AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — A former McAuliffe International School student said he spent time in special rooms away from the classroom to deal with anger issues. But he said his experience is nothing like the alleged seclusion room that is now at the center of an investigation

“McAuliffe is the first school that I actually felt like I fit in,” Sedik Mote said.

Mote attended McAuliffe from 2018 through 2021. Before that, he said his academic career was difficult.

“I was sort of in and out of school a lot. I had trouble getting along with the teachers and peers. And in other schools I actually was removed from the classes and put in separate rooms from the other students,” he said.

De-escalation with dogs, pillows, punching bag

Mote was adopted from Ethiopia as a child and said he grew frustrated and angry when it felt like teachers and classmates misunderstood him. He said his outbursts followed him to McAuliffe but nearly disappeared by the end of his time there.

“During 6th and 7th grade, I had a little bit of anger issues, and going onto 8th grade, they started fading away. I still had problems, but it was a lot better. I could control my anger and get along with people and talk it out a lot better,” he said. 

Mote said he was placed on an individualized education program, known as an IEP, and was granted access to special areas outside the classroom when his emotions boiled over. 

“I personally was never put in a seclusion room. For me, there were two rooms that I would go into. There was one teacher … I used to go to her room to chill, and I’d pet her dog, and there’s a pillow area. And there’s another room with a punching bag, and I would go in there to let off some steam sometimes,” Mote said.

According to Mote, he does not recognize the room in a video that has been said to be a seclusion room at McAuliffe. It has locks on the door and is empty on the inside. Whistleblowers allege students were sometimes dragged into the room and locked inside by themselves.

An anonymous staff member sent this photo to Denver Public School Board of Education VP Auon'Tai Anderson claiming it shows a barrel lock on a door allegedly used as an 'incarceration room' at McAuliffe Middle School.
An anonymous staff member sent this photo to Denver Public Schools Board of Education Vice President Auon’tai Anderson, claiming it shows a barrel lock on a door allegedly used as an “incarceration room” at McAuliffe International School.

‘These rooms had windows’

Mote said if such a room existed at McAuliffe during his time there, he was unaware of it.

“For me, it’s confusing and it’s hard to believe because I was never put in one and I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. 

He described the rooms he spent time in as small classrooms that were more like teacher offices.

“These rooms had open windows. We could look out the windows. They weren’t barred up, locked up or anything like that. We were able to leave when we wanted,” Mote said. “I could just be like, ‘I feel better,’ and they’d say, ‘Hey, are you sure?’ And then if I said yes, I’m sure, they’d let me back in class.”

Mote said McAuliffe and its policies changed his life for the better. 

“If they didn’t have those rooms for me to go to, it’d probably be harder for me to get rid of that negative energy and I would struggle keeping it in,” Mote said. 

Mote is now a junior in high school and said he no longer needs to leave his classes to cull his emotions.

He acknowledges it is possible McAuliffe changed after he left in 2021.