonia, Evans and Edmondson have taken action to start educating people within the Delta County school system about discrimination and racial equity. They amassed a “diversity library” of over 153 books authored by Black and other under-represented authors, and donated them to school libraries. With the assistance of The Learning Council, they also formed the DC CARES Coalition (Delta County Citizens Advocating for Radically Equitable Spaces), to help businesses find out what they can do to make Delta County more welcoming and inclusive of Black, Indigenous people color (BIPOC).

The two also got assistance from Solar Energy International and Elsewhere Studios in Paonia.

Proposed changes

Edmondson and Evans have also asked the school district to take clear steps to address the discrimination and racism in Delta schools. They asked the school district to ban symbols like swastikas and confederate flags on school grounds, including on clothing and vehicles, saying the symbols create a hostile atmosphere and incite racial violence among students. The women also made numerous additional constructive suggestions to the school board, like suggesting training school counselors in how to support students who face race-based harassment, educating students and staff about implicit bias, and updating the curriculum to include information on the history of systemic racism, the transatlantic slave trade, colonialism, and issues like redlining, voter suppression, police brutality, war on drugs, the racial wealth gap, genocide, removal of indigenous people from their homeland and other issues.

District first rebuffed their efforts, then tried intimidation

It’s been a tough slog for the two as they work to rid the school district of the the racism they say is endemic in Delta public schools.

Edmondson spent 9 months trying to meet with Delta County School Board members in person, but was consistently rebuffed. Edmondson says the district repeatedly ignored her contacts with them, “accidentally” left her off email chains, set dates for meetings and then changed the dates without informing her. Edmondson also said District Superintendent Caryn Gibson would repeatedly address Edmondson only by saying “Hi there” instead of using Edmondson’s name. Gibson did this both in person and in emails, Edmondson noted, but saw that Gibson had a far easier time remembering the names of all of the white members of her group. After Edmondson posted on Instagram about how disrespectful it was as a woman of color not to be addressed by her name while her white counterparts were, the School District had their lawyer write to Edmondson, and the attorney started sending Edmondson letters every time she emailed the District. Edmondson says she got 6-10 letters from the school district’s attorney in the period of a single month, in an attempt to harass and intimidate her, and scare her into being silent.

The logo of the Delta County CARES anti-racism coalition

Reforming Delta County Schools is a tall order

While it did scare her in the short term, in the long run the intimidation tactic hasn’t worked. Edmondson and Jordan have continued for over a year now pressing ahead with their efforts to make Delta County a more inclusive place to live for everyone.

These ladies deserve a huge round of applause for their efforts, and lots of encouragement and support for their good work. We’ve saw in 2016 how the Delta County School District punishes students they perceive as being out of the mainstream.

The Delta County School District has shown itself to be a rogue district that punishes students who don’t conform. Someone needs to keep shining a bright light on the school district’s errant ways, and the difficulties many students who are different face while attending public school in this district.

Evans and Edmondson are up to the task.

Orchard Mesa Baptist Church to host Covid-19 misinformation event by liars and grifters at $20 a ticket

The Eventbrite invitation to the Covid-19 disinformation event at Orchard Mesa Baptist Church tomorrow afternoon.

Tomorrow afternoon the Orchard Mesa Baptist Church at 2748 B 1/2 Road will host a Covid-19 disinformation event for $20 admission featuring three discredited and fake “doctors” and Sheronna Bishop, who was bumped from Rep. Lauren Boebert’s campaign last year after Bishop publicly endorsed the Proud Boys, a far right, white nationalist organization. The Proud Boys was one of the violent extremist groups targeted by the FBI in its investigation of the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Billed as the “Truth and Freedom Tour,” the event at the OM Baptist Church features three people who are well known for disseminating false, misleading and dangerous information about the Coronavirus pandemic.

Have you ever helped reverse a drug overdose? If so, your story is needed.

The University of Colorado Denver’s Anthropology Department is looking for Coloradans who have attempted to reverse a drug overdose and who are willing to tell their stories in a digital storytelling project for the benefit of Colorado.

The goal of the project is to increase knowledge about the role the use of drugs like Naloxone and Narcan play in reducing opioid overdoses in Colorado. These personal stories will be recorded and used to increase awareness of the importance of these drugs in helping to reduce the opioid overdose epidemic in the state. The project will also benefit opioid users who are at risk of suffering an overdose.

Delta County School Board blocks students from medically-accurate, comprehensive sex ed

Kathy Svenson of Delta County. speaking to the Delta County School Board, likens transgenderism to putting diesel in a gas engine. In 2013 Svenson, a former Delta County School Board Member, said transgender children should be castrated before they are allowed use school restrooms.

At its Friday, May 21, 2021 meeting, the Delta County School Board unanimously passed Resolution 2021-15, blocking students who attend Delta County public schools from being able to access a comprehensive, medically-accurate sexual education. People who attended the meeting reported that the School Board did not give the public any notice about its intent to vote on the resolution at the meeting. According to KVNF Radio, the school board had promised it would circulate a questionnaire and host a public meeting about the topic, but it did not.

Delta County right wingers fight the prospect of teaching medically-accurate sex ed in Delta schools; Gay groups to rally in support this Thursday

Conservatives in Delta are working to oppose the teaching of medically-accurate sex ed in Delta County schools

Delta County conservatives are in a tizzy over the prospect that their school district may implement a medically-accurate, comprehensive sex education curriculum in compliance with a new Colorado law passed in 2019.

Until recently, the Delta County Schools’ only consistent “sex education” curriculum consisted of presentations by a woman named Shelly Donahue, a Christian abstinence-only speaker whose talk relied heavily on shame, guilt and medically-inaccurate information. Donahue likened girls brains to cooked spaghetti and boys brains to toaster waffles. The slides in her show were sprinkled with crosses, and she told kids that having premarital sex put them “further from God.” Donahue’s $2,000 speaking fee was picked up by a Christian missionary group. One Oklahoma school district has banned Donahue from speaking because students said her talks were demeaning to girls and children from broken homes. (For more on Shelly Donahue and the Delta County School District, search on “Shelly Donahue” in the AnneLandmanblog search box on right side of any page.)

Shooters Grill logo up for auction by group trying to oust Boebert

UP FOR AUCTION – Shooters Grill trademark, now owned by Rural Colorado United and up for auction on Open Sea until May 14.

A Colorado-based organization working to oust CD-3 House Rep. Lauren Boebert from Congress, Rural Colorado United (RCU), has managed to purchase the trademark for Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colorado, the restaurant owned by Boebert and her husband, and are auctioning it off to the highest bidder on an online marketplace for digital works.

The situation came about after Toby Morton, a comedy writer for the animated series South Park, created a parody website about Rep. Boebert, TheLaurenBoebert.com, using the same photo Boebert has on the home page of her actual government website.

Colorado Mesa University Trustees anoint John Marshall as next President

New CMU President John Marshall. Many in the community considered his appointment  a foregone conclusion.

Colorado Mesa University’s Board of Trustees today appointed John Marshall as the next president of CMU.

Marshall, who formerly worked as a Republican political operative, was hired at CMU in 2007 by Tim Foster as “Development Director,”  a job that at the time paid $100,000/year with no experience in academia. He was widely considered one of Tim Foster’s many Republican crony hires at CMU.

One student called the appointment “Cronyism at its finest” saying “I’m sure this was decided before Foster even stepped down…and the ‘search’ was, well, just a farce.”

In the August 21, 2006 Denver Post, Marshall publicly disparaged progressive Coloradans, calling them “pampered, bed-wetting liberals” and adding “No one cares what they say about anything.” CMU people have related several anecdotes where they observed Marshall being dismissive of incidents of homophobia involving students on and off campus.

Concerns arise over CMU Presidential candidate Mirta Martin

Dr. Mirta Martin (2016)

Some faculty members at Colorado Mesa University (CMU) are raising red flags about CMU presidential candidate Dr. Mirta Martin.

The concerns stem in part from controversies arising during Dr. Martin’s tenure as President of Fort Hays State University (FHSU) in Kansas.

The Kansas Board of Regents hired Dr. Martin as FHSU University President on May 2, 2014. She resigned abruptly on November, 23, 2016.

Concerns about Dr. Martin’s management of the University were described in a November 11, 2016 article posted by Tiger Media Network (TMN), Fort Hays University’s “convergent media hub.” The article,  “Tempers Flare at Faculty Senate Meeting,” gives a detailed account of a contentious FHSU Faculty Senate meeting held on November 1, 2016 about then-FHSU President Martin, who is now one of three finalists being considered by the CMU Board of Trustees for president of CMU.

Shoe-throwing and other ‘unprofessional behavior’

A history of Republican cronyism at Colorado Mesa University

CMU President Tim Foster

Colorado Mesa University (CMU) President Tim Foster has long used CMU to create high-paying jobs for Republican friends who either lost elections, were term-limited out of office or simply had no other place to go. His use of CMU for patronage appointments for exclusively Republican pals is so notorious that in 2007 Leslie Robinson, a writer for the Colorado Independent, dubbed the school “Mesa Republican College.”

The financial misuse of a taxpayer-funded institution by a person in position of power to benefit friends and acquaintances is called “cronyism” Its formal definition is “the appointment of friends and associates to positions of authority, without proper regard to their qualifications.” People often confuse cronyism with nepotism, which is when a powerful person appoints family members to positions of authority without regard to their qualifications.

What’s wrong with cronyism?

Locals alarmed that CMU VP John Marshall is on the short list for new University president

Colorado Mesa University (CMU) announced today that CMU Vice President John Marshall is one of three candidates under final consideration to be the university’s new president.

A lot of local people are unhappy with that.

Ordinarily the second-in-command at a higher educational institution would seem a logical choice to step into the top spot, but this is the exception.