A Project for Better Journalism chapter
Letters to the Editor

Letter to the Editor: “A Danger to Society and the People In It”

[The following letter was submitted via email. To read the response, please click here.]

I just read the article by Oriana-Pearl Thomas “A Danger to Society and the People In It.” While I appreciate freedom of speech and the right for opinion, I’m wondering about the accusatory nature of the article. When I first read it, it wasn’t designated as an opinion piece. I have since changed some of my comments to reflect that it was always an opinion piece. However, even as opinion, I believe we must be diligent in being factual and truthful not judgmental. As a journalist, I believe we must always be reflective on the purpose for writing the article in the first place. Is the purpose to cause a thoughtful discussion to affect a change, or is it just to give our opinions, no matter the facts? I have included some statements for further review:

  • The statement regarding the board policy, School board officials claim that when they consider delay starts and school closures, the safety of students and staff is the number one consideration.” To state they are lying is taking the statement out of context and is not factual. Possibly come up with facts on the number of accidents in the county that morning compared to non-snow days, the actual snowfall in various parts of the district, etc. But also state the reality that mountain schools may do their own school closures.
  • Another statement calls into question district decisions made in the past and present without merit. Such as, “Jefferson area always had the option of delaying school long enough so that the roads could melt” and then the article further states, “Jeffco believes this course of action is unjustifiable.” Where did the claim come from that Jeffco believes it’s unjustifiable? Where was this information gathered? How do you know they have changed their policies and how do you say they believe it is unjustifiable? Did they state that or did you decide that was the case because they didn’t delay the start?
  • I do believe ARGOS must be careful of slander such as, “Luckily, no one was seriously injured, no thanks to Jeffco.” Is the district responsible for accidents of students as they come to school or just on snowy days?
  • Innuendo as in the statement, “On a day most people won’t show up to in the first place?” Most people? The daily attendance log shows most students and teachers did show up.
  • Later, the article states something as fact when the opposite is true, “Jeffco is the only district in the Denver Metro area that doesn’t fully believe in late starts or school closures on snow days.” Jeffco does have snow days. In fact, a couple of years ago we had students and teachers come to school an extra day to account for too many snow days.

Additional statements call into judgment or integrity of Jeffco school officials that could be construed as slander:

  • “They do make us practice drills to keep us safe during school, it’s just after school hours, I don’t think they really care,” said Peters. “If it wasn’t on school property, it wouldn’t have been their issue.” Leaping to judge that the district doesn’t care is an overstatement, in my opinion, and one shouldn’t say as fact the school and district only care about students during school hours. Evidence abounds of caring adults who run programs to ensure students are safe and are learning after school hours.
  • “In many public schools, honesty is stressed among individuals so that society won’t be made up of untruthful adults. Yet Jeffco was being untruthful Code of Conduct was designed to promote safety through high standards of behavior.” Bringing in the Code of Conduct doesn’t make sense in defending the opinion that Jeffco is being untruthful about the late start.

I would value your thoughts on what I’ve brought into question on the article. Thank you for your time in thinking about or addressing some of the concerns.

Sincerely,

Jeri Raabe
Arvada High School
Assistant Principal
Activities Director
Community Relations
12th Grade Administrator

[To read the response, please click here.]

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