Earlier this month, Manual High School principal Nick Dawkins resigned amid allegations that he had created a hostile work environment.
Five anonymous sources at the school told Westword that the alleged hostile work environment included inappropriate sexual comments, among other issues. So we asked DPS to turn over any complaints (of any kind) filed against Dawkins, and his disciplinary record, if it existed, to confirm whether those allegations were true.
How DPS responded might have revealed its hand. The school district said it had no disciplinary records on file for Dawkins but that it did have complaints on file that it wouldn't to turn over under certain statutory provisions. One of those cited provisions states that all complaints of and investigations into sexual harassment are not subject to public-records disclosures.
When asked to clarify whether the district is admitting there are indeed official complaints of sexual harassment, spokesman Will Jones said, "DPS is not commenting on the ongoing investigation at Manual High School. Legally, creating a hostile work environment based on sex/gender can be a form of sexual harassment; therefore, an investigation into allegations that an individual created a hostile work environment would not be subject to a CORA request."
Assistant Superintendent Nicole Veltzé confirmed earlier this month that the Employer's Council, an independent consultant that investigates HR issues, had conducted an investigation into "a complaint about his leadership."
Dawkins did not respond to a call for comment.
When Dawkins resigned, he claimed that he was being targeted after the Weld Central High School controversy and that black educators in DPS face systemic inequities, including unfair evaluations, feelings of isolation, and hostile work environments fueled by institutional racism.
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Here is the official DPS response to our CORA request:
From: CORA Requests
Sent: Tuesday, March 13, 2018 3:04 PM
To: Nora Olabi
@westword.com>Subject: RESPONSE: Westword - CORA request
Cc: CORA Requests
We are in receipt of your March 6, 2018 records request concerning any disciplinary records DPS has on file during Mr. Dawkin's employment at the district. Denver Public Schools is not in possession of any documents responsive to your request.
Additionally, the district is in receipt of your records request concerning any complaints filed against outgoing Manual High School Principal Nickolas Dawkins during his time at Manual High School and Hamilton Middle School. Denver Public Schools is in possession of records responsive to your request that are not subject to disclosure pursuant to the personnel file exemption, C.R.S. 24-72-204(3)(a)(II) and (X)(a) as defined in C.R.S. 24-72-202(4.5) and attorney client privilege.
From: Nora Olabi [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, March 6, 2018 10:33 AM
To: CORA Requests
Subject: Westword - CORA request
I am reaching out to request any complaints filed against outgoing Manual High School Principal Nickolas Dawkins during his time at Manual High School and Hamilton Middle School.
I am also requesting any disciplinary records DPS has on file during Mr. Dawkin's employment at the district.
I appreciate your time and consideration.
It should be noted that the Employer's Council is the same firm that investigated sexual harassment complaints against former Representative Steve Lebsock, who was expelled from the House on March 2.
Is this total confirmation that the hostile work environment claim was in fact due to alleged sexual harassment complaints? No one can know for sure until either the victims come out, Dawkins speaks up or DPS releases the records. We're not holding our breath.