Two Douglas County school board members are fighting back and supporting one of the district’s teachers who was the target of an online attack last month.
Board President Meghann Silverthorn and board member Judi Reynolds learned that a vulgar tweet had been sent during the District Accountability Committee meeting on Dec. 17, 2015. The teacher's name is redacted in the tweet released by the board members, but the tweet says the teacher “looks like a penis” and is wrapped up with “#douchebag.”
“When you talk about a teacher that had done nothing but show up, be dedicated, work for his students, do what he’s supposed to do and work so hard and then to have this kind of attack on him? That’s appalling,” said Silverthorn.
Reynolds was stunned to learn of the tweet and says the source of the tweet is the last place she would expect it to come from -- the Douglas County Federation, the teachers' union.
“It’s not what I would expect out of that type of group, they need to advocate for all teachers if that’s what their job is to do and they did not do that in this situation,” said Reynolds.
Denver7 reached out to the Douglas County Federation, which used to be the official, district-recognized teachers union, asking who wrote the tweet and why.
In a statement, DCF representative Kallie Leyba wrote:
“Douglas County Federation is sickened by this attack on a teacher via our Twitter account. We did not see the tweet come across our feed, as soon as the tweet was brought to Kallie’s attention she deactivated the account....
DCF has a track record on social media of addressing issues and facts, and while we have not agreed with the direction of the district administration over the past several years, we do agree wholeheartedly with Director Silverthorn in condemning the content of this tweet. We have taken steps to tighten up the security of all of our social media and have apologized to the teacher that was mentioned in the tweet. We are sorry that our security failures have resulted in this event and believe we have taken all precautions possible to prevent something like this happening in the future.”
Denver7 asked Leyba who all has access to the Twitter account.
Leyba responded, “I take full responsibility for the lack of security on our account, and therefore, who may have had access to our account.”
Silverthorn and Reynolds wrote a letter to the American Federation of Teachers, which is a national organization that oversees groups like DCF.
Both say the response from the American Federation of Teachers President was astonishing.
In that response, Randi Weingarten writes, “I am in receipt of your letter. Of course I will review, but there are many acts of the Douglas County School Board that I have found have hurt children, parents, educators and the broader community.”
“Regardless of what’s happened in this district, the job of the federation is to support teachers and she didn’t focus on that at all, she went straight to bashing the things that have happened in this district and her disapproval of that,” said Reynolds.
In the letter, Silverthorn and Reynolds ask for resignations from the leaders of the DCF.
Letter from DCSD Board of Education vice president
While the DCF tells Denver7 it’s apologized to the teacher involved, Silverthorn doesn’t believe a simply apology is enough.
“That was the most appalling part to me ... an organization that is meant to advocate for teachers would attack a teacher in that fashion. It was very public, it was very vulgar, it was horrible,” said Silverthorn.