A Denver Public Schools principal, with the blessing of district leaders, accused a rural school’s football team of racism despite his secondhand and shifting accounts of what happened, according to internal emails obtained by 9Wants to Know and Next.
Ever since a Denver Public School principal made an unsubstantiated allegation of racism against a small town football team, the Next team has been trying to find out if what he said was true.
The allegation from Manual High School's principal was that the Weld Central team from Keenesburg displayed the Confederate flag and hurled racial slurs during a game in September at historically black Manual High.
After a week of questioning, DPS abandoned its claim that the Weld Central team displayed the flag and made no further mention of its accusation of racial slurs by Weld Central players.
No evidence supporting the Manual principal's claim ever emerged, and eyewitness accounts collected by 9NEWS did not line up.
Our investigative team obtained an internal DPS email showing the Manual principal's own claims didn't line up from day to day.
Yet, he still made a public accusation of racism against a rural school’s football team and DPS stood behind the unsubstantiated claim.
We filed an open records request to try to learn how the claim of racism came together and fell apart under scrutiny.
Denver Public Schools said it didn't have to show the public those records, claiming a legal exemption for their "deliberative privilege."
However, one email DPS did provide showed the Manual principal Nick Dawkins' story changed before the public claim of racist acts by Weld Central players.
When he emailed the district the night of the game, he didn't say it was the Weld Central team displaying the flag but the fans.
Not just one flag as they'd later say publicly, but more than one.
Despite their later public accusation that "the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field," the principal was clear that night that the "crowd grew agitated after several student injuries."
He specifically notes that the "game was called over injury, not racial animosity."
Yet the next day, Weld Central's football team would be publicly accused of racism.
The Next team has also sought documents from DPS that might detail how the claim of racism fell apart as it was questioned.
DPS also refused to release those records citing “deliberative privilege."
Late Wednesday, a DPS spokesman was not immediately able to explain the differences between Dawkins’ account on the night of the game and the details of the public accusation.