Pamela Kaspar is an educator and mental health provider in DPS. She is a parent and Stand Advocacy fellow. In this blog, she shares why strengthening language justice to better support families and students in DPS will positively impact the mental well-being of students and families. Our team is currently working to ensure DPS educators have are trained in how to use and have access to interpretation and translations services to build strong partnerships with families. Sign our petition calling on the DPS board to strengthen Language Justice in DPS here.  

In the diverse and vibrant Denver Public Schools (DPS) landscape, ensuring equity and promoting social justice are at the forefront of the educational agenda. One crucial aspect often overlooked is language justice, a key element in fostering an inclusive environment that supports the mental well-being of all families. Language justice is a practice to create inclusive and equitable spaces in schools so that families, students and staff can participate in the language they are most comfortable with. In my experience as a part of a team that provides social emotional and mental health supports for DPS students, I can clearly see the significance of strengthening language justice in DPS. It is critical to increase on-demand translation and interpretation services because it empowers mental health providers to better assist a broader spectrum of families.

Providing more on-demand translation and interpretation services in Denver Public Schools can be a game-changer. These services would provide mental health providers with the tools to bridge language gaps, fostering a more supportive and inclusive environment.  

DPS prides itself on its diverse student population, representing a rich tapestry of cultures and languages. However, this diversity can pose challenges when it comes to effective communication, particularly in mental health support. Many families may face barriers due to language differences, hindering their student’s access to critical supports such as Individualize Education Plans and 504 plans, which support students with disabilities.  

The Impact of Language Barriers on Mental Health – Language barriers can significantly impact mental health outcomes. Individuals who struggle to communicate in their preferred language may find it difficult to express their emotions, hindering the therapeutic process. This issue is particularly pronounced in a school setting, where children and families may be dealing with various stressors. 

Trauma-Informed Approach to Language Justice – As a school district that is committed to a trauma-informed approach, it is crucial to recognize the potential trauma caused by language barriers. Feeling misunderstood or unable to communicate effectively can exacerbate existing traumas and create additional stress for students and their families.

Empowering Mental Health Providers – By prioritizing language justice, DPS would empower mental health providers to connect with families more deeply. When families can communicate comfortably in their preferred language, it enhances the therapeutic alliance and facilitates a more comprehensive understanding of their needs. 

Building Trust and Breaking Stigmas – Language justice initiatives in DPS not only break down linguistic barriers but also contribute to building trust within the community. When families see that their language and cultural backgrounds are respected, it helps break down stigmas associated with seeking mental health support. 

Denver Public Schools has a unique opportunity to lead the way in promoting language justice and, by extension, improving mental health outcomes for its diverse student population. Implementing on-demand translation services is a tangible and impactful step toward creating a more equitable and inclusive educational environment. By embracing language justice, DPS can ensure that every family, regardless of their linguistic background, has access to the mental health support they need to thrive. 

Last night, during public comment at the DPS board meeting, our State Organizing Director and Digital Organizing Manager thanked DPS board members for their work to strengthen parent engagement in DPS by improving Language Justice and called on them to take the next steps to advance their goals. Here is more about what has happened in DPS to improve Language Justice so far and what we want to see next. 

Read their testimonies below:  

Hello, my name is Vallerie Bustamante, DPS Alumna, co-chair for the Latine Education Advisory Council, and the Digital Organizing Manager for Stand for Children. First, I want to welcome the three new board members, congratulations, I look forward to working with all three of you! 

I am here to talk about language justice, but in order for me to do that, we need to rewind time to about 19 years ago—the year little Vallerie, started Kindergarten in DPS. Back then, the only language I knew was Spanish—in fact, I was monolingual until I was about 9 years old. Because we are certainly not counting the times I would pretend to know English and would actually be talking jibberish to my mom. But my mom certainly went along with it.  

Anyway, I still remember the hardships other students would go through when they knew their mom or dad couldn’t or didn’t know how to come talk to the teacher or whoever to support them with homework or the events that would happen during the school year due to there being a language barrier. Fast-forward to today, I have been given the honor to work alongside families and educators that want to promote and practice family engagement so bad—yet, some of the challenges I remember from 2005 to 2010 as a little girl—are still present today.  

Specifically, I have worked with monolingual Spanish-speaking moms who want to learn how they can best support their child with literacy at home. These workshops that I facilitate have a lot of content, but one topic that always stirs up dialogue is family engagement and building a connection with the teacher to work with them for the student. I want to say, in about 95% of all workshops that I have facilitated over the past 4 years, the topics of the sense of belonging and language justice always come up. I have parents tell me of their experiences where they seek information or a conversation with a teacher, and if there is no bilingual staff in sight—they get dismissed with no follow up. Times when they feel unwelcomed by the demeanor some educators have when parents who do not speak English arrive or seek a meeting. That isn’t language justice. This isn’t an environment where we can build authentic family engagement for the betterment of our students.  

I am looking forward to working with you all, to implement simple solutions to improve the practice of language justice in our school buildings, as well as any DPS facility. I am hopeful that we as a district, as a community, are always seeking innovative solutions to improve the trajectory of our student’s education and future—especially those that come from our most marginalized communities.  

Thank you for your time.  

Vallerie Bustamante, Digital Organizing Manager, DPS Alumna

My name is Ivana Bejaran, I am the State Organizing Director with Stand for Children and I am here today to talk about Language Justice and how we can make sure we are building a DPS that feels welcoming to parents, guardians, and caretakers.  

I grew up with Spanish as my dominant language. My parents sacrificed everything to ensure I learned English and had the brightest future they could give me. By the time I was in my twenties and living in the United States, I was the unofficial translator for them. I think when you live in a place where you know the predominant language, you don’t even wonder what it would be like to not speak it. So many of our systems assume that by having documents in other languages and having (a not easily accessible) interpretation service, the language barrier is solved.  

I’ll share that when I was in my twenties, I assumed the same thing too. My dad is about 80% fluent in English and had a very important doctor’s appointment so I wanted to go support him. He declined the interpreter that the hospital could provide because he felt like it made him stand out too much, made him feel othered, andhe knew how to speak English… he could do it.’   
As soon as the appointment was over, he turned to me and asked me a question about something the doctor had very clearly stated minutes ago. He just didn’t understand it. And didn’t feel like he could ask the doctor to clarify. At that point I realized that because we live in a system that discourages difference and makes people feel othered when they need additional services to participate in society, so many people just like my dad are only partially understanding what is happening. This happens every single day here in DPS. 

Some examples I can share with you. I’ve had parents call me and forward emails to me that they received from the district in English asking me to translate them. One of the most important ones was an application to be in the DAC. I have been asked by parents to accompany them to important school meetings about their children because they trusted me to ensure they understood the information that was being shared with them. And lastly, I’ve been called countless times by parents or guardians who just walked into a school and were turned away because no one in the office that day could speak their language. Would you feel welcome in a space like that? Would you feel like you belonged in that building, in that district? 

Language justice is not a thing that is one and done, it is a practice and the more we do it and understand that it’s real people like you and me on the other side of this, the better you will be able to serve adults in the community. Because of this, we would like to see the district address their commitment to the practice of language justice by providing a training for all DPS teachers and administrators, before school starts next year, about how to access and offer interpretation and translation services to adults in the community without making them feel othered or like its extra work.   

-Ivana Bejaran, State Organizing Manager

En nuestro hermoso estado de Colorado, la educación siempre ha sido una prioridad importante para Stand, los legisladores y, lo que es más importante, las familias de Colorado y su futuro. Somos firmes respaldadores de la Proposición II porque prioriza la educación y el futuro de nuestros hijos. 

Es importante tener en cuenta que la Propuesta II es una extensión de la Propuesta EE bipartidista de 2020. La Propuesta EE generó más ingresos de los estimados, por lo que TABOR requiere que los votantes aprueben la retención del exceso de ingresos por parte del estado. Es por eso que es importante que usted vote SÍ a la Propuesta II. Esta medida electoral estatal nos permitió generar aproximadamente $275 millones por año para prioridades de salud pública y educación a través del aumento de impuestos sobre los productos de tabaco y nicotina. Fue una invercion en la preparación para K-12 al proporcionar acceso a preescolar para los niños de Colorado. 


¡Tener acceso a preescolar es vital para el futuro de Colorado! Los estudiantes que asisten a pre-kínder se inician en la lectura y desarrollan habilidades sociales, emocionales y habilidades en su comportamiento. Esto, a su vez, preparará a nuestros hijos para una experiencia exitosa de K-12 y los preparará para una mejor oportunidad de vida en su viaje postsecundario como adultos.    

Entendemos que cuando las familias atraviesan momentos difíciles, esto puede afectar negativamente el bienestar y la experiencia educativa de un estudiante. Por lo tanto, además de las inversiones que continuaremos viendo en nuestra educación de la primera infancia, esta propuesta continuará invirtiendo en nuestras familias al financiar viviendas, asistencia para el alquiler y asistencia para el desalojo.   

¡Estamos emocionados de respaldar la Propuesta II y esperamos que usted también lo esté con su voto en noviembre! 

Complete nuestro formulario y comprométase a votar para recibir más información sobre la Proposición II, y recordatorios a medida que nos acercamos al día de las elecciones y si cree que todos los niños de Colorado merecen la oportunidad de asistir al preescolar!

We all know that Colorado is a great place to live, and it is safe to say that Colorado has grown in population and, in turn, a surging housing market that has made our property taxes skyrocket in the last several years. That is why we are supporting PROP HH which will lower property taxes AND increase funding for schools. This tax cut will provide relief for families and put more money in our K-12 education by allowing a portion of the TABOR surplus to offset the lost property tax revenue.  

Not to mention, one of the main drivers to student outcomes is whether a child’s family is experiencing financial and home stability, therefore the relief that Prop HH would provide to families would also be benefitting our children’s experience in and out of school.  

Does it sound too good to be true? How are schools still being financed through this proposition? 

We fund education through property taxes, so it makes sense to think that we would be cutting funds to our schools through this proposition, BUT this proposition actually ensures that the funding stays and/or increases through the TABOR surplus mechanism.  

We urge you to vote yes on Proposition HH to help families across Colorado and students receive an equitable education! 

And we meet again, Denver Public Schools Board of Education elections! 

There are about 89,000 students who attend DPS schools and each one of those students and their families deserve a representative that fights for their high-quality experience and education in Denver schools.  

I attended DPS schools my entire grade school career—from Kindergarten to my 12th grade year. As a first-generation Mexican-American multilingual student, I struggled during the critical years of literacy instruction and self-identity. Obviously, learning a new language that was not spoken at home besides the random rap songs my older brother would listen to as he lived out his short-lived breakdancing career—was a definite hardship for my reading level and performance. In addition, my teachers did not look like me, did not experience a transition like the one I was in, and my heavy accent and typical trenzas hairstyle put a direct target on my back for bullying and impatience from teachers. Now, I am telling you a bit of my life story in an elections blog because I want you to know that the people who are elected ultimately have the power to change certain policies, training, and curriculum to cure unfortunate experiences such as the one mentioned above.  

It truly is important to vote so you have a say on who will be advocating for students like me and those who experience other or bigger challenges.  

So, yes. Voting is a tool for you to use to ensure we have great leaders listening to our stories and finding ways to improve or change things for future generations to come.  

Alright, enough of the sappy part of this blog—let’s talk about the who, what, and how! 

Who is currently on the DPS school board and who’s seat is up for election on November 7th? 

Currently, there are seven board members and Director Auon’tai Anderson’s At-Large, Director Scott Baldermann’s District 1, and Director Charmaine Lindsay’s District 5 seat are up for election this November! The District 1 and District 5 maps can be found here. Everyone will be able to vote for the At-large seat because it represents all of Denver.  

What are the roles and responsibilities of the DPS Board? 

DPS Board members are responsible for: 

  • Establishing a vision for the district  
  • Hiring and/or firing the superintendent  
  • Setting the yearly budget  
  • Approving contracts for teachers and outside vendors  
  • Expanding the district or closing schools 

Who is currently running for the DPS school board seats?  

Here is a list of folks running, according to their district. 

District 1 

District 5 


How can I find more information on the candidates? 

You can find more information about their beliefs, values, and visions for the DPS community on their websites (linked above).  Google their names and see if there is news coverage about them. Check out their social media accounts.  

You can attend community candidate forums. Stand is co-hosting a town hall with several other organizations (TEN, Ednium, Faith Bridge, Our Turn, African Leadership Group) with the candidates for the DPS board on October 24th from 5-7 pm at Hamilton Middle School. Please register so we know you are coming. Food and interpretation will be provided. We can also help with transportation to the event.  

How do I find out if I am registered to vote for DPS School Board elections and how do I vote? 

Here is how to find out which district you’re in and if you are registered to vote. You can also use this site to check your ballot status and find your polling location. Moved Recently? You can change your voter registration address here, too! 

If your registration is current, your ballot will be mailed to you starting October 16th and you can send your ballot back by mail or return it to one of the 24-hour ballot drop-off boxes located throughout the city. To find the nearest drop-off box visit Denver’s Clerk and Recorder website

Ballots must be received by the Denver Elections Division by 7 p.m. on Election Day, November 7, 2023. If you choose to return your ballot by mail, send it back no later than October 31.

We hope you find this blog useful for your quest on voting in this year’s DPS School Board elections! Remember that your vote holds a lot of power that can help our future generations thrive, make sure you cast it! 

Our team continues to prioritize policy that advances language justice in Denver Public Schools. In May, the board adopted an ENDS statement that provides a long-term goal for the district around equity, that included language justice. Our language justice work in DPS has centered around improving the way that schools in Denver engage with families so that everyone –no matter their native language—can support their child’s education by engaging with their child’s school and teacher. Read about language justice below and learn about what may be next.

In our beautiful state of Colorado, education has always been an important priority for Stand, policymakers, and most importantly Colorado families and their future. We are strong supporters of Prop II because it prioritizes our children’s education and future.

It is important to note that Prop II is an extension of the bipartisan Prop EE of 2020. Prop EE brought in more revenue than was estimated, so TABOR requires that voters approve the state’s retention of the excess revenue. This is why it is important for you to vote YES on Prop II. This statewide ballot measure allowed us to generate approximately $275 million per year for public health and education priorities through the tax increase on tobacco and nicotine products. It invested in K-12 readiness by providing access to preschool for Colorado kids


Having access to preschool is vital for Colorado’s future! Students that attend pre-k get a jump start on reading and develop critical social – emotional and behavioral skills. This will in turn prepare our children for a successful K-12 experience and set them up for a better chance at life in their post-secondary journey as adults.  

We understand that when families are going through difficult times — it can negatively impact a student’s well-being and educational experience. Therefore, in addition to the investments we will continue to see in our early childhood education, this proposition will continue to invest in our families by funding affordable housing, rental assistance, and eviction assistance.  

We are excited to be endorsing Prop II and hope you are too with your vote in November! 

Complete our Pledge to Vote form, to receive more information about Proposition II, reminders as we get closer to Election day, and if you believe all children in Colorado deserve an opportunity to attend pre-school!

As a Stand fellow, I have been able to gain insight on how the Stand team works with the community to ensure that the policies they advocate for are ones that make schools and the overall community a more equitable and just environment.  I appreciate that Stand has been a conduit for advancing policies that families and educators have input on.

As a recent graduate of a master’s in social work, I have witnessed the shift within the Colorado education system to include a focus on a holistic approach where physical and mental health is seen as a crucial component of child development. I understand the intersectionality of issues and inequities our education and court system play, thus I am excited to tell you more about what the team has set out to accomplish this year.

In the upcoming school year and legislative session, Stand is prioritizing work that will: 

  • Early Literacy | Understand need so we can better support educators to use the science of reading and evidence-based curriculums and practices in their literacy instruction. 
  • High School Success | Expand funding for the Ninth Grade On-Track grant program, to see continued growth and improvement in on-time high school graduations 
  • Justice System Reform | Help prevent recidivism in our justice system by updating probation and parole supervision to include remote check-in options and expanding access/increase eligibility for criminal record sealing
  • Justice System Reform | Reduce unjust fees for incarcerated individuals and their families. 
  • Supportive Schools Promote educator diversity by securing continued funding for policies that create equity in teacher preparation and alternative pathways to enter the workforce.
  • Supportive Schools | Continue the work for the Language Justice policy of Denver Public Schools to be fully realized in school buildings 
  • Supportive Schools | Promote community engagement and participation in the creation of a transparent and informative dashboard in Denver Public Schools

Each time that I’ve participated in legislative sessions, I feel well supported and the folks at Stand make the process much less intimidating. So, I encourage you to learn more about the work that interests you the most, by filling out this form. I hope to work with you as we fight for educational and youth justice in our community.  

Pamela Kaspar
Pamela Kaspar

Advocacy Fellow

[This photo is from a Stand community conversation in 2019]

The Stand team wholeheartedly believes that to create meaningful change, we must LISTEN. We hear and feel time and time again that decisions are made without consulting with the community that will be impacted the most, therefore we try to provide spaces for our community to speak and raise their questions or concerns about their lived experiences and what they witness in education and more broadly in our communities. 

 After digesting our legislative and local wins, like every year the Stand team took a step back and hosted listening sessions for the community to inform the impact we want to make in the future. Participants/Attendees consisted of educators, families, current students, alumni, and higher-ed educators from all over Colorado.  

There were three questions posed to guide the conversation:  

When you think about education in Colorado, what worries you? What would you want to see improved? What is working?   

Some of the concerns raised about education in Colorado were teacher burnout, lack of social and emotional learning in the classroom, inequitable use of funds and lack of family engagement.  

“What worries me is the teacher turnover rate and the fact that they are being asked to do things in addition to their teaching jobs.”

Pamela, parent and Stand fellow, raising her concern on why she thinks teachers are leaving the profession at an alarming rate

Community mentioned that what is working is the hard work and effort teachers are demonstrating as they juggle everything to provide the best educational experience for all students.  

“What is working is our schools, our teachers, and our staff at schools really care about our kids– like really, really care. The people that are there are working so hard.”

Leah, parent, giving praise to our educators and staff for their work
When you think about education, what can be improved in your school climate? Think about things like do you feel welcome, how are the discipline practices and do your kids have access to mental health services?    

Community called out the need to minimize class sizes to improve school’s climate for families, students, and teachers. They also stated the need for more multi-lingual/bilingual school personnel to ensure families and students feel welcome. An abundant of community members also named that the mental health providers in schools tend to not have capacity for students that are facing mental or emotional challenges, so although the resources are present— they are not accessible.  

“When they [paras] are not there, the wheels come off, then we start pulling people for coverage all over the place and the whole deal is to get through day and to becomes a survival game and not a productive game.”

Ryan, Elementary School Educator talking about her concerns with large class sizes with little to no support or resources

“Se que mamas no van a las reuniones cuando les dicen pero estan bien por eso porque  tal vez tienen temor que le vayan a hablar en ingles y no vayan a entender lo que van a decir. | I know that moms don’t go to the meetings when they are told, and for good reason. Maybe they are scared they will only be speaking in English and they won’t understand what is being communicated to them”

Maybelline, parent and Stand fellow expresses her concern about language barriers being a real reason why families do not get involved
When you think about safe community and our criminal justice system, what worries you? What would you want to see improved? What is working?

There were concerns mentioned about Colorado’s criminal justice system and the approach on safe communities by addressing gun violence and bullying.  

“There is a lot of focus in safety in schools [right now], but I wonder if what we are doing is something that makes us feel better or if it’s really going to work, like SROs—is bringing them back going to make us feel better or going to work?”

Tami, parent of DPS student and PTO member of her student’s school

Other concerns were raised such as lack of technology or internet access, rural schools and their dire need for educators, school funding formula, the discipline matrix, and implicit bias in educators.  Some concerns will be directly addressed in our policy goals, while others we will address with partner with organizations experienced in addressing bullying or technology issues.

Nonetheless, we are excited to announce that we will be working towards making impactful changes this upcoming year through our impact agenda. We will be posting more details about our plans, so keep an eye out!

Language Justice is defined as a commitment to ensuring all voices are heard and understood in the process of community engagement. It is more than having access to translators and interpreters, it is a practice to create inclusive and equitable spaces so that community, families, students, and staff can participate in the language of their heart. 

Language Justice has been a practice Stand for Children strives to deliver in all spaces we hold for community. We believe that if people communicate and understand content in the language of their heart, power is secured to make meaningful change. Even though Stand works hard to attain all resources, like interpreters, translators, translations, and equipment to deliver a language just space, we recognize that there are other spaces that families attend that might not uphold the same practice. To ensure that we are promoting positive and equitable changes in institutions that surround our community, the Stand team set their eyes on securing a policy add-on about language justice in Denver Public School (DPS) policy. 

We are thrilled to announce that after months of collaboration, learning, and relationship-building, Language Justice was added as a priority as an ENDS statement that talks about equity in Denver Public Schools (DPS). ENDS statements are “description of the long-term goals for the district”.  This statement was approved by the DPS board of education on May 18, 2023.’

ENDS 1 – Equity  
DPS will be a district that is free of oppressive systems and structures rooted in racism and one which centers students and team members with a focus on racial and educational equity, enabling students to ultimately become conscientious global citizens and collaborative leaders.  
DPS has a collective responsibility to uphold the practice of Racial Equity, and Educational and Language Justice in all of its forms by honoring language and culture as fundamental human rights. We will achieve equity when we identify and remove deeply rooted systems of oppression that have historically resulted in inequitable access and distribution of opportunities and resources for those who represent marginalized identities, including but not limited to race, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, language and ability. 

DPS ends 1.0 policy

Although this was a clear achievement, and we applaud the board for their leadership, we will be working to ensure the promise of this statement is reached and felt by the community by holding DPS accountable in practicing their policy.  We are still working on the implementation factor to address the inequities we see and hear about so much when it comes to language accessibility.  

We would like to thank the DPS staff and Board members that guided and advocated for Language Justice and look forward to monitoring and improving the practice in all spaces DPS holds.  Sign a thank you note to the board!