Over the past two weeks, Denver Public Schools was hit with two lawsuits, both concerning or coming from Black students.
Perhaps most troubling are new reports from the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) citing systemic racism in the DPS affective needs program. The complaint alleges that DPS has systematically violated the rights of special education students, specifically Black students, across the district. DPS disproportionately places Black boys with known or suspected emotional disabilities in separate classrooms, effectively isolating them from their peers, and then fails to meet requirements put in place to ensure these children receive an appropriate education.
All students deserve equal access to educational opportunity – no matter their background, learning needs, zip code, race, or ethnicity. DPS is failing these students and it must stop now (read the full story from Colorado Public Radio below).
On the heels of this complaint and the civil rights lawsuit against the district, another lawsuit was filed from two current and two former Black students. The suit is an attempt to stop the district from trademarking the phrase “know justice, know peace,” which the district began using after the same four students began a popular podcast titled, “Know Justice Know Peace.” These students also pushed DPS to adopt a more inclusive curriculum, passing the resolution by the same name.
The district’s trademark application states that they are seeking the trademark to, “provid[e] a podcast series offering information about inequities in the educational system and providing solutions.” In other words, the district is taking the name and the basic premise from these young black women’s labor and creativity. This self-interested attempt undermines students. DPS does not own the imagination, inspiration, and creation of these Black young women . It’s a bad look (at the very least) and the district should change course immediately.
It’s clear: DPS lacks focus. But, you can help change that.
Lost in the legal noise: the district must go through school board redistricting, and it will impact the next election cycle. Your voice matters in this process. Yet, information is sparse on how the district will authentically and proactively engage the community in this process. It’s essential that the community provide input and direction on the redistricting process early and often. Community voice must be at the front of the process, helping to inform the options instead of being presented the options.
If you’re as concerned as we are, apply for LEAD Denver 101, which will strengthen your Denver education advocacy skills and knowledge. Your voice matters. Together, we can make positive change in Denver.