DENVER (KDVR) — A week after voting to uphold the firing of McAuliffe International School Principal Kurt Dennis, Denver Public Schools Board of Education Vice President Auon’tai Anderson shared some of the findings of the district’s investigation.
According to Anderson, the district learned there were two rooms used for seclusion at McAuliffe, up from the initial whistleblower report of one.
“We do know a leader who was a well-established leader in our community and in our district and is well knowledgeable of our district policy placed students in this room multiple times,” Anderson said.
The fired principal’s attorney, David Lane, said it was not a seclusion room but a de-escalation room that the principal used — the difference is a locked door.
Lane said at times, Dennis would leave the room if he was being attacked and the door would be shut. The student would then be monitored.
Anderson said that while the board could not find direct evidence of racial bias, all of the students they talked to who were in the rooms were children of color.
The investigation also found that there were items in these rooms that could have been used by the students in them to harm themselves or others, Anderson said. Additionally, there was said to be damage in the rooms that made them unsafe.
According to Anderson, Dennis was unwilling to cooperate with the investigation, a claim the former principal’s lawyer disputes.
“I have a written document prepared by DPS where when he talked to the media, they said we are going to investigate you. Kurt Dennis responded to every single question he was asked by a DPS investigator. I have the document so when he says he wouldn’t cooperate that is an abject lie,” Lane said.
The board said Dennis was originally fired for sharing confidential student information in a news interview after two deans were shot at East High School. But in interviews and through his lawyer, Dennis said he believes he was fired for speaking out about the district’s security policy in that interview.
After leaving the school, his firing received more attention when a whistleblower shared information about a seclusion room at the school, which was referred to as an “incarceration room.”
During Anderson’s news conference, he mentioned a 33-page report that had additional findings regarding Dennis and the seclusion room. Anderson said it’s a private document he is prohibited from sharing.
“(Auon’tai) Tay Anderson and the school board wave around this 33-page investigation assuring the public, ‘We’ve got the evidence right here in this 33-page investigation.’ I have asked the lawyer for DPS twice to give me that 33-page investigation that forms the cornerstone of why they fired my client, and twice DPS has said no,” Lane said.
Lane told FOX31 he’s planning to file a federal lawsuit that will, among other things, ask the courts to see that document and ask for Dennis’ job back. Such a case could take at least a couple of years to work its way through the system.