A final report published by law firm Sherman and Howard found no evidence of school board president Meghann Silverthorn and vice president Judith Reynolds violating any “express Board or District policy” in conducting a one-on-one meeting with Ponderosa High School student Grace Davis.
The meeting in question preceded a protest planned by concerned student Grace Davis in response to the high turnover rate of teachers at her school. She was dissatisfied with the treatment of PHS teachers and the teacher evaluation policies that were driving them away. In an online petition written by Davis, she explains, “33 teachers in the last three years have left Ponderosa High School, one of the smallest non-private schools in Parker, CO… We are fed up! Stop driving away the teachers who actually care!”
The investigation followed a highly controversial meeting in which Davis was called in, during school hours, to speak with Silverthorn and Reynolds. Although Davis was expecting to meet with Silverthorn, she was not informed that Judith Reynolds would be in attendance. She felt “weird having Judith there” and was “afraid that they would abuse their power.”
The recently published report explains that the meeting lasted about 90 minutes, and that the directors “covered many of the same subjects that administrators had addressed in previous meetings.” Reynolds and Silverthorn repeatedly reminded Davis of the worst case scenarios that could occur at the protest, including that a student, community member, or even a police officer could get hit by a motorist. Reynolds went on to explain that “if things go sideways for some reason,” the financial responsibility “may land squarely on your or your parents’ shoulders.”
Many have claimed that the meeting violated Douglas County School District anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies. In an email to Davis and her family, School Board Director David Ray wrote, “The fact that you felt intimidated by a second unannounced adult showing up and their intimidating message are absolute violations of every anti-bullying policy.”
Among the complaints filed about the meeting, Davis and her family noted the fact that the meeting was held without parental consent and that the directors misrepresented certain information, including a false statements made by the two directors about a previous high school protest in Denver. Davis’s family also felt that the overall tone and manner of the directors at the meeting was inappropriate.
The report ultimately found that Silverthorn and Reynolds did not violate any existing policies because “The existing bullying policy focuses on peer-to-peer conduct rather than conduct initiated by adults.” The bullying policy also outlines that a perpetrator must have intended to cause distress. The report determined that neither director had such intentions.
The report also did not implicate the directors under anti-discrimination or anti-harassment policy because “the board’s conduct was not related to Davis’s race, gender, or any other protected category.”
Davis is disappointed that there isn’t a policy in place for a board member to be disciplined with regards to student-board member interaction. She went on to say, “The report came back saying that they didn’t technically break any policies, but that doesn’t make what they did any more ethical.”