Pushed by students, DSST’s founding school drops name of Denver’s former Klan mayor

The founding school in the DSST charter network no longer bears the name of a former Denver mayor who was a Ku Klux Klan member.

Effective immediately, DSST: Stapleton is now DSST: Montview, the school said in a press release Thursday.

The push to change the name and the choice for the new name came from students working through an academic exercise designed to develop critical thinking and civic voice, the school said. Middle school students worked with writing teacher P.J. Shields, and high school students worked with the Colorado Youth Congress.

The new name is a reference to Montview Boulevard, which runs through northeast Denver into Aurora and touches many of the neighborhoods served by the school.

The school was originally named the Denver School of Science and Technology. But when a second campus opened in Green Valley Ranch in far northeast Denver, the school became known as DSST: Stapleton after the neighborhood in which it was located.

The neighborhood was named after the municipal airport that operated for decades in that location, and the airport was named for the mayor who built it.

Benjamin Stapleton served as Denver mayor from 1923 to 1931 and again from 1935 to 1947. He oversaw the construction of much of the infrastructure that made Denver into a modern city. He was also member No. 1,128 of the Ku Klux Klan’s local chapter. He kept his membership quiet when he originally ran for office, but appointed Klan members to key city positions, including in the police department, and leaned on their support when he faced a recall.

First in response to the Black Lives Matter movement and then again as white supremacy surged nationally in the last several years, there has been extensive debate about removing Stapleton’s name from the neighborhood and from community organizations tied to the neighborhood.

The Stapleton Foundation for Sustainable Urban Communities and the Stapleton Citizens Advisory Board both dropped the opening “Stapleton” and the Stapleton Development Corporation became simply SDC. However, the neighborhood association, Stapleton United Neighbors, retained its name after a vote of the members failed to clear the two-thirds majority required by its bylaws.