In a court document filed Friday, the county said it “disclaims any claim of ownership of the Know Justice, Know Peace trademark for the podcast” and “any effort to monetize” the name. Denver Public Schools asked the court to dismiss lawsuit against it.
If the judge agrees, it will end a high-profile dispute that has drawn national media attention and brought Denver Public Schools, a district whose superintendent said he wants dismantle racist systems — heavy criticism from local community members who accused the district of asserting ownership of what black students had created.
“It’s almost ironic as we black students, learning our history, learning that as black people, often our ideas are stolen, our history is stolen, all our things are diluted, that now we’re in a situation where our name and our brand, and this work that we’ve been building all the time could potentially be taken away,” Kalia Izar, one of the students who founded the podcast, said at a press conference in September.
In a statement Monday, the district said the trademark attempt was an effort to ensure the podcast continued in Denver Public Schools.
“From the beginning, we have stated repeatedly that our efforts are focused on protecting this important educational tool for our scholars,” district spokesman Will Jones said in a statement. “Now that these young ladies can own this intellectual property themselves, we are very excited that it will soon be theirs.”
Izar and three other students at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. High School started the podcast, titled “Know Justice, Know Peace: The Take” in the summer of 2020 in response to the killing of George Floyd. They were supported by the school’s faculty, including then-Principal Kimberly Grayson, and eventually paid by the district as students.
The podcast was successful. Students appeared on “The Tonight Show” and virtually participated in the White House Summit on Equity in Education. Their propaganda pushed the district to promise to diversify their curriculum to include Black, Hispanic, and Native American history.
After their former principal, Grayson, left the school last spring, the students decided they wanted to continue their podcast on their own. They said they asked Grayson for help. In June, she filed documents to establish a company called “Know Justice, Know Peace: Take LLC.”
When Denver Public Schools became aware of the LLC, they filed state and federal applications for the podcast name in August.
“Our concern was never about any of our students,” Jones said in a statement. “This former employee was always trying to get this intellectual property.”
But the students, two of whom are now graduates, didn’t take it. At the August meeting, they told district officials the podcast belonged to them, and one student described it as “our faces, who we are.” And in September they sued Denver Public Schools for trademark infringement.
In its motion to dismiss Friday, the county attached copies of documents its lawyers filed to withdraw the state and federal trademark applications. In a statement, Jones said the district recently learned Grayson had signed an LLC with one of the former students, who can now “submit and receive this intellectual property as his own.”
However, the district is not giving up on the podcast idea. He plans to expand the opportunity for students to create a racial justice podcast, Jones said, and will soon host a naming contest.
Melanie Asmar is a senior reporter for Chalkbeat Colorado covering Denver Public Schools. Contact Melanie at firstname.lastname@example.org.