Kurt Dennis sues DPS, alleging district violated First Amendment

Kurt Dennis, the former principal of McAuliffe International School, on Tuesday sued Denver Public Schools, alleging that the district retaliated against him for speaking publicly about safety policies following the March shooting at East High School.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Denver, alleges DPS, Superintendent Alex Marrero and six members of the school board violated Dennis’s First Amendment right to free speech by firing the former principal after he spoke in a televised news interview about the district’s policy requiring educators to check students for weapons.

The interview followed the shooting at East in which a teen undergoing such a search shot and wounded two administrators — and it came as parents, educators and others in the community were criticizing DPS’s discipline policies and response to school safety.

Dennis’s termination in July drew further outcry from parents, who called on the district to reinstate him. 

But district officials have said the former principal shared confidential student information during his news interview and the school board voted last month to approve his termination.

Only one board member — Scott Baldermann — voted against the termination. Baldermann is also the only board member not named in the lawsuit.

A month after DPS fired Dennis, the school board announced the district was investigating the use of a seclusion room at McAuliffe International School. The investigation found that employees at the school, including Dennis, violated district policy by placing students in two rooms without proper supervision and either locking or holding the doors shut while doing so. 

The Denver Police Department and the Colorado Department of Education also are investigating the use of the room.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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