DPS Board of Education Passes Student-Initiated Climate Policy

Apr. 22, 2022
Students in the DPS Students for Climate Action group
Meeting of DPS Students for Climate Action on Sunday, March 13 at the home of community sponsor, Heather Bird Jackson. From left to right: Theo O’Kellylee, Caden O’Kellylee, Amelia Fernández Rodríguez, Heather Bird Jackson, Halle Jackson, Brandon Ogin, Maya Kitei, and LeeAnn Kittle. On bench: Mariah Rosensweig, Layla Jurow, and Gabriel Nagel. Not present: Caroline Brown, South High School 11th grader and Farah Djama, Thomas Jefferson High School.

DENVERDPS Students for Climate Action, saw their proposed climate policy passed unanimously by the Board of Education on Thursday night, the day before Earth Day. Beginning more than a year ago, the group of DPS students has been urging the Board to bring the district’s climate goals in line with the ambitious goals of the City of Denver.

DPS Students for Climate Action was started in January 2021 by a group of concerned students and parents. Through meetings with board members and DPS administrators, endorsements from prominent community members, over 3,900 signatures on their petition, and regular attendance at the Board’s public comment sessions, students were able to bring climate action to the forefront.

The policy represents a culture shift for the district. It reads: “DPS shall be a national leader in establishing an organizational culture anchored in sustainability, climate action, and environmental justice in both the conservation of natural resources and in minimizing the carbon footprint of DPS’ practices.”

The district’s sustainability team, led by LeeAnn Kittle, has already hired two firms to develop a Sustainability Management Plan guided (but not bound) by specific goals suggested by the students:

  • To use 100% clean electricity by 2030
  • To reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by at least 90% by 2050
  • To prioritize sustainability actions in schools and communities facing greater inequity and/or environmental injustice.

The Board was effusive about the student-initiated policy. Director Carrie Olson said,  “This is an example of a time where we [the Board] are gonna get it right, thank you to the students.” “I have a lot more hope for addressing climate change due to this generation of students.” said Director Scott Baldermann.

Board Vice President Tay Anderson told the students,“When you all get to sit in these seats and your kids are in schools, or maybe even earlier, you’ll be able to look back and recognize the work that you’ve done here in 2022 has had a long-lasting impact.”

The students see the effects of climate change right now. Leader and East High School junior Gabriel Nagel described seeing wildfires within a few blocks of his dad’s Boulder home and South High School junior Caroline Brown recounted her family’s struggle with respiratory problems on high pollution days. South High School junior Maya Kitei explains, “Climate change is growing at a hazardous pace and our futures depend on us taking action.”

A vision of a livable future and a sense that even small actions matter motivates these students. Summarizing the attitudes of the students, community sponsor Heather Bird Jackson said, “They accept that they can’t control what the rest of the world does, but they have some influence and they will try to use it.” East High School junior Mariah Rosensweig said, “We are all interconnected, with each other and the Earth…This policy, along with your support shows just how much we can and will continue to do.” “Everything we do contributes or subtracts from this issue,” said East High School junior Ellie Goldstein. “We need to make a change now so that future generations can have that same chance,” said leader and South High School sophomore Layla Jurow. DSST: Conservatory Green freshman Amelia Fernández Rodríguez said, “I really want to ensure a livable future for me and my generation.”

Find the 4/21/2022 board meeting here. Times 1:41:30 – 2:16:20
See also the first 50 minutes of the 4/7/2022 Board Work Session.

Student poster that reads, "Leave me with a livable world"