DENVER — On Friday, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) held a walk-in demonstration at several Denver Public Schools schools to show support for teachers of color.
DCTA representatives said educators of color at Denver Public Schools are often pushed out of the classroom and the district isn’t doing enough to recruit and retain educators of color.
“I've seen other colleagues really face retaliation for expressing concerns about what they see in their community when they see examples of racism in the school,” said Kevin Adams, DCTA member and DPS social studies teacher.
Adams said being a teacher of color at a DPS school can be an isolating experience.
“You can feel that your perspective is not always valued, especially when it comes to the needs of BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) children and BIPOC communities,” Adams said. “I've experienced microaggressions on the daily. But also, I think being an experienced teacher.... I've been able to use my voice a lot more than I think some other Black educators and brown educators have been able to use their voices.”
But Denver West High School Teacher and DCTA Representative Dez Baldonado said teachers of color shouldn’t be the only ones speaking up.
“I am a middle-aged white woman. But I also know that it is not just people of color's responsibility to do this — I have a responsibility to stand up,” Baldonado said.
Baldonado said DPS claims to support diversity but low retention rates for teachers of color prove otherwise.
“They've made our educators of color so uncomfortable, that despite everything that the union is doing to try and help them, they're leaving,” Baldonado said. “I want DPS to start making the rubber meet the road to follow what they claim.… For DPS to be supportive of our students of color and educators of color, we have to help abolish systems of racism. Right now, it's a lot of talk.”
State and local data shows about 70% of DPS students are students of color while 30% of teachers are teachers of color.
In response to the walk-in, DPS sent the following statement to Denver7:
We were made aware of a sit-in in support of our educators who identify as BIPOC that occurred today at West High School. We want to express our support for our students' rights to share their voices, including through a peaceful protest. We also want to share our support for our BIPOC teachers.
Our school district serves a diverse community, and we take pride in our commitment to recruit and retain educators who reflect that diversity. We are intentional with our diversity hiring events. One area of focus for our diversity recruiting efforts is locally in our community and within our current staff. We are proud to offer a competitive Total Rewards Benefits package for our BIPOC Teachers.
Part of our retention strategy for our BIPOC educators includes our Reach One Mentoring Program, which provides a confidential space for educators of color to build relationships.
We also offer our DPS Belong Groups, which are intentional spaces for people with similar backgrounds to gather together to celebrate and create community. We also routinely survey BIPOC educators. From the results, we work to create meaningful and lasting changes that serve them.
“Oftentimes, you're the only one and you feel like, you know, your role is to defend the kids. I came into this profession for BIPOC students,” Adams said.
Adams said while he encourages students of color to be their authentic selves, he’d like to see DPS support teachers of color, who also want to exhibit authenticity.