DENVER (CBS4) – Candidates for the three open seats on the Denver Board of Education took questions from an unlikely group of community members on Wednesday night.
“As we own this student-run space tonight, we will not be taking questions from adults,” announced an organizer of the student-led candidate forum.
For two hours in a room on the University of Colorado Denver’s campus, it was all about students from Denver Public Schools.
There were at least 50 students from across the district watching as their peers grilled the candidates.
There were eight of nine candidates present and they took questions on everything from immigration and ICE raids to safety in schools. The candidates were divided on whether or not Denver police should have a presence in schools but unanimous on many issues, like having gender neutral bathrooms.
CBS4 spoke to one student who brought up a concern echoed by many in the room Wednesday night: diversity in the classroom.
“I have been in DPS all 16 years, since kindergarten,” said Aminah Fard.
Now a junior at the Denver School of Innovation and Sustainable Design, Fard is the director of several youth coalitions and believes it’s the students who have the best pulse on the issues.
“The students are really in the space. They know what they don’t like, they know what they like and they know what they want to see happen.”
For Fard, it’s diversity. Growing up in the Denver Public School System, Fard can recall two teachers of color.
Fard wasn’t alone. It was an issue brought up by the candidates during Q & A.
When Fard had her chance to ask a question of the candidates, her concern was simple but important. She wanted to know how candidates could ensure that spending was equitable across all DPS schools.
“So that students don’t have to make huge commutes for a more quality education.”
This is the second year for the forum but it has evolved this year with significantly more students involved.
The youth coalitions involved in organizing the 2019 forum include; Student Voice and Leadership, Young Aspiring Americans for Social & Political Activism, Project VOYCE, Padres & Jóvenes Unidos, and Colorado Youth Congress.
Like many leading the forum, Fard is not old enough to vote but she believes it’s an important step in building student power.
“It’s just going to prove to more adults and more people who aren’t students, ‘Wow, they really know what they want to see happen and they really know what they’re doing,'” said Fard.
One of the last questions of the night summarized the mission of the forum for organizers. The students wanted to know, if elected, would they agree to work alongside the students?
The candidates answered with a resounding, “Yes.”