Tag Archives: Lauren Boebert

Representative Lauren Boebert’s Controversial High School Civics Address

23 Apr

By Thomas Ultican 4/23/2023

When it was learned that Lauren Boebert the gun enthusiast who represents Colorado’s third congressional district was going to address middle and high school students in Dolores, there was angst. Emails to The Journal, the local newspaper, expressed concern that it would be a political event and some parents worried that the congresswoman would be packing a concealed weapon. The fact that parents and media were barred from attending heightened tensions. Fortunately, The Journal was able to force its way in.

According to the 2020 census, Dolores, Colorado is a small community of 885 people located in Montezuma County. It sits in the middle of rugged mountainous terrain making up the Southwest portion of the state. Dolores is part of Boebert’s congressional district which covers about 50,000 square miles of sparsely populated territory and constitutes almost half of the Colorado land mass. It is an interesting twist that Montezuma County has Dolores County on its northern border.

Colorado Annotated Congressional District Map

In the 2021/22 school year, Dolores’s middle school reported 209 students and its high school 168. The school demographics are about 79% White, 16% Hispanic and a small percentage of Indians and Asians.

For Boebert’s event, students were free to opt out. After the affair, Superintendent Reece Blincoe estimated that 250 students attended Boebert’s presentation.

Two days before Boebert arrived, the school district emailed parents with details of her visit. It said the Representative would provide a “rare chance to hear from the sitting congresswoman from our region and to promote civic engagement.” The missive stated that no parents could attend and that she would not carry a firearm on campus. It said the students were not required to attend and an alternative classroom would be available. The message stressed that Boebert’s visit would “NOT” be a political event.

Following the student assembly, when The Journal reporter in attendance asked about the safety and political concerns of some parents, Boebert replied,

“That’s really unfortunate that they would politicize something like this, and it was certainly an honor for me to be there. I wasn’t making anything political of it. You know, just explaining the basics of civics and government and the way things operate and giving them kind of an insider’s look without a partisan lens. I’m not sure exactly what the safety concern would be. But I think that it was well received and the students were amazing, friendly and welcoming … they were a joy,”

The day following the event, The Journal reported that she did get quite political:

 “Boebert contended that the response to COVID-19 infringed on liberties during the pandemic and told students they should know about those issues and let it motivate them to stand up for their freedom.

‘“I was happy being a mom,’ Boebert said. ‘I was a business owner, but I saw government over-regulating, overtaxing, overspending and destroying everything that we were working so hard to build.’”

The Durango Herald wrote an editorial stating,

“We strongly support students engaging in civic matters. But we’re uncomfortable with U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert’s visit on Wednesday to Dolores High School because her talk ventured beyond governance into political territory.”

“According to our latest news story, she spoke about “moral decay”; becoming aware of issues that could infringe on students’ rights; the Freedom Caucus, a conservative group of GOP representatives; and liberties infringed on during the pandemic. Apparently, she also told students they should know about those issues and let it motivate them to stand up for their freedom.

“Come on! This is Boebert’s brand on stage in front of students without parents present.”

“Tom Burris, superintendent of Montezuma-Cortez School District, said he had previously received an email from Boebert’s team inquiring about an assembly with middle and high school students. Burris said he respectively declined, saying MCSD was “focusing energies on students in the classroom and academics.”’

The Denver Post reports that in the 2022 congressional election Montezuma County voted 57% for Boebert and 43% for her opponent Adam Frisch. So this event was clearly in an area of political strength for the Congresswoman. However, in her 2022 re-election effort, she only won the district by a margin of 546 votes out of the 327,132 cast or by a 0.17% margin.

This prompted several parents to believe that her visit was nothing but a campaign maneuver trying to capture new soon to graduate high school voters for 2024.

Like her or loath her, the fact is that Boebert is a very divisive personality. Even though her political support in the county is strong, her opposition is impassioned. The Post speculated this was because,

“Boebert has a history of espousing anti-LGBTQ views. She’s called women “weaker” than men, criticized the separation of church and state and made Islamophobic comments implying a colleague in Congress might be a terrorist. Political and religious experts say her Christian nationalist rhetoric presents a danger to the country’s democratic foundations.

Molly Cooper, a district parent, explained at a recent school board meeting, “This is about Boebert herself, the hate she spews and the policies she continues to support and put forward that vilify those that are different from her.”

An A3 Surprise

A concerned parent said this was all started when High School Social Studies teacher Ed Miller and Principal Justin Schmitt invited Representative Boebert to the school in October 2022, but she declined. The Boebert team appears to have decided to run a low key barely concealed series of campaign events at local high schools and reached out to Dolores in early March. The school scheduled an assembly for March 15.

The shocking revelation here is not only that Representative Boebert is willing to use public schools for partisan politics but that Dolores High School has convicted A3 conspirator Justin Schmitt as principal. It turns out he grew up and attended school there. In October, 2019 while under indictment for conspiracy to defraud the state of California out of $80,000,000, Schmitt was hired as Dean of Students in Dolores. The Journal reported that then Superintendent Lis Richard claimed he is “an extraordinary administrator.” And she continued,

“I promise you that we are aware of anything you may have heard and we stand by him in full support. He is the right person for our secondary dean of students position. His passion, dedication and wisdom are exemplary.”

Eric Beste the San Diego lawyer representing Schmitt in the A3 case emphasized that Schmitt was a salaried employee and not an A3 business owner. In other words, he was just a working guy caught up in the illegal scheming of his employer and was not a criminal at heart.

The next year Schmitt was hired as interim Principal at Dolores High School. The April 16, 2020 announcement of the appointment carried in The Journal stated, ‘“If he does not meet the ‘conditions set’ (if he is found guilty of anything more than a misdemeanor), his position will be ‘terminated,’ the update states.” However, Superintendent Richards declared, “I think it is fair to mention that a misdemeanor is not a disqualifier for licensure and I still stand by that Mr. Schmitt did nothing illegal ….”

I wrote about the A3 scandal in the summer of 2019 and it was clear to me that Justin Schmitt was not a peripheral player. He was always among the five people mentioned in stories about the indictments. I used, “The Grand Jury of San Diego County heard the testimony of 72 witnesses and voted out a 67-count indictment against Sean McManus, Jason Schrock, Justin Schmitt, Eli Johnson, Steven Zant and six others.” He was the office manager the other conspirators were communicating through.

Schmitt came to A3 through his connection with the Colorado online charter school system Foundations of Learning. At one time, he listed himself on his LinkedIn page as the Foundations of Learning Director of Schools. When McManus and Schrock bought Foundations of Learning to manage Mosaic online Justin Schmitt came with the purchase. Mosaic eventually became Valiant Academy through which Schmitt supervised the summer school sports scam.

In 2022, as part of the nobody goes to jail resolution to the A3 theft, the Voice of San Diego reported,  

“Schmitt pleaded guilty to a felony count of taking money in order to conceal crime. The charge was later reduced to a misdemeanor and Schmitt was sentenced to one year probation.”

In August 2021, Reece Blincoe was introduced as interim Superintendent of Dolores School District. He had previously served as superintendent for the Brownwood ISD in Brownwood, Texas. It appears that after seven years he was forced out of Brownwood with an agreement that included $300,000 for his resignation. There was no claim of malfeasance against Blincoe but there were rumors that it had to do with an unsubstantiated claim of bullying.

Blincoe, Schmitt and the rest of their team come out of the Boebert episode looking badly used and inept. What do they do when Boebert’s Democratic challenger Adam Frisch comes to Dolores and requests a similar event? How can a public school that has already hosted one politician legitimately turn away another politician? There is no good answer.