Former McAuliffe International School principal Kurt Dennis has filed a civil rights lawsuit against Denver Public Schools. The lawsuit is seeking economic and punitive damages.
The complaint was filed in federal court Tuesday morning and alleges that theon a policy that called for unarmed school staff to conduct pat-downs on students.
The lawsuit claims that Dennis was denied due process that he was guaranteed under the Constitution. Dennis' attorney David Lane said he was never disciplined by DPS for allegations associated with the use of a de-escalation room at his school and that his firing was in retaliation for criticizing DPS.
"One hundred percent pure retaliation is the reason they fired Kurt Dennis," said his attorney David Lane. "They fired him for a whole laundry list of pretextual reasons having nothing to do with the truth. The actual reason they fired him is because he went public and criticized DPS's policy about allowing violent children back into the schools before their charges pending are resolved."
Parents and students demonstrated before school began this summer when Dennis was fired. The lawsuit states that the school serves more students of color than any other middle school in DPS and that the students thrive there academically.
DPS leadership said that Dennis was fired because he violated student confidentiality when he told a media outlet that his staff was asked by DPS to pat-down a student facing an attempted murder charge. Dennis denies that claim.
The lawsuit alleges that DPS denied Dennis his First Amendment right to free speech and denied due process; and that school board members did make defamatory statements by accusing him of being racist.
"DPS saw the handwriting on the wall, and in order to retain their position, they did everything in their power to turn public sentiment against Kurt Dennis. In 2023 in America, the best way to turn public sentiment against someone is to call them a white supremacist or a racist, and that's exactly what they did without one shred of evidence to back that up," said Lane.
An internal investigation by DPS found no evidence of racial discrimination in the use of seclusion or de-escalation rooms at McAuliffe. The investigation did find that Dennis violated district policy of leaving students in the room without supervision and the door closed.
"I'm really looking forward to holding the door of the courthouse open for all of the defendants in this case so they can explain this to a federal judge and a federal jury," said Lane.
after shootings at East High School prompted questions about how the district manages students with offenses such as weapons violations.
Denver Public Schools responded with this comment: Denver Public Schools has not been served with any complaint and therefore cannot comment on any specifics until it has been received and reviewed by our legal team. The allegations made in any complaint are not facts. We believe the preponderance of the evidence, some of which has already been released, will support our case and we look forward to responding fully in court.
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