Controversial posters targeting minority students in Denver high school draw criticism

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DENVER -- There were questions Tuesday about how posters with controversial language ended up plastered throughout a Denver public high school.

Those posters inside Martin Luther King Jr. Early College in Green Valley Ranch did come down after teachers and students complained about them.

Students said educators probably had the best intentions in putting up posters to inspire black and Latino students--but some said they did it the wrong way.

It was the last kind of message students ever expected from a school with the name Martin Luther King Jr. in it.

“This man died for us to have our rights, for black and whites to be together, all races. For a poster to be in a school pointing it toward, specifically black and Latina girls. I don't like that.” said student Kayla Matton.

She and a group of students went to the administration after finding derogatory and offensive messages on posters in her school. The posters had hung there since the start of the school year, she said.

The posters were titled “101 Things Black and Latina Girls Should Know.”

“There are some things that should not be said at all,” said another student Christina Arzate.

Those things included statements like: Wearing too much makeup looks like a clown. Twerkin’ and grinding ain’t cute. Experience holding a book (not a kindle or reading on the Internet) this is so important for you to remember how far you have come as Black and Brown people.

“That’s highly offensive, that’s pretty derogatory toward very specific groups of people,” student Victor Corrl said.

Not only did students find the messages offensive--but so did a child psychologist.

“It was just a shock that in this day and age we would be almost racially profiling our young girls,” Dr. Sheryl Ziegler said.

She said most of the messages are positive like, ‘Your body is beautiful just the way it is” but directing the messages just toward certain races is misguided. She also thinks the messages could be directed toward all children.

“I think the percentage of kids getting something from this, who will think twice about their hygiene or appearance, I think is much less than if they thought more carefully regarding the sensitivity on the delivery of it.”

There was another version of the posters also at the school called "101 Things Every Young Man of Color Should Know." The most stereotypical message was that there are easier ways to make money than playing professional sports or rapping.

The school district sent out this statement:

“Denver Public Schools seeks to ensure that the diverse cultures of our students and community are valued and respected. We understand the concerns raised by those who found the poster offensive and are reviewing this situation so that we can help prevent issues like this in the future. And, we will continue our work to support responsible and effective conversations about diversity in our schools.”

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