History & Accomplishments
Padres Unidos was born out of a struggle at Valverde Elementary School in Denver where parents removed a principal who refused to stop the practice of forcing Mexicano children to eat their lunches from the cafeteria floor as a form of punishment. In 1992, after a year of organizing and successfully replacing the administrative leadership at Valverde, parents determined that it was necessary to build off of their experience and work with other parents in dealing with similar issues within Denver Public Schools. Parents from all over the district were calling Valverde parents for guidance, advice and support. With no office, staff, or money, Padres Unidos was formed by parents willing to organize for educational justice, equity and excellence in Denver Public Schools.
Padres Unidos has evolved into a multi-issue organization led by people of color who work for educational excellence, racial justice for youth, immigrant rights and quality healthcare for all. Jóvenes Unidos, the youth initiative of Padres Unidos, emerged as young people became active in reforming their schools, ending the school to jail track and organizing for immigrant student rights. Both Padres and Jóvenes Unidos build power to challenge the root cause of discrimination, racism and inequity by exposing the economic, social and institutional basis for injustice as well as developing effective strategies to realize meaningful change.
The following are highlights of our wins over the years:
2012 - Padres & Jovenes Unidos successfully passes the Smart School Discipline Act - designed to end harsh zero tolerance policies, address racial disparities in discipline, and put a stop to the unnecessary and unjust criminalization of students of color within Colorado public schools. Every single school district must adopt this policy by 2012.
2012 - Parents release the Health Justice Report, which details their parent-led research and demands for better nutrition, increased food access, and more physical activity for all students within the Denver Public Schools.
2011 - Padres & Jovenes Unidos and the Advancement Project publishes Books Nor Bars - Students for Safe & Fair Schools: A community analysis of the implementation of the 2008 Denver Public Schools Discipline Policy. After successful passage of the 2008 discipline policy, Padres & Jovenes Unidos set an example for district accountability to the community through the research and release of the report. Denver Public Schools agreed to hold quarterly public accountability meetings, the first of which is scheduled for April 2012.
2011 - Passed SB 133 which will create an interim committee to study the issue of school discipline and provide legislative recommendations for the 2012 session. SB 133 puts us one step closer to ending the School to Jail Track at the state-level.
2011 - After years of participatory research and organizing, Padres Unidos parent members culminated their call for call for College Prep. for All with their demand to close the academic achievement gap in Denver's middle schools. They released their report entitled, "Preparing Denver's Middle Graders for Success: A Roadmap for the District" that highlighted concerning data on the achievement gap.
2010 - 2011 - Jovenes Unidos members educated over 256,000 people through radio, flyers and face-to-face outreach and presentations, on the urgent need to organize to implement the 2008 Denver Public Schools discipline policy and join our legislative campaign to End the School-to-Jail Track in Colorado.
2010 - Our End the School to Jail Track legislative campaign kicked off with a Padres & Jovenes Undios youth conference where over 120 people attended.
2010- Jovenes Unidos organized a student walk-out of over 2,000 to protest Arizona's SB 1070 and demand passage of the DREAM Act and Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
2010 – Helped bring two West Denver Preps into Northwest Denver, the highest performing middle school in Denver Public Schools with proven best practices to catch up low-income students of color and prepare them for high school and college.2009 – Helped bring a Cesar Chavez Academy into Northwest Denver, a culturally rich and high performing school with a proven track record of preparing all students for college.
2008 – Joined forces with other education organizing groups from across the nation to form and lead the national Alliance for Educational Justice (AEJ), which seeks to impact education policy and reform at the federal level.
2008 - After a 6 year collaborative campaign to end the zero tolerance approach to discipline that targets low-income students of color, we won new discipline policies for Denver Public Schools that focus on keeping students in school and learning. We also won the introduction of Restorative Justice, a program with a progressive approach to discipline.
2008 - Joined forces with several Denver educational justice organizations to form the Higher Education Access Alliance (HEAA), whose mission is to increase access to higher education for all Colorado students, regardless of immigration or economic status through the passage of legislation such as in-state tuition, or ASSET, for undocumented students.
2007 – Helped plan and organize the first ever US Social Forum in Atlanta, GA, which brought together organizations and individuals from around the globe to increase the momentum of a global movement for social justice.
2007 – Won new college prep graduation requirements for Denver Public Schools that better prepare all students for college by aligning high school graduation requirements to college entrance requirements and guidelines.
2005 – Released “Education on Lockdown,” a ground breaking collaborative report on the impact of zero tolerance practices on low-income communities of color and called for reform in Denver Public Schools.
2005 - Parents from Commerce City called Padres Unidos for training on how to organize and reverse the Adams 14 School District’s decision to expel 17 students for one full calendar year for watching a fight. The parents developed demands, negotiated with the district and got the majority of the students immediately reinstated. This struggle highlighted the need to reform the discipline policies for the Adams 14 School District.
2004 - Jóvenes Unidos surveyed over half the student body of North High School to identify key issues of concern. The results of the survey were published in a groundbreaking report where students called for drastic change. Jóvenes Unidos became part of a committee that formed to develop a plan to turn the school around.
2004 - As part of a united front, helped expand healthcare to the uninsured ($72 million) in the state of Colorado by passing Amendment 35, the tobacco tax initiative.
2002 - Participated in a broad-based movement to protect bilingual education and immigrant rights in Colorado by defeating Ron Unz's anti-bilingual ballot, Amendment 31.
2001 - Parents helped create and open Academia Ana Marie Sandoval, a dual-language/Montessori elementary school in Northwest Denver whose purpose is to provide a high-quality, dual-language education for all students.
2000 - Jóvenes Unidos was born out of the struggle to reform Cole Middle School.
1998 - A high school student was arrested at Lincoln High School and later deported, a practice that is against the law. Parents organized for his return and went on to win reforms changing the relationship between INS and Denver Public Schools. The policies and procedures towards immigrants of the Denver Police Department were also reformed.
1997 - Removed a police substation at Horace Mann Middle School and its principal for overtly criminalizing the students by telling them what would happen to them when (not if) they went to prison.
1996 – Helped organize over 5,000 students to walk-out of school and protest substandard education for Latino students in Denver Public Schools.
1992 - Parents replaced the principal at Valverde Elementary School for punishing Mexicano students by forcing them to eat their lunches on the cafeteria. After their victory, the parents decided to recruit more parents and continue organizing. Out of this struggle, Padres Unidos was officially founded.