Parents, students, and teachers upset with the Jefferson County Public School District Board of Education majority members and select district staff continue to use social media to get their frustrations out.
However, some of those targeted by anonymous Twitter handles call their messages rude, intimidating, unflattering, and just plain mean at times.
And it appears the @notlisapinto, @notjohnnewkirk, @notdanmcminimee, @notkenwitt and @notjuliejeffco accounts are being operated with the blessing of the Colorado teachers union top official and the two top officials for the Jefferson County Parent Teacher Association – despite those organizations touting their goals as student-based and continually denouncing bullying through the #standup4kids Twitter hash tag.
Lisa Pinto, chief communications officer for Jeffco, said the Tweets about her are hurtful and judgmental. Because Pinto is not an elected official, those posting to her site could be held liable for the remarks.
“It’s shocking to me in this day and age that adults who purport to represent values that are inclusive and caring would author such defamatory, hurtful, racist, and sexist comments,” Pinto said.
Posts to the site include everything from comparisons of board members Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams with the Ku Klux Klan, accusations of infidelity, and misrepresented photos to nitpicking, name-calling, and lies.
Colorado Education Association President Kerrie Dallman told Complete Colorado she could not comment on the Twitter handles because she “had not seen them.”
“I am rarely on Twitter,” Dallman said. “I can’t say that I’ve ever seen anything they’ve Tweeted. I follow lots of people on my news feed that I’ve never met. I don’t think my following anyone is an endorsement of anything.”
After her initial statement, however, Complete Colorado took screen shots of Dallman’s personal Twitter feed to keep on record and to show that in fact she has retweeted many of the posts as well as taken her own jabs from time to time, such as: “If they sat any closer, the BOE majority would be sitting in each other’s laps,” Dallman’s post said. “Now we know who they serve.”
Additionally, Dallman said she is a “Twitter novice,” and doesn’t know much about how the social media site works.
However, she has posted nearly 1,000 tweets, embedded video, photos, and linked to other sites.
Perhaps more questionable is the timing of Dallman and of the Jeffco PTA’s president and vice president – Michelle Patterson and Shawna Fritzler – when they began following these accounts.
It may never be known who is behind the accounts, but @notkenwitt was the first account formed in April 2014. Its first follower was Fritzler and second was Dallman. In May 2014, @notjuliejeffco was formed with @notkenwitt the first to follow. @notjohnnewkirk was created next, with Patterson the first follower and @notjuliejeffco, @notkenwitt, and Dallman all close behind, forming a common pattern of Dallman, Fritzler, and Patterson being among the first followers of all the anonymous anti-Jeffco handles.
While it’s true that the accounts are followed by all types of people, including many members of the media such as Complete Colorado, the posts are usually retweeted by Jeffco teachers, administrators, students, and PTA members.
Fritzler did not return phone calls or emails from Complete Colorado seeking comment, and a follow-up email to Dallman offering her a second chance to answer questions pertaining to her role was not returned. However, Patterson did speak to her role in the accounts – without directly being asked.
“There are thousands of parents and taxpayers unhappy with the Jeffco school district and school board who might have created these ‘Not’ twitter accounts,” Patterson said by email. “I am not one of them, nor do I have any idea who the individuals behind them may be.”
When she was asked if she – the president of a group that purports to be about doing what is best for the children of Jefferson County – condoned the accounts or thought they set a good example, she said she was not capable of answering that question.
“I’m not qualified to get into a discussion about the relative merits of social media,” she said.
For Pinto, whose Latino heritage is continually attacked with comments about burritos, guacamole, and the Spanish language, it doesn’t matter as much about who started them as it does who supports them.
“The constant references to the Hispanic culture should be offensive to every Coloradan, not just those of Hispanic descent,” she said. “In the year 2015, for people representing what they say is a progressive and inclusive community to falsely accuse a mother of sleeping with her employer, being inept and unqualified, and at the same time have a deceptive agenda, is intolerable.”