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Sick-Outs and Walk-Outs: Students and Teachers Escalate Fight against Censorship of History

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Students from Columbine High School protest proposed changes to AP History curriculum last week. (Photo: John Lebya/@presto89/Twitter)

A passionate coalition of teachers and students in Jefferson County, Colorado are continuing their fight against censorship this week, employing some of the very tactics the conservative school board wants to eliminate from history textbooks.

Seventy-two of 102 teachers at Golden and Jefferson high schools called in absent on Monday, forcing both schools to close for the day; teacher "sick-outs" also closed two high schools on September 19.

Meanwhile, several dozen students from Carmody Middle School walked out of classes on Tuesday morning, marking the first time younger students have joined an ongoing protest by teachers and high schoolers against proposed changes to the district's history curriculum. Hundreds of students from the majority of the county's 17 high schools have staged walk-outs and protests over the last two weeks.

The actions are in response to a proposal from the conservative, five-member school board to establish a committee that would review the district's Advanced Placement history course in order to ensure its materials "promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights" and don't "encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law." Conservatives nationwide have claimed that the AP history course is "revisionist" and overly focused on the "negative" aspects of American history.

Students across Jefferson County have taken to the streets with cardboard signs and slogans like, "Don't make history a mystery" and "Keep your politics out of my education."

The College Board, which oversees the Advanced Placement U.S. History course at the center of the dispute, has said it stands behind the students and that if a school or district censors essential concepts from an AP course, that course can no longer bear the 'AP' designation.

"These students recognize that the social order can-and sometimes must-be disrupted in the pursuit of liberty and justice," the College Board said in a statement. "Civil disorder and social strife are at the patriotic heart of American history-from the Boston Tea Party to the American Revolution to the Civil Rights Movement."