Sky Vista MS teacher suspended while district reviews social justice class where Queen Phoenix was a speaker


AURORA | A Cherry Creek middle school teacher has been placed on administrative leave after a group of parents complained about her behavior, the curriculum she was teaching and a guest speaker brought to the class on social justice.

School officials say they are investigating the complaint and that Lyons’ leave is not an indication of wrongdoing.

Asia Lyons is a sixth-grade extended core teacher at Sky Vista Middle School in Aurora and was placed on administrative leave Oct. 6. The move came after a group of parents complained to Cherry Creek administration about her social justice class and a guest speaker that came to the class named Dezy Saint-Nolde, also known as Queen Phoenix. Saint-Nolde, a prominent social justice activist in Denver, has pleaded innocent to felony and misdemeanor charges in Denver that stem from gifting marijuana for suggested donations and has said the charges are a way to keep her from protesting racial and social injustice.

Some of those parents turned out to an Oct. 9 Cherry Creek school board meeting to express their distress over Lyons being allowed to teach material they found objectionable.

But fellow teachers and a former student were also on hand to voice their support for Lyons and her class. One teacher accused the parents of using “white privilege” to silence a minority voice.

“We parents put the trust in every person that enters Sky Vista. That trust has been broken by Ms. Lyons for allowing a speaker who goes by the name Queen Phoenix to enter Sky Vista and speak to the students,” said Michael Grube, a parent of two children at Sky Vista, during the public comment period of the meeting. “What do you say to your children when they come home and say that Ms. Lyons said you don’t have to stand for the pledge of allegiance because that would be showing you support Donald Trump?”

The allegation has not been confirmed.

Grube in his comments said he had pulled his child out of Lyons’ class after Saint-Nolde spoke. He and other parents that spoke were upset that parental consent was not sought or given to have Saint-Nolde speak to the school and accused Lyons of urging students to protest the class changing and her being placed on administrative leave.

Abbe Smith, spokeswoman for CCSD, said district policy is to have classroom speakers approved by the principal of the school. Smith said part of the ongoing investigation is to find out if that process was followed in this instance.

Smith said some students did protest when they found out changes were being made to the theme of the class but wasn’t aware of students protesting Lyons being placed on administrative leave.

One former student, Kaleb Schaffer, spoke out in favor of Lyons and her class. Shaffer, 16, now goes to Eaglecrest High School and said Lyons’ class helped prepare him for the real life issues and debates on social justice he faces in high school and will face in the real world.

“Regardless of your political beliefs and affiliations, social justice and all the factors that play into it is a very real issue in our country. An issue that your children are going to have to deal with,” Schaffer said during public comment. “By learning about these issues and having their beliefs challenged, your children are going to be better prepared for success and having an impact on the world.”

Smith said there was no time-line for a decision to be made on Lyons, but the district was set on making it in a timely manner.