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Voices: "Reform" group resorts to intimidation

Dougco parent Jed Walker wants to know why a parent group that supports Dougco’s school board filed an open-records request to get all emails sent by 19 people who question the board.

Recently, supporters of the Douglas County School District Board of Education upped the ante in their battle to support the school board. A group, called Parent Led Reform, requested email records of community members who have been vocal in their opposition to the direction of the board.

These requests were made via the Colorado Open Records Act, or CORA. The organization did not provide the reason they wanted these emails. Parent Led Reform later claimed it had found a “significant number of possible violations” but has yet to provide tangible evidence.

I see the request by Parent Led Reform not as an attempt to find wrongdoers but as an attempt to intimidate and silence people who do not approve of the board’s attempts to violate Colorado law with its support of a voucher program and hold back money from the schools and their students through flush reserves.

When one of the targeted individuals requested the reason for being on the list, Parent Led Reform would not provide a valid response.

Instead, the group’s representative Karin Piper tried repeatedly to avoid answering the question and finally claimed that Parent Led Reform had provided an answer to a group called the Strong Schools Coalition. When asked about it, the Strong Schools Coalition reported that it had not received any correspondence.

It appears that the district is complicit in the attack because while district staff have charged other groups for resource intensive open records requests, representatives of the Strong Schools Coalition reported that the district did not charge a fee to Parent Led Reform.

Clearly, the amount of work to review all emails from 19 individuals since October of 2010 – believed to be around 25,000 emails – would require a lot of work to avoid violation of privacy laws such as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act or FERPA.

To add more fuel to the fire, the district delayed providing the email records to the Strong Schools Coalition and then claimed its staff had to review the supposedly-already-reviewed material first. The district’s legal counsel was questioned on whether the emails provided to both groups contained the exact same material, but has not provided a response.

The Douglas County community should be very wary of a group that attacks citizens and refuses to explain its actions. It would appear a new wave of McCarthyism is beginning, and Douglas County residents should consider themselves viable targets even if they have done nothing wrong.

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