From The Desk of Pamela Bisceglia
On February 6, 2020, a complaint of discrimination was filed by a member of Denver Public School (“DPS”) staff against the Principal of Inspire Elementary School. The complaint was filed in accordance with DPS Board of Education policy AC. The complainant alleged that the Principal discriminated against the student based on race (Black) and disability. AdvocacyDenver appreciates the staff that stood firm advocating for the appropriate treatment of the student and forwarded the complaint of discrimination.
The District conducted an internal investigation. The investigation included a review of documentary evidence and interview of individual witnesses including the principal, the student, and his guardian.
June 16, 2020, the Investigator issued the findings; specifically, the Investigator found that the Principal used her authority to discriminate against the student based on his race, in violation of Board Policy AC and AC-R1, as evidenced by the following non-exhaustive list of incidents.
- The Principal used her authority to try to prevent the student from attending Inspire. The guardian provided the school with evidence of address. Steps were taken by the Principal and her staff in contacting the Manager of the Apartment Complex in “Stapleton”, and informed them that the family was using that address as their place of residency, which caused the family to receive a ten-day eviction notice.
- The Principal documented the student’s behaviors in the District’s student reporting system, Infinite Campus, in a manner that appeared to build a case for removing him from the school under the appearance of safety concerns for staff and students. However, a white student with the same or similar behaviors was not documented in this same fashion.
- The Principal used improper student discipline and thereby failed to use the District’s discipline matrix outlined in Board Policy JK and JK-R.
- The Principal failed to follow hold/restraint protocols and implement Non-Crisis Intervention (NCI) guidelines which provide the circumstances under which holds and restraints may be used. The Principal failed to report the physical holds that were administered to the student’s guardian and failed to properly document the restraints as required by Board Policy JKA and JKA-R.
- The Principal repeatedly called DPS Safety and Security about the student. She also called the Denver Police Department (DPD), even though the student was only eight years old, and she allowed a DPD officer to interrogate this and other elementary students, without notifying parents in violation of Board Policy JIH. This led to the DPD Officer confronting the guardian and student and threatening the guardian about the possibility of her child being arrested and charged in the future.
- The Principal demanded that school-based and District-based staff proceed with the testing process for an Individualized Education Program on an accelerated timeline so that the student could be placed in an intensive needs program outside of Inspire Elementary School.
- The Principal reported the guardian to the Denver Human Services on three separate occasions based on her assumptions that the student was not being picked up at the bus stop after school, being left alone until 9:00 p.m. and her own medical diagnoses of the student needing to be on medication and receive outside therapy.
- The Principal constantly called the guardian regarding the student’s behavior, asking that she come to the school in the middle of the day, knowing that if she came to the school the guardian would take him home because of the guardian’s concern for his safety and wellbeing. The guardian’s concern for his safety was amplified when she learned that he was being put in hold/restraints by the Principal and other staff at Inspire which caused her to keep him home and later request that be transferred to another school.
AdvocacyDenver understands that corrective measures were taken. The Principal can appeal if she disagrees with the District’s findings. Having said that, AdvocacyDenver expects that District leaders and the Board of Education will stand firm and will not entertain bringing this principal back to DPS in any capacity. It is the guardian’s wish that the Principal, not be employed by any school district; the social, emotional, and educational harm caused by this staff is immense. The student has always enjoyed school and although he expects he will no longer attend Inspire, he does not demonstrate the same thirst/love for learning. It will take time for the District to restore their working relationship with the family. It will take time for the family to trust that school is a safe, welcoming place.