DENVER — A man entered a Denver elementary school under "false pretenses" and was then "verbally abusive" toward staff and parents, according to a letter sent to parents by the principal of Centennial Elementary School.
The incident happened Monday afternoon, according to the letter.
According to the letter, the man rang the buzzer at the school located at 4665 Raleigh St. and claimed he was there to register his child for school.
Once granted entry, the man was verbally abusive towards parents and staff, the letter says. When he left the building, he displayed a sign protesting the Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action, which begins next Monday, according to the letter.
He walked around the school with the sign during dismissal, engaging with several parents, the letter says.
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The letter acknowledged the incident may have been "very disturbing" for some people, but said they don't believe any staff, students or parents were in immediate danger.
Nicole Lipschultz, a Centennial Elementary parent, said she was approached by the man while waiting to pick up her children Monday afternoon.
Lipschultz said the man asked her if she supported critical race theory.
"I explained to him, as a person of color myself and having children of color at this school, it is important to teach and learn about our history," Lipschultz, who is biracial, wrote in an email to 9NEWS. "He then went on to tell me I'm not Black but Tan, which infuriated me."
It's unclear if the person who entered the school has been identified or is in custody. The Denver Police Department said on Tuesday afternoon that the school did not contact them about the incident, and therefore they did not respond to the school.
However, DPD said they were aware of the situation and were working with Denver Public Schools on the matter. A district spokesperson said district security officers investigated the incident.
The incident came two days after Fox News published an article about the school's decision to participate in Black Lives Matter at School's Week of Action next week. That reporting spread to other conservative blogs.
During this week, the school says, teachers will engage in "age-appropriate" discussions with students about the 13 guiding principles of the Black Lives Matter movement. Lessons include discussions on empathy, inclusion of trans and queer members of the community and a discussion about different types of family dynamics.
The full letter sent to parents can be found below:
The school principal said they've been fielding "many" angry and vulgar emails and calls, which they believe are coming from non-Centennial families, including people from outside of Denver and Colorado.
The district released several of the offensive e-mails to 9NEWS on Monday. In one email, with a subject line copied from a headline on a conservative blog, the emailer writes to the school's female principal, "America's FIRST mistake was sending girls to school, the SECOND one was giving you stupid w****s the Vote."
Another e-mailer threatens the principal.
"Hope all the masses of white people hang your pathetic a**," the e-mailer wrote.
“I’ve seen some of them, I’ve heard some of the voicemails and it’s unfortunate that people in 2022 still hold those opinions reminiscent of the 1800s,” Dr. Tony Smith, DPS' chief equity and engagement officer, said in an interview with 9NEWS Monday afternoon.
The school said they're "taking appropriate measures" to identify and block those individuals from making contact, according to the letter.
Officials also acknowledged it's possible this behavior could happen again as they get closer to Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action.
“It’s unfortunate that we are currently at this place where people are fighting the idea of social justice and equity,” Smith said. “We are committed to equity in all its forms. Whether it’s Black Lives Matter, LGBTQIA, whether it’s a different language. Whatever it is – we’re committed to equity. And this doesn’t scare us – it helps us double down on our efforts to promote that.”
“DPS is committed to making sure kids can thrive in this world and this is a multicultural world, committed to racial and educational equity, and because people don’t like it doesn’t mean we stop doing it," he said.
The DPS Department of Safety will be providing extra patrols at drop-off and dismissal as well as throughout the day.
Centennial also hosted a “Families of Color Playground Night” in December. School leaders said that event was open and inclusive and came about after they met with some of the Black and Latinx families to determine ways for these families to feel more included. The school said they wanted to honor the request for the event, but also said all families were welcome to attend.
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