This story was originally published by Chalkbeat. Sign up for their newsletters at

Charlie Windy Boy was one of dozens of students, parents, and community members who pleaded with the Denver school board Monday night not to close the American Indian Academy of Denver, a charter school that is struggling with low enrollment and funding.

Native American students told stories of being bullied in their previous schools but not at AIAD. They introduced themselves in Navajo and Lakota, and their parents spoke of the power of restoring those languages to their families. Community members wore black T-shirts that said, “DPS has a strange way of celebrating Native American Heritage Month.”

“You already took our land,” Windy Boy said. “Why are you trying to take our school?”

AIAD supporters were at the meeting because district officials have said they’re considering the unusual step of revoking the school’s charter for educational and financial reasons, including that the school may run out of money. But Superintendent Alex Marrero said he was “flabbergasted” by the demand to save the school when he hadn’t yet recommended closing it. 

AIAD was planning more advocacy Tuesday, on the anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre, with a rally featuring officials from five tribes whose ancestral homelands are now Colorado.

“The advocacy is always welcome but, quite frankly, it’s premature because no one is deliberating on a closure,” Marrero said. He apologized to the school board for what he called “misguided” comments from the speakers. “I do want to apologize to this board that there’s been accusations that you all are considering closure when I know that you’re not.”