Students say schools discouraging them from reporting Denver teacher strike

Students say schools discouraging them from reporting Denver teacher strike

By Anne Rowe for DPS board, March 9, 2019

Students at public schools in Denver who are seeking to document the impact in schools from a teachers’ strike are being constrained by school administrators, according to The Denver Post.

The administrators are pushing back against the students who have shared images, videos or other information with local media outlets, the Post reported. 

Toby Lichenwalter, a 17-year-old student at East High School in Denver and executive producer of the school’s broadcast team, told the Post that he met with the school’s principal Tuesday after he filmed chaotic scenes of students dancing in the hallways with no teachers present.

Lichenwalter added that he was told by the principal, John Youngquist, that “if we are sharing with media, we are classified as media and can’t be on district property.”

“He told me I can only film for personal things,” Lichenwalter also told the Post. “If I communicate with media, he can’t let me be on school property. In order to communicate with media, we had to leave our own school.”

“In reality, we are just students trying to get the word out,” Lichenwalter said. 

Youngquist, however, told the Post he spoke with students who were sharing information with local media, but did not tell them they would have to leave the school.

“What I said was when they’re sending information directly to media, they’re acting as agents of that media source,” Youngquist said.

He added that students would not be punished by the school for sharing information with the media.

Joe McComb, an 18-year-old senior at Thomas Jefferson (TJ) High School, said he was told by school officials he could not take photos of what was taking place inside the school after sharing them with the Post.

“It was apparent that school administration had heard about reporting from TJ students in the news and some were not happy about it,” McComb told the news outlet. “I pushed back and said that people have the right to know what’s going on inside the school. The response I received was something to the effect of, ‘We don’t want the school on the news.’

The two schools did not immediately reply to requests for comment from The Hill.

Scenes from public schools in Denver, including the ones shared by these students, have picked up momentum on social media as Denver Public School teachers went on strike starting Monday in an effort to secure a higher base pay.

It is the first strike in the school district in more than 25 years.