Eighth-grader Sage Jones was one of a dozen DSST Stapleton students who went to school administration to present his ideas for removing the name Stapleton from their school. 

Meredith Turk/CPR News

Residents and activists in the Stapleton neighborhood have been debating a name change for years. Now the conversation includes students, as middle schoolers at the Denver School of Science and Technology Stapleton made a presentation last month to the administration about changing the school’s name.

"You know a lot of these students have to walk into their school everyday knowing that we bear a name that does not respect them," eighth-grader Sage Jones said. 

The Denver Stapleton neighborhood was named for Benjamin Stapleton, who served as the city’s mayor for five terms starting in the 1920s. But Stapleton was also a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Groups such as Rename Stapleton For All and Black Lives Matter 5280 have been advocating for a change for years.

Writing Teacher PJ Shields answers a question from seventh-grader Brooklyn Luckett, who was one of a dozen students who presented her argument for changing DSST Stapleton’s name.

Meredith Turk/CPR News

That’s where the students come in. Every middle schooler at DSST Stapleton spent the last year researching and debating the name of their school. A school-wide survey showed a majority of students -- 57 percent -- thought the name should change. Last month, 12 students presented their arguments to the administration.

"Honestly I was nervous, but I felt like we got the point across about what we wanted to see changed and how we wanted to see it happen," seventh-grader Brooklyn Luckett said.
 
PJ Shields, a writing teacher at DSST Stapleton, helped organize the group. She believed children should join adults in the conversation about what it means to be named after a figure with a troubling history.

A decision about changing the name will wait until next year as the administration engages the student body and figures out next steps, said Heather Lamm, a spokesperson for DSST.

"I absolutely think the change should have been more immediate, but I also understand why this is a very convoluted and debated topic and it needs to be spoken about a lot more before a decision can be made," Jones said