By Marissa Armas

DENVER (CBS4)– Dozens of students and parents at McGlone Academy in Montbello stepped outside for a walkout on Friday because they said the school’s new principal continues to show patterns of discrimination and microaggressions towards the Black and Latino communities.

(credit: CBS)

The student-led protest was set up by several 8th grade students from the school, including Jannia Lewis, who said the principal, Leanne Hightower, is disrespectful to her and other families.

“We’re just coming here because we want a change, we’re not specifically trying to get her fired, but we do want her to know like we’re sick of how she’s been treating us, as three students… as young Black students, and how she’s been treating the school,” said Lewis. “She’s always doubting me, she thinks about the negative, nothing positive about me.”

Parents like Ana Mora and Nicole Bradley were at the walkout. They say they’ve treated meeting with Hightower on multiple occasions about the mistreatment of their students, but they’re being ignored. Mora has a 7th grader at the school. Mora’s son has ADHD.

“One time the principal accused my son of doing something he didn’t do, and she told him he was dumb and that he needed medication,” said Mora. “She’s disrespectful.”

(credit: McGlone Academy)

Bradley has a 6th grader at the school. She said Hightower gave her son the book ‘Monster,’ which follows a 16-year-old on trial for murder. Bradley said her husband is facing similar charges.

“So why would you give my 11-year-old child this book and tell him you have to sit down and read it? So, then I asked her ‘Is this what you’re saying my child’s life is? This is what he’s going to be? You’re out of line for that,’” Bradley said. “She won’t speak to me at all, she will not speak to me. She won’t have a conversation with me. Something has to be done, like I’ve met with the school board.”

The Struggle of Love Foundation attended the walkout to stand in solidarity with the students. The foundation did have a one-year contract with the academy which started in August, but it was cut a semester early.

CBS4 contacted Hightower by phone but she told us she would not comment on the matter and referred us to the school district.

(credit: CBS)

A Denver Public Schools spokesperson sent this statement, “A situation involving one of our educators at McGlone Academy has been brought to our attention. District officials are looking into and reviewing those concerns that have come forward so that we can understand the situation fully and help to resolve it. School and district officials are working to ensure that our students are supported during this process. While this matter is under review and being discussed with school and district staff, we will not be providing any further details.”

Data from the district shows that the academy is made up of 97% minority students. Mora and Bradley say this all comes down to equity in education. They’d like to see people in charge who are understanding of their communities.

Marissa Armas