Denver School Of Science And Technology (DSST) Public Schools has renamed its founding school, DSST: Stapleton, to DSST: Montview — thanks in a large part to concerns raised by students.
The school is located in and was named after the Stapleton neighborhood, itself named for Benjamin Stapleton, the controversial Denver mayor and KKK member.
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“The decision to change the founding campus name emerged as many of our students come to believe that the Stapleton name no longer represents the rich and diverse community our school serves,” DSST spokeswoman Stefanie Gilary said in a statement.
Students at the school were the impetus. Last year, middle schoolers at DSST Montview made a presentation to the administration encouraging a name change. The students had spent the entirety of the 2017-18 school year researching and debating the Stapleton moniker.
While not every student was for changing the name, a school-wide survey found 57 percent, a majority, did support a new title.
One student who argued for the change, 16-year-old sophomore Dheman Abdullahi, said the Stapleton name didn’t represent her or other students.
“Being a black young Muslim girl, I knew what he [Stapleton] stood for, and it opposed what I stand for. I knew we needed a change because there’s a lot of people who also look like me that I know oppose what he stood for,” Abdullahi said. “Montview means ‘mountain view’ ... we have a great mountain view from our school, and I feel that fits us so much better and represents us as a community.”
In addition to the “mountain view” meaning, Montview also alludes to the east Denver-spanning Montview Boulevard.
Another student campaign leader, 17-year-old junior Ahmed Eltayeb, worked on the project for two years. Originally, the campaign aimed to change the entire neighborhood’s name, Eltayeb said, but eventually tightened its focus to their school.
“This is not a black and white issue, this is very complex. There’s history involved in it, there’s different perspectives involved in, there’s numerous factors that you have to consider,” Eltayeb said.
DSST writing teacher PJ Shields kicked off the project for her students, but watched them go on to become leaders of the campaign. She was impressed by how detailed their research was.
“We actually looked at the semantic change of the word Stapleton, and what it actually means, and what it means now versus what it meant in the past,” Shields said. “And does the old meaning still apply? And I think where the majority of our students landed was, ‘Absolutely yes.’ The richness and the depth of their discussion was absolutely inspiring.”
Groups such as Rename Stapleton For All and Black Lives Matter 5280 have been advocating for similar changes for years.