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Denver middle school principal fired, allegedly broke student privacy laws

Questions surround why McAuliffe International School principal Kurt Dennis was fired
Parents question why McAuliffe International School principal Kurt Dennis was fired 02:09

The Denver Public Schools District has fired Kurt Dennis, a longtime principal at McAuliffe International Middle School.

After learning about the news, some parents started a petition on demanding the district bring back Dennis as principal, calling the move by DPS unjust

Many DPS parents are upset about the news and hosted a small gathering with other parents Friday to discuss the incident.

Jenni Jordan-Abel, a DPS parent and one in support of the petition, said the firing is unfair.

"I am feeling outraged and powerless," said Jordan-Abel.

Even students are asking questions about why Dennis was fired.

"I need to know why, because I don't want to go to a school with a bad principal," one student told CBS News Colorado.

Eve Chen, one of the parents who began the petition, says she was planning to enroll her child at McAuliffe International Middle School because of their academics and the reputation of Dennis. It would have been her child's first physical school in three years since she's been doing remote schooling lately. Now she is unsure of the future.

"No one wants to take accountability," said Chen.

Dennis will no longer be the principal at McAuliffe International School starting in August.

Earlier this year, he publicly expressed his concerns regarding administrators being asked to perform pat downs, with no proper training, on students accused of violent crimes. This comes after the shooting at East High School in March where two administrators were shot by a student, who required a pat down.

"To me, Kurt Dennis did the right thing. He is a strong leader, he did what he did knowing that there's a risk," said Chen.

Multiple sources say he was terminated earlier this week. Parents believe it's because he shared safety concerns.

However, according to DPS, Dennis was terminated due to sharing confidential student information.

In a statement to CBS News Colorado, DPS said, in part, "the termination had little to do with any media interviews, but rather the sharing of confidential student information in violation of state and federal laws."

"The issues were thoroughly investigated and addressed accordingly," said Scott Pribble, spokesperson for DPS.

Advocates say Dennis exercised his First Amendment right and, according to his attorney David Lane, he has the right to express himself about public concern and the First Amendment protects him. However, the district stands by their decision.

"I would like to see Kurt Dennis reinstated and I would like to see the policy really get addressed," added Chen.

DPS issued the following statement, in full:

Denver Public Schools is prohibited from sharing information related to confidential personnel matters. That being said, the district does not take these actions lightly. After review, the district recognized that there were some leadership concerns at McAuliffe International. The termination had little to do with any media interviews, but rather the sharing of confidential student information in violation of state and federal laws. The issues were thoroughly investigated and addressed accordingly. We hope the community understands the limitations imposed on us. With these limitations in mind, the district reserves the right to correct any misinformation related to this matter. We look forward to working with the school community to find a qualified replacement to continue to ensure that the students and educators at McAuliffe International thrive.

More than 1500 people have signed the petition in less than 24 hours.

The former principal said he plans to file a lawsuit against DPS next week.

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