Social Media And The Jefferson County School Board Protests
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?
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.
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
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)
#JeffCoSchoolBoardHistory Becomes a Meme
It 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.
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.
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?
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.
That’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?
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
Top Mainstream News Sources By Conversation
Top Influencers On Twitter
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.