Jul 13, 2023 - News

Denver Public School principal's firing sends ripples of fear among educators

Denver Public Schools Superintendent Alex Marrero. Photo: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The sudden firing of a Denver Public Schools principal is raising alarms among staff — but many fear speaking out could put them in the same position.

Driving the news: Parents, students and candidates rallied outside of McAuliffe International School this week calling for the reinstatement of Kurt Dennis, the middle school's founding principal who has served in the seat since 2012.

  • DPS fired Dennis last week after he allegedly violated student privacy laws by publicly expressing safety concerns about district employees being required to check students for weapons. The change followed a teen shooting two deans during such a search at East High School in March.

Why it matters: His termination marks the latest controversy over how the district has handled school safety since the East High incident.

What they're saying: "They're worried that speaking out will backfire on us," Natalie Barrios, the athletic director at McAuliffe International, told Chalkbeat of her colleagues.

  • "I feel like everyone needs to be on watch," said longtime DPS educator Suzanne Morris-Sherer, who retired earlier this year as principal of McAuliffe Manual, a sister school.

Of note: An online petition demanding Dennis' return has received more than 5,500 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.

The other side: DPS Superintendent Alex Marrero called accusations that Dennis was fired for voicing his concerns "100% false," in a letter he sent to staff, which was obtained by Chalkbeat.

  • The district said Dennis was fired following standard protocol, adding that "not all employee discipline data would be publicly known or shared with other school leaders."

What's next: Dennis has hired an attorney and is planning to fight his termination with a lawsuit against DPS. His lawyer, David Lane, argues he was fired for speaking up, CPR reports.

Go deeper with our reporting partners at Chalkbeat


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