Greene: The DougCo mom who wouldn’t stay silent

Laura Mutton had always seen herself as an introvert – “the quietest person in the room.”

But the Highlands Ranch mom and software engineer couldn’t keep quiet when, sitting through a Douglas County School District meeting in 2012, she realized the system had been amassing a whopping budget surplus while slashing programs for kids.

One of Mutton’s freedom of information requests led to another until she uncovered the fact that the board was spending 50 percent of its time in secret, closed-door meetings. After more digging, she learned that the conservative majority quietly had been squirreling away tax dollars to develop a massive, for-profit software program in hopes of implementing its anti-union, pro-voucher “Reinventing American Education” agenda in communities nationwide.

“There was no accountability, no transparency about what they were up to. It really felt like they were intentionally harming our public schools. It was wrong. It just felt so wrong,” she says.

Mutton transferred her daughter out of the district after seeing programs cut, student performance plummet, and too many teachers and principles walk off their jobs. But she didn’t abandon her activism. People needed to hear what was happening to the school system whose reputation as one of Colorado’s finest had years ago lured her and neighbors to the county.

Sometimes, she says, you have to speak out.

“This effort took me way outside my comfort zone. I got sucked into it far more than I expected.”

Mutton gathered with family, friends and fellow activists at a Douglas County sports bar Tuesday evening to wait for election results. The numbers geek was reluctant to put too much stock in the early returns showing a mandate for school board regime change. But as the precinct counts kept coming and the hoots around her grew louder, she let it sink in that the movement she started five years ago had won.

Mutton has found her voice in this long, hard fight she says was less a choice than a calling. And so she was called, once again, to turn up the volume tonight – the quietest person in the room so moved by the moment that she, too, hooted.

Photo courtesy of Laura Mutton
A recovering newspaper journalist, Susan reported for papers in California and Nevada before her 13 years as a political reporter, national reporter and metro columnist at The Denver Post. “Trashing the Truth,” a series she reported with Miles Moffeit, helped exonerate five men, prompted reforms on evidence preservation and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in investigative journalism. Her 2012 project, “The Gray Box,” exposed the effects of long-term solitary confinement. The ACLU honored her in 2017 for her years of civil rights coverage, and the Society of Professional Journalists honored her in April with its First Amendment Award. Susan and her two boys live with a puppy named Hymie whom they’re pretty sure is the messiah.

2 COMMENTS

  1. A huge THANK YOU to Laura Mutton and all the people who worked so hard to get out the truth about what the influx of Koch money through Americans for Prosperity had done to Douglas County Schools over the past several years.

    Uncovering the starving of the schools for the ultimate goal of the profiteering of education was instrumental in getting the schools back on track.

    These kind of issues should always be non-partisan, but so seldom do we get to see the reality as Laura uncovered it because it is so hard to get past the misinformation and non-information pedaled by our national and local media.

  2. Good for her. It’s time more people realized that the folks seeking to interject their religion into the public sphere are not in the majority…they just act like they are. Let’s hope this is a lesson that resounds throughout the state.

    Talking to you Colorado Springs….

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