Tag: education

D-51 employee raises a red flag about the way D-51 conducts lockdown drills compared to other school districts

A highly experienced School District 51 employee who came here from the front range with over 20 years experience in conducting lockdown drills in other school districts is raising red flags about the way D-51 conducts its lockdown drills, and the trauma it is causing students. The employee describes a heartbreaking experience during a lockdown drill with a room full of kindergarteners during the 2023-2024 school year and the lasting  effects it had on students. The employee has brought the problem up with school counselors, the D-51 School Board and Tim Leon, Director of Safety and Security for District 51, and even proposed different ways to conduct these drills that are used in other school districts that don’t traumatize students the way D-51’s drills do, and offered research by the National Association of School Psychologists on how to mitigate the negative psychological effects that lockdown drills have on young kids, but the employee’s urgings have been ignored at every turn.

Out of frustration, the employee wrote an essay about the unannounced lockdown drill experience and what it is doing to young children in D-51, and sent it to AnneLandmanBlog in hopes of drawing public attention to it. I am publishing it here so everyone can see what is happening to kids inside D-51 schools during these drills, how they are negatively affecting the district’s youngest, most vulnerable students, and why D-51’s lockdown drill policy needs so badly to be changed.

The writer’s name is withheld to prevent identification of the students mentioned in the essay:


It’s a sad commentary on our society that schools have to have lockdown drills to prepare for a potential mass shooting. Since the Columbine massacre in 1999, Colorado public schools have been conducting these drills, and it’s up to each district how those drills are conducted.On the Front Range, where actual school shootings have happened, the common practice is to have announced drills which entail a low-key approach meant to minimize the traumatic effects of such a drill. There, students and school staff are notified that the drill would be taking place, allowing them to properly prepare their students for what to expect and why.Students with special needs and limited English proficiency have someone with them to help them understand what is happening and to cope with the situation. Students are allowed to use the bathroom in advance, and to grab a book or something else that can occupy them while they’re waiting.Classes are cleared quickly and students are able to resume learning activities within the classroom once they are cleared, while other classrooms may still be waiting, which maximizes normalcy.Once cleared, the security officers and police congratulate the students on a job well done and remind them this is just a drill. They keep it very positive and light.As a result, these students go into drills calmly and the after-effects are minimal for most students. 

Let’s compare that approach to how lock-down drills are conducted in District 51.Two lock-down drills are required each year, and they are unannounced.Students and staff have no idea whether or not it’s a real threat or not.Students are not prepared, and as a result, there is a lot of anxiety with both children and adults.This is especially problematic for kids who don’t understand English, students with autism or other special needs, and kids who come from violent homes and/or have PTSD from traumas.These students are not prepared in advance or given a support person to help them through it. Teachers and schools are given “extra credit” for having a weapon such as a baseball bat or chair ready to use to attack the intruder.Students go into a dark room and have to remain completely silent until their class is cleared. If they have to use the restroom, they are not allowed to leave. Instead, they must use a bucket in the presence of their peers, with only a plastic shower curtain for privacy. Students with limited English language comprehension, those with special needs, and those with other special circumstances are not given any preparation, and they often don’t understand what is happening, which is terrifying when one considers the effects of seeing a teacher holding a baseball bat ready to bash in the face of whoever opens the door.There may be the intention of clearing classrooms of younger students, but the execution of that is not coordinated in advance so the very youngest children, 3-4 year olds in preschool have been known to have to wait in that dark room silently for an hour or more. Often, the officers will try to gain access to a classroom using “tricks” to see if the teacher or students will open the door for them.Once cleared that class has to stay in their safe place until the whole school has been cleared, so learning cannot resume in any meaningful way.The result of this is that kids are not learning the most important thing to do in a crisis/emergency; to stay calm. 

Educators know that kids learn best when their brains are not in panic mode. When the amygdalae in our brains are activated, which happens when we are faced with possible danger, all our brain-power goes to surviving with the fight/flight/freeze/fawn mode. We are unable to think from our prefrontal cortex, which is where we are able to problem solve and learn new information.With that in mind, this type of lockdown drill is the exact opposite of what kids need, which is to remain calm and able to act quickly and possibly problem solve.Unlike fire drills, where kids have been taught to remain calm, quiet and to follow directions from their teachers, lockdown drills are filled with anxiety-provoking stimuli.Kids are learning nothing about how to react in a real situation.Students can leave this situation with fresh trauma, especially those who are already vulnerable.

I am an educator in the district. I am keeping my identity anonymous to protect the identities of my students.I had a class of kindergartners with me during the first lockdown drill of 2023-24 school year. It was unannounced so these 5 year-olds who had never experienced a drill before had no idea what was happening.I quickly brought them to my safe place, a small room in which the only light was from a computer monitor. I tried to whisper a story about being brave, tried to occupy them and keep them quiet, but their anxiety was through the roof. A student with autism started to cry, loudly.No matter what I tried, I could not console or distract him. This got the other kids crying, and it wasn’t long before every single child was crying, some very loudly. If this was a real situation, we would surely have been targets. We were not hidden due to the noise of these young babies who were terrified.This anxiety resulted in many of them having to use the bathroom.I couldn’t let them leave the safe room, so they had to take turns peeing in a bucket. Imagine me, trying to hold up a plastic shower curtain to give them some privacy, with 18 kids crying loudly, wondering if someone is going to come in a shoot us all to death. It was the number one most stressful time of my entire life, and I have experienced a lot of stressful events. It took about 40 minutes to clear my class.Afterward, when I tried to talk to them to debrief the situation, they all expressed fear and had so many questions about safety.For many kids, school is their only safe place, and now, school was no longer safe either.This is heartbreaking on so many levels, and is so wrong.We are needlessly traumatizing children. 

Toddlers practicing a lockdown drill (Photo: Daily Telegraph)

After this event on October 19, 2023, I contacted the head of safety and security, Tim Leon.I sent him an email explaining my experience and all the reasons above for my concern with how lockdown drills are conducted.I never got a response.So I contacted every district leader that should have cared, including the Chief Operating Officer, Superintendent, and finally the School Board. I didn’t receive a single response from any of them, with the exception of the Director of Social Emotional Learning (Amy Frazier), who had asked the COO to reach out to me. I did tell him my concerns, as outlined in this essay.He claimed unannounced lockdown drills were required by the State, to which I corrected him. He said he’d look into it and get back to me. I never heard another word from him.I reached out to the Counseling Coordinator and other school counselors for support. I heard nothing back from any of them.I have talked to other educators who share my concerns but didn’t have the experience I do of seeing how things are done differently in other districts.But now that they are aware, they are also asking for change. 

I have done everything in my power to keep my concerns internal, to give my employer the opportunity to do what is right, and I have been largely ignored.This is an issue I feel so strongly about, that I am bringing it now to the public, in hopes that you will help me in pressuring the School Board to adopt safety procedures that include announced lockdown drills and support for kids with special circumstances.If you agree with me that this cannot be ignored and changes are needed to protect our children and school staff, please email the School Board at https://www.mesa.k12.co.us/apps/contactus/index.cfm .Thank you for reading this, for caring for the well-being of our children, and for your support and advocacy.

Yours truly,

A District 51 employee

Related resource:

Unannounced active shooter drills scaring students without making them safer, National Education Association, Feb. 25, 2020

Former Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese elected state House Minority Leader

Rose Pugliese supported disastrous former Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters in the 2018 election despite the fact that Tina was completely unqualified to be a County Clerk. Tina was running  against Bobbie Gross, who was already certified to run state and local elections, was managing the DMV and had more than a decade of experience in the Clerk’s office.

Former two-term Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese, who moved to Colorado Springs in 2020 to run for the state House District 14 seat (and won the seat), has been elected Republican House Minority Leader in the Colorado Legislature. She replaces Rep. Mike Lynch (R), who resigned as Minority Leader on Wednesday, 1/24/24 after it was revealed that he had been arrested in September, 2022 on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) and possessing a firearm while intoxicated. Lynch pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months probation and 150 hours of community service.

Mesa County Public Library to host educational seminar about menstrual health for teens 14-18 on Sat., Jan. 27, 1-2:30 p.m.

The downtown Mesa County Public Library will host a free educational workshop on menstrual health on Saturday, January 27 from 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. in the Library’s Monument Room. The event is aimed at teens aged 14-18 of all genders and their caregivers. It will include an opportunity to ask questions and get medically-accurate answers from experts in the field.

Many people may know the basics of the menstrual cycle, but not everyone knows what is a sign of a illness and what’s not. This holds true even for adults. This seminar will go beyond the basics of the menstrual cycle to tell teens how to recognize if a period is normal or not, where to get free period products and how to use them, and how to talk more openly about periods without embarrassment or shame.

The workshop will be led virtually by two period professionals who are medical students or physicians-in-training who are specifically trained menstrual health education for this program, which was developed by physician experts.

Mesa County Commissioner Cody Davis uses offensive term in public hearing about the county budget

To be fair, Mesa County Commissioner Cody Davis (R) probably had no idea what he was saying when he said it, but it was highly offensive.

23 minutes or so into the Commissioners’ meeting on December 12, 2023 to approve the annual budget (video), Commissioner Davis discusses how difficult it is for him to understand the budgeting process and said,

“Mongoloid” is an offensive term used to refer to people with Down Syndrome

“If I didn’t have help sometimes, reading this budget I’d feel like a knuckle-dragging Mongoloid.”

He was apparently unaware that “knuckle-dragging Mongoloid” is a highly offensive term.

The term “Mongoloid” for a long time was a pejorative term used to refer to people affected by Down Syndrome. It is also a racist term used to refer to people of Asian descent.

D-51 employees share views on the proposed closure of Fruita 8/9 public school

D-51 employees have shared their views with AnneLandmanBlog anonymously, due to fears of retribution by the District.

This message was sent to AnneLandmanBlog by a School District-51 employee who asked that I paraphrase their message rather than quote them verbatim, to help keep them anonymous. The employee fears potential backlash by the District for weighing in publicly on the way Superintendent Brian Hill is proposing to close the Fruita 8/9 public school.

Here is the message:

District 51 quietly working on plan that involves firing over 50 teachers in Fruita

Fruita 8/9 School, August 2022 (Photo: Facebook)

AnneLandmanBlog received the following communication this morning titled “A Huge Concern,” from a D-51 teacher who wants to get word out about the School District quietly moving forward with a plan to fire over 50 Fruita-area teachers, many of whom have over 20 years of experience:

People concerned about D-51 Social Studies Forums Nov. 15 & 16

School District 51 is holding forums today and tomorrow (Wednesday, 11/15 and Thursday, 11/16) to discuss the state’s new social studies standards. The forums are today at Redlands Middle School and tomorrow at Orchard Mesa Middle School, from 5:30-8:30 p.m. each day.

So, what’s up with these forums?

Instructor salaries at CMU remarkably low compared to state and nation

Classified ad placed by Colorado Mesa University in the 11/12/23 issue of the Daily Sentinel for a tenure-track assistant professor of nursing

Colorado Mesa University (CMU) has been advertising for a tenure-track assistant nursing professor for its Montrose campus.

The position requires teaching 12 course credit hours each semester, or 24 credits over an academic year, which is considered a standard, full-time teaching load. Applicants must also have a current RN license, plus a minimum of two years of full time professional clinical experience and a graduate degree in nursing from a nationally accredited school of nursing, with a Ph.D. preferred, as well as other requirements.

But the pay is only $55,000 – 60,000 a year.

D-51 School Board candidate Barbara Evanson wants to teach creationism alongside science in public schools

“I feel like we need to be teaching both ends of the spectrum when we’re teaching things in school as well….What I mean by that is if we’re teaching the Big Bang Theory then we need to teach creationism as well.” — Barbara Evanson

On October 31, the Colorado Times Recorder highlighted a locally-made video interview with District 51 School Board candidate Barbara Evanson in which Evanson says that if schools teach what is scientifically known about the origins of the universe, then they should also have to teach creationism alongside that information so kids can decide on their own what’s true.

Creationism is the religious belief that God created the universe. It is a wholly religious construct with no scientific proof behind it,

The idea of mandating creationism be taught in public schools alongside scientific information has been declared by U.S. courts to be illegal.

D-51 School Board candidate Barbara Evanson says she wants to ban “a ton” of material from school libraries

In this excerpt from an interview with “Ruth” and “Lisa” (who do not provide their last names) posted on a YouTube account named “MesaCountyCompass” on October 8, 2023, “District 51 School Board candidate Barbara Evanson says she would ban “a ton of material” from school libraries that she feels is inappropriate.

Woodland Park-based Christian nationalist group working to influence Mesa County District 51 School Board election

Truth & Liberty Coalition fliers seek to influence the local school board election by focusing on right wing culture war issues. The fliers were placed at La Milpa Tortilleria on 30 Road.

High-quality, multi-colored, bilingual fliers created by the front range Christian dominionist group Truth & Liberty Coalition are showing up at businesses around town. The fliers use right wing culture war rhetoric targeting gay and transgender students in an attempt to influence the outcome of the November 7 District 51 School Board election. The fliers appear to endorse CynDee Skalla, Jessica Hearns and Barbara Evanson.

The fliers were found at La Milpa Tortilla Factory in Grand Junction and are bilingual in English and Spanish.

“Stand for the Constitution,” which still supports Tina Peters, is working to get Evanson & Skalla elected to D-51 School Board

A slide shown at a mid-October, 2023 Stand for the Constitution meeting that indicates the group still supports criminally-indicted, election denier Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters. The same group is supporting Evanson and Skalla for D-51 School District Board.

It seems like Mesa County never seems to learn from its past mistakes.

Stand for The Constitution (SFTC), the local extremist group that pushed to get Tina Peters elected County Clerk in 2018, that continued to support Peters even after her loss of 574 of ballots in 2019 and even after her indictments on multiple felony criminal charges related to election tampering, is now working to get Barbara Evanson and CynDee Skalla elected to the District 51 School Board in the November 7, 2023 election.

Stand for the Constitution also backed the three conservative school board members Haitz, Lema and Jones who have brought rancor, questionable ethics, uncertainty, disruption and hatred to the school board.

District 51 School Board candidate rundown for the November 7, 2023 election

For this article, information was taken from Colorado Tracer (the state’s campaign finance disclosure website), Little Sis (a free database that tracks key relationships between politicians, business leaders, lobbyists, financiers, and their affiliated institutions), the subscription background check site Truthfinder.com, Zillow.com, the archives of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the subscription newspaper archive Newspapers.com, the candidates’ own social media accounts and campaign websites if they have them, and the social media pages of other people and groups in Mesa County where the candidates might have posted, or where they might have been mentioned.

I would urge readers to particularly look at which candidates have hired professional agents and campaign consultants, who they’ve hired to do these jobs, and which candidates are serving as their own registered agents and managing their own campaigns.

The candidates running for the two open seats on District 51 School Board in 2023 are:

District A: José Luis Chavéz, CynDee Skalla and Jessica Hearn

District B: Barbara Evanson and Cindy Enos Martinez

CU Anschutz environmental toxicologist: Ascent Classical Academy’s lead remediation will have to meet tighter EPA standard of 3 micrograms/sq. ft. for floors, instead of the current standard of 10 mcg/sq. ft.

The former Rocky Mountain Gun Club building at 545 31 Road, where Ascent Classical Academy plans to open a new charter school eventually, after missing its initially-proposed September 5 date for occupancy. The gun club signs were still on the building as of early August.

Michael Kosnett, M.D., M.P.H., at CU Anschutz School of Public Health in Aurora, CO, an expert in medical toxicology, occupational and environmental health who specializes in occupational and environmental toxicology of heavy metals, including lead, weighed in about the type of post-remediation lead testing that should be used at the Ascent Classical Academy building (swipe or bulk testing), and what the residual lead levels are allowed to be in this situation.

Lead is a highly poisonous element that, according to UNICEF, is responsible for 1.5% of global deaths. Children are particularly susceptible to its effects.

CDPHE now says Vertex used an approved test for lead at the Ascent Classical Academy building; lead levels still in question

How much lead exposure does it take to poison a child? This much.

AnneLandmanBlog received the following email from Bradley Turpin, Milk and Institutions Program Manager in CDPHE’s Division of Environmental Health and Sustainability saying the company that performed the post-remediation testing for lead at the new Ascent Classical Academy building (the old Rocky Mountain Gun Club at 545 31 Road) did in fact use a test that they are allowed to use in this instance. He apologized for the confusion caused by their former statement that bulk testing would be appropriate in this situation. The official did not comment on the current lead levels in the building, but CDPHE does appear to be involved in overseeing the remediation.

Ascent Classical Academy used the wrong kind of post-remediation lead testing in the Rocky Mountain Gun Club building, according to CDPHE

How lead is dispersed at shooting ranges (Georgia Dept. of Public Health/Seattle Times)

The Vertex Company LLC of Denver, which Ascent Classical Academy hired to test the old Rocky Mountain Gun Club building for lead contamination after the building was remediated, did the wrong kind of testing, says an specialist with Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

Caren Johannes of CDPHE’s Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division Compliance Unit, who oversees closed shooting ranges, looked over online remediation report (pdf) that Ascent posted its website on August 11, 2023, and concluded that the Vertex Company did the wrong kind of testing for lead in the building, so their results will not be valid.

Ascent Classical Academy’s lead remediation report shows 30 of 66 areas tested in their new school do not meet HUD requirements

How much lead exposure does it take to poison a child? This much. And so far no one has  guaranteed there isn’t this much lead remaining in the old Rocky Mountain Gun Club building, which is being repurposed to serve as Ascent Classical Academy’s new charter school in Grand Junction

Notice: Since this article was written, AnneLandmanBlog has found out from Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE)’s Hazardous Waste department expert in charge of dealing with closed firing ranges that Ascent contractor Vertex Companies of Denver utilized the wrong type of post-remediation testing technique for this facility, rendering the results in the report Ascent posted on August 11 invalid and essentially useless. Read more about it here.

The 8-page, post-lead remediation testing report that Ascent Classical Academy Grand Junction posted on its website August 11, 2023 (pdf) shows that 30 of the 66 sites tested for lead in the old Rocky Mountain Gun Club building at 545 31 Road, which is to serve as the new charter school, still have lead levels 5-23 times above HUD allowable limits.

And Ascent did not test the air inside the facility.

Derek Shuler, CEO of Ascent Classical Academies, in 2018 (Photo: YouTube)

The post-remediation testing was performed by the Vertex Company, which included a disclaimer in the report that essentially says it wasn’t feasible to test all areas of the building, so there may still be areas where lead dust levels exceed HUD limits.