North High School and downtown Denver are pictured in late day light on November 11, 2019. (Andy Colwell, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Until very recently, Denver’s eighth-grade social studies curriculum asked students to identify the challenges faced by settlers as they moved West in the 1800s — but not those faced by the Native Americans whose land they took.

Denver Public Schools officials are now revising that curriculum. Tamara Acevedo, deputy superintendent of academics, said in a statement that the district has removed that particular “performance task” and is re-writing it.

“It is imperative that our curriculum reflects our students and our core value of equity,” she said. “It is also imperative that we receive feedback from our community and appreciate when people raise concerns as we must all work on tackling historical patterns of inequity.”

The changes come after a Denver high school principal, who is a member of the Klamath tribe of Oregon, expressed horror with the curriculum — and frustration that it hadn’t yet been changed. Stacy Parrish, principal at Northeast Early College in the Montbello neighborhood, said she first told the district her concerns about the eighth-grade social studies curriculum a year ago, after a candidate for a job at her school taught a lesson from it as part of an interview.

Parrish repeated those concerns at a Nov. 21 meeting of the Denver school board.

During public comment, Parrish told the board she was horrified to learn “that genocide, slaughter and the cultural annihilation of millions of Native Americans could also be [couched] as positive social, geographic, and economic motivations.”

“As a Native employee, I keep feeling erased,” Parrish told Chalkbeat in an interview.


Melanie Asmar has covered Denver Public Schools for Chalkbeat Colorado since 2015. Asmar previously worked at Westword newspaper in Denver and for a daily newspaper in New Hampshire, where she covered education. Chalkbeat is a nonprofit...