Lies and Deception: The Fight for a Deaf School’s Future Escalates

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This article was orginally published by Tara Schupner at Deafecho.com. Reposted by permission of the author. 

Since I wrote my column, “Stupid Deaf People: 2090 Coalition Behaving Badly,” a follow-up to “Not in My Backyard: The Truth About the Fight for a Deaf School’s Future,” much has happened in Rocky Mountain Deaf School’s struggle to secure a property on which it can build a facility of its own.

The 2090 Coalition, which has been circulating a petition seeking to overturn the Lakewood City Council’s rezoning of the property, has continued to lie to the public about what its petition is about. It has continued to tell Lakewood citizens that the petition is to “save open space” and that the vote will determine “whether 2090 S. Wright Street should remain open space or be rezoned for a regional charter school.”

 

The coalition is not revealing to citizens the fact that a vote on the issue will not ensure the property becomes open space; rather, it will overturn the rezoning and return the property to its original zoning for a K-8 school. The vote also will not change the ownership on record; the property will continue to be registered as belonging to Jefferson County Public Schools, which over the past 30 years has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to the city and county in property taxes for the 10-acre lot, according to the county assessor’s office — further proof of the district’s uncontested ownership of 2090 S. Wright Street.

Only the courts, not the voting public, can make any determination or ruling on the ownership issue that the coalition has raised. But the coalition has chosen to go the petition route, attempting to force a vote that will cost the city a quarter of a million dollars and resolve nothing about the ownership of the property. Meanwhile, the clock continues to tick on RMDS’s $13 million grant, which expires Nov. 7.

What’s more, the paid petitioners the coalition hired through its Craigslist ads have been overheard by RMDS supporters and regular, noninvolved citizens telling unsuspecting Lakewood voters blatant lies about the petition in order to gather more signatures.  These lies have included not only that the property currently is open space, but also that the petition is to support the school; support schoolteachers; to prevent the city from selling the land to a corporation for a store or strip mall; to prevent the building of a jail or blind school; and to oppose abortion, among others.

When RMDS supporters attempted to counter these lies by demonstrating with signs asking citizens to learn the facts before signing the petition, the coalition resorted to intimidation by announcing it had filed an emergency request for injunction and restraining orders; by representing the illegally photocopied court hearing summons paperwork as legitimate restraining orders; and by ‘serving’ people whose names were not on the summons, including a minor. However, when the court date rolled around Wednesday for the coalition to present its evidence of harassment by RMDS supporters, the coalition was a no-show, which automatically voided its request.

The issue recently has received significant media coverage, including my column with The Denver Post and television coverage on CBSChannel 7 (The Denver Channel), and Channel 9 News. To supplement this coverage, I’ve produced a series of videos investigating the events in this petition process. The first video itself has two parts. The first part is a tour of RMDS’s current facilities, which demonstrates why the school badly needs a new facility. The second part includes two interviews with RMDS supporters who overheard and witnessed misconduct by paid petitioners.

The next video in the series will include testimony about the coalition’s attempt to intimidate RMDS supporters by using fake restraining orders and physical aggression as well as an interview with a neighbor about his opinion of the coalition’s attitudes and — as he put it — “manipulative” tactics.

The coalition’s tactics may not be illegal, but they are highly unethical and the validity of all signatures on its petition is suspect. Lakewood citizens who signed the petition under false guise need to be urged to educate themselves and their family, friends and neighbors about all facets of this issue, including their ability to request that their signatures be removed from the petition. The petition is due by 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 10, but citizens have until Sept. 5 to submit a request to remove their signature.

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Comments

But we got more than enough signatures to let the voters decide. The 2090 coalition has money behind it, and money is what wins elections. The petitioners weren't paid to give out the facts, they were paid to gather as many signatures as possible in whatever way they saw fit, and they made a lot of money in doing so. Hence, there will be no school built in my neiborhood.

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