Social Media And The Jefferson County School Board Protests

October 5, 2014

 

Photo by Brennan Linsley/AP

Photo by Brennan Linsley/AP

In the past few weeks the Jefferson County School Board protests have really taken off. Students from the Jefferson County School System are walking out and protesting in the hundreds over what they’re being taught in school. That’s right– high school students care enough to support their own education.

Hundreds of students and teachers have been walking out of classes for weeks. The Jefferson County school board has been tumultuous since November of 2013. That is when a conservative majority was voted in by residents.  However, the latest uproar all started when a resolution from Jefferson County school board member Julie Williams made it to the public eye.

The resolution says Advanced Placement history classes should promote “patriotism and … the benefits of the free-enterprise system” and should not “encourage or condone civil disorder.”

This unrest among students and teachers has begun to spill over from the school hallways into social media, particularly Twitter. Let’s take a look at social media and find out who the influencers are and just how far the Jefferson County school board protests have spread online.

Who Are The Influencers?

The first thing I want to find out who was following this story well before it went gangbusters in late September. Who were those early influencers on the discussion?

FirstJeffCoTweets

Nic Garcia (@nicgarcia) and Chalkbeat Colorado (@ChalkbeatCO) were covering the early days of this movement. They were tweeting the vote of no confidence in Ken Witt, Jefferson County school board chair. These tweets came out a week before anything ever hit the local media about the unrest in Jefferson County.

NicGarciaJeffCoTwitter

Also on September 10 @nicgarcia tweeted this after speaking with a leader from the local teachers union. This information isn’t tied directly to the proposed curriculum change but was a signal that teachers were fed up with the Jefferson County school board.

Proposed Curriculum Change & #JeffCoStandUp

StudentJeffCoTweet

This is the very first tweet sent using the #JeffCoStandUp hashtag. The hashtag was created by @johnnieandrea, a local high school student from Arvada.  It’s an important thing to note as it shows the movement was started by students, not outside groups trying to influence local educational policy. It’s amazing that high school students were voicing concerns via Twitter before anyone had broke the story. The #JeffCoStandUp hashtag has been used in more than 4000 tweets in the past three weeks.

It was the following day (September 18) that the website JeffcoPols.com was one of the first websites to break the story to a wider audience regarding the school board and its desire to review APUSH curriculum. (added on 10/16/14)

Jefferson County School Board Protests

#JeffCoSchoolBoardHistory Becomes a Meme

SchoolBoardHistory TweetIt was the following week when @timhoover kicked the Jefferson County school board debate into overdrive. Tim began tweeting hyperbole to make a point on just how ridiculous the proposed changes really were. The meme caught on like wildfire and the story spread even further thanks to Tim’s advancement of the issue on Twitter.

What’s The Sentiment?
Jefferson County School Board Protest

It’s no surprise that the sentiment of the conversation is overwhelmingly negative. However, the 16% of positive comments are not in support of the Jefferson County school board. Those “positive” comments are from users expressing positive opinions around the students who are rising up in protest. What does that mean for the Jefferson County school board? It’s all bad.

Overall Trend

JeffCo Protest Social Media

The first thing that stands out is the massive spike on September 23-25. This can be attributed to the #JeffCoSchoolBoardHistory going viral on Twitter. That hashtag reached 12x the amount of users as compared to the previous week. While the tweets were meant to be funny it garnered more attention for the issue– no question.

The second spike occurred on October 2-3. This is a direct result of large protests that lined the streets of Jefferson County on Friday, October 3.

Just How Far Has It Reached Geographically?

JeffCo Protest Reach

It’s no surprise that the United States has accounted for 88.7% of all online conversation taking place around the unrest in Jefferson County. What is much more intriguing is the “Other” countries that are accounting for 2.5% of the conversation.

JeffCo ProtestsThat’s right. The Jefferson County school board protests have reached all the way to the Islamic Republic of Iran. There have been 68 hits in the conversation tying back to Iran. It’s also being discussed in Australia Thailand, Portugal and even Nigeria. This is a great example of the Internet’s power in connecting people and ideas. What was once confined to a few square miles is now a topic of discussion across the world.

Where Are Conversations Taking Place?

MediaTypeAnalysis

Twitter has 86% of the entire conversation surrounding the curriculum change in JeffCo schools. That’s not surprising as Twitter has facilitated people coming together for causes around the world including the Arab Spring of 2010. Facebook comes in at a very distant second with 9.6% of the overall conversation. Please note that I can only analyze Facebook data which is public, not data that is hidden behind privacy settings.

Top Forums/Blogs By Conversation

  1. City-Data

  2. CafeMom

  3. DailyKos

  4. Star Advertiser

  5. Talking Points Memo

Top Mainstream News Sources By Conversation

  1. NPR

  2. AOL Jobs

  3. Think Progress

  4. DailyMail (UK)

  5. ABC News

Top Videos

  1. Mass Awakening! Hundreds of Denver Students Stage Walk-Out Over History ‘Censorship’| Underground World News

  2. Disturbing email from supporter of Julie Williams | Corey Scott

Top Influencers On Twitter

TopInfluencers

What Does It All Mean?

Protests like the ones currently occurring in Jefferson County are fueled by the ability for people to connect and discuss issues they care about. Before the Internet existed people may have felt isolated and alone. These new digital platforms give people empowerment;  a feeling that they’re not alone caring about important issues. This idea is known as homophily. Humans tend to bond and form social connections with people who share similar beliefs, education and world views. When people bond with one each other on social media around a common purpose it can create great awareness and change.

It’s this change the children of Jefferson County Schools desperately need. Change for a brighter future focused on education– not on partisan politics.

4 Comments. Leave new

Great work on this analysis!

Reply

Thanks Jason. I’m glad you found it an enjoyable read!

Reply

• I’m so glad their true political agenda has come to light. They are so arrogant that they feel they can change our history, or at least in the minds of our children. They are in the process (or already have?) of banning “sex education” in schools. Outrageous on so many levels. Furthermore, prior to their attempt to tamper with our history books, the Jeffco school board’s Republican backed board members have been blatantly giving massive amounts of money to charter schools. Most of that money they’re giving away came from the citizens of Jefferson County passing of Initiatives 3A and 3B and was not intended to keep failing charter schools in Jeffco afloat. Please see link below regarding these initiatives. Also, please see link below to see this Board’s true agenda and deep involvement in Charter school funding. How dare they do this to our kids!!! It is all about money. Charter school teachers don’t have to have the extensive education that public school teachers are required to have. Further, the district does not have to pay as much for a student attending a charter school as they do for a student attending a public school. If you want a good cry, just watch any video regarding the Koch bros. and their involvement in our children’s education/future. Can anyway say “dumbing down of America?”

http://jcea.coloradoea.org/issues-action/initiatives/issues-3a-and-3b
http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_25367409/what-jeffco-school-board-is-doing-is-shameful

Reply

As a former AP History and Economics teacher in both Oklahoma and Colorado, and a former Colorado public school superintendent, I am extremely proud of the students and staff in JeffCo schools for standing up to the insane extremist power-grab by the majority membership of the BOE. Two things: First, we mislabel these type radical extremists when we call them “Conservative.” The reality is that they are indeed “Radical Extremists” who would re-write history to promote their radical nationalistic ideology. We have lied to our citizens since the inception of our country via false and/or misleading history curricula in our public schools. We must accept the sins of our past so that we do not repeat them; worse yet, that repeat the kind of scenario that led to Hitler’s take-over of Germany. There are many similarities, my friends, between our current national mass media propaganda campaigns and those of Goebbels’ Germany. Any citizen that believes s/he is getting the real story form our mainstream media, is a fool. Our media are owned and controlled, lock, stock, and barrel by the same corporate powers promoting the radical agenda that has led to ideological power-plays such as the one in the JeffCo School district. “Read Lies My Teacher Told Me” by James W. Loewen for a critical examination of the myriad mistakes, misleading and false information, and downright revisionist information in the History textbooks we’ve used in public education for decades. It is fitting that on Monday our nation celebrates a historical figure that is horribly misrepresented in our revisionist history. What is not known historically about Christopher Columbus is more vast than what is known. And what is known has never been reconciled with the false teachings our nation’s revisionist history. The celebration of Columbus is Tantamount to celebrating rape, pedophilia, torture, and genocide on a national level. We should first accept the truth, then beg forgiveness from the aboriginal inhabitants of the Americas, then repent for the lies we have perpetrated as a nation, and begin to tell our youth the truth of our history, before we revise it to the point of obscurity.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *