DENVER (CBS4) – Several administrators at a Denver school are suspended after a staff member allegedly encouraged a playground fight that was caught on camera.

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The fight happened on the playground of Wyatt Academy on April 20. Video shows a staff member allegedly encouraging three girls to throw punches.

“So is anyone going to hit anyone? Or is this going to like a…,” asked the supervisor.

“People are going to start hitting,” a student responded.

The fight is recorded, and the staffer — a “restorative justice coordinator” — does break it up. Police were called and the girls were ticketed.

CBS4’s Rick Sallinger interviews H-Soul Ashemu. (credit: CBS)

The group Our Voice Our Schools is now involved and has been critical of the adult’s handling of the incident.

“These children were given tickets. These are not tickets that are issued by the school. These are tickets that are issued by police,” said H-Soul Ashemu, a community activist with Our Voice, Our Schools. “No interaction whatsoever. They are yelling in each other’s faces and he’s just standing there.”

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Ashemu objects to the tickets. He believes it’s part of the bigger “preschool to prison pipeline.”

“Black and brown children get criminalized for things that have been happening on playgrounds from time immemorial, since there have been playgrounds,” Ashemu told CBS4.

The girls have since gone to court and the tickets were dismissed.

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Wyatt Academy is a charter school in the Denver Public School system. DPS said in a Facebook post that it first saw the video of the fight on May 17 and expressed concern to school officials. Denver police opened an investigation into the actions of Wyatt employees on the tape on May 22.

“We are doing a thorough investigation respecting the rights of our students as well as our employees,” said Rick Brewer, a school official.

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In a note to parents, Wyatt Academy said that several employees are on administrative leave due to the incident. CBS4 has confirmed that the principal of the elementary school, the assistant principal of the elementary school, and the restorative justice coordinator are all suspended.

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Denver Public Schools issued the following statement:

We are deeply troubled by the video of what happened at Wyatt Academy on April 20. At DPS, we are committed to ensuring that every student is educated in an environment that is physically and emotionally safe and secure and that protects their human dignity. We saw that video for the first time on May 17. DPS immediately informed Wyatt of its concerns with the actions of the Wyatt employee depicted in the video, and the DPS employee who initially received the video filed a report with the Denver Police Department.

Based on reports from DPS staff and others, the Denver Police Department opened an investigation into the actions of Wyatt employees on May 22 and has assigned a detective to the case. DPS and Wyatt Academy are fully cooperating in that investigation. DPS continues to carefully monitor the situation.

DPS reminds that any student who wants to anonymously report behavior that concerns them should use the Safe2Tell Colorado tip line at 877-542-7233.

Wyatt Academy sent this letter to parents:

To Wyatt Families:

An incident occurred on the Wyatt Academy playground on Friday, April 20. Wyatt administrators first learned about it that day, and soon after it was brought to the attention of the Wyatt board. Wyatt conducted an initial investigation which answered some questions, but a more thorough investigation has proven necessary. Accordingly, Wyatt is in the process of engaging an external investigator who will be able to answer the remaining questions and provide the information needed to fully resolve the situation.

Several Wyatt employees have been placed on administrative leave pending the conclusion of the investigation. In addition, Wyatt is cooperating fully with Denver Public Schools and the Denver Police Department regarding this incident.

Wyatt wants to ensure that all its students, families, and employees are able to learn and work in a safe, secure, and welcoming environment. Anyone who has information about this incident or any concerns should direct them to the acting school director, Jennie Klein. In addition, everyone is welcome to anonymously report concerns using the Safe2Tell Colorado tip line at 877-542-7233.


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