Fired McAuliffe principal Kurt Dennis sues Denver Public Faculties, alleging retaliation

Kurt Dennis, who was fired in July from his occupation as principal of McAuliffe Global University, sued Denver General public Universities, Superintendent Alex Marrero, and 6 of the 7 Denver university board members in federal court docket Tuesday.

The lawsuit, filed on Dennis’ behalf by civil rights legal professional David Lane, alleges that DPS fired Dennis in retaliation for a televised job interview he gave to 9Information in March expressing worries about a district exercise that necessary McAuliffe employees to pat down a scholar charged with attempted murder to check for weapons. 

Dennis gave the interview just times following a college student at Denver’s East Superior University, who was matter to the identical sort of weapons searches, shot and injured two college deans.

“Ultimately, Defendants are retaliating in opposition to Mr. Dennis, who exercised his suitable to cost-free speech when he publicly criticized DPS and its unsafe guidelines in an work to protect his pupils and team from the horrifying specter of gun violence,” the lawsuit states.

A DPS spokesperson said Tuesday afternoon that the district could not remark on the allegations due to the fact “the lawsuit has not been served to DPS.”

But district officers have commented ahead of, and some of these reviews are now cited in Dennis’ lawsuit. 

Dennis’ initial security concerns, his firing, rallies calling for him to be reinstated, and a subsequent district investigation into the inappropriate use of a seclusion area at McAuliffe have been extensively lined by the neighborhood media for months. 

In that time, DPS faculty board users produced various public statements about Dennis, together with at press conferences right before and just after the seclusion investigation was complete, and at meetings, such as when the board voted 6-1 very last thirty day period to uphold his firing. Dennis is not suing Scott Baldermann, the one particular board member who voted no.

The lawsuit promises these statements had been defamatory and “publicly innovative many pretextual causes for the termination.” It claims board members tied Dennis to white supremacy and created statements “smearing him in general public as a racist” by boasting that the seclusion room was made use of only for students of color, which Dennis disputes.

A district investigation observed that Dennis placed pupils — or directed other workers to spot learners — in two seclusion rooms previous yr with out right supervision and then locked the doorway. But it did not find that Dennis disproportionately placed pupils of color in the rooms.

The lawsuit alleges DPS has not furnished Dennis with an opportunity to crystal clear his identify, which has built it not possible for him to uncover a principal position in a different faculty district.

In firing Dennis, DPS claimed he experienced improperly “divulged confidential university student and authorized records” in the 9Information interview, place DPS at authorized possibility, caused the McAuliffe pupil who was staying searched to be ostracized, and “repeatedly attempted to eliminate a youthful pupil of color” from the faculty, in accordance to a document acquired by Chalkbeat.

The district also cited “a sample of administrative actions” at McAuliffe that experienced a detrimental impact on students with disabilities and students of shade, which include the “overuse of out-of-university suspensions” for learners of color, the doc claims.

The lawsuit doesn’t address the allegation about out-of-faculty suspensions. But it does claim that pupils of shade attained large educational benefits at McAuliffe, the district’s major middle college. On average, McAuliffe college students of color outperformed 88% of their peers statewide on point out standardized tests in the 2021-22 school calendar year, the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit also disputes that Dennis divulged confidential university student information or triggered the pupil who was being searched to be ostracized. The information Dennis furnished to the press have been redacted to take out private information and facts about the university student, the lawsuit claims. 

Learners who are subject to everyday weapons searches “are previously recognized by most everybody at the college, which include fellow college students, as ‘dangerous,’” the lawsuit claims.

The student in this case was accused of shooting a liquor retail outlet clerk during a robbery attempt, the lawsuit claims. The university student wore a obvious ankle bracelet as a affliction of their bond and was escorted by a workers member at all moments underneath a safety system that deemed the scholar a danger.

“Through no fault of Mr. Dennis, the identification of these pupils is, and normally has been, greatly regarded by other learners and faculty through the faculty,” the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit also statements that Dennis was inside of his authorized legal rights to request that the college student be transferred to an on the net training method or expelled. DPS denied equally requests, the lawsuit claims.

In the wake of the East taking pictures, district leaders have defended a plan that lets pupils facing legal prices to show up at their standard faculties although on bond.

Melanie Asmar is a senior reporter for Chalkbeat Colorado, masking Denver Community Educational facilities. Speak to Melanie at [email protected].

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