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Charter school in NW Denver temporarily shuts down amid allegations of abuse among administrators

Charter: We've hired third party to investigate
Posted at 4:18 PM, Sep 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-21 20:48:22-04

DENVER -- A charter school in northwest Denver is temporarily shuttered amid allegations staff members hit students and grabbed some young students so hard, they left bruise marks on their arms.

Outside Ricardo Flores Magon Academy (RFMA), the playground is silent and inside the classrooms sit empty, when the online school calendar clearly indicates students should be in class Monday.

Parents and grandparents say they're being told very little about what's going on.

“It’s a mess,” said JoAnna Forsythe, a grandparent of a RFMA student.

This past weekend, a protest outside RFMA was posted on Facebook.

Students, parents and teachers allege staff members have been abusive toward kids as young as 1st grade.

"Grabbing students by the arms and mistreating them," said grandparent Janet Willetto.

"One of the administrators grabbed a 3rd grader who is autistic and the child kicked her. So, (the administrator) turned around and slapped her in the face," Forsythe alleges.

Outside the school Monday, a temporary, handwritten sign on a board says, "There is no school today, Monday, September 20th or tomorrow the 21st."

Denver7 has attempted to contact the board chair and executive director, but we have not heard back.

On the RFMA website, a statement acknowledges trouble saying in part, "…the RFMA board is actively working to address recent issues raised by staff and community members… we have engaged a third-party to conduct an independent review."

The statement goes on to say, "…a preliminary investigation regarding… student safety has been done and we have addressed all safety concerns."

Parents say there was a planned teacher walk-out on Monday, and the well-liked principal has apparently resigned.

"Ms. A's been there, I think, 12-13 years, and now she's no longer there,” Willetto said. “She quit because of the administration."

“The principal stepped down and some of the teachers got fired, and other ones said if things didn't change, they were going to walk out today," Forsythe said.

Parents and grandparents also allege much of the abusive behavior was directed at undocumented families.

“I understand that we should all go through the immigration process the right way, but they're afraid to go (to school) because of what could happen,” Forsythe said. “If they're going to get immigration called on them, if they're going to get harmed in some way. When you start taking things out on children, that’s wrong.”

“Every kid and every parent has the right to take their kids to school wherever they want to take them,” Willetto said. “And not to be afraid to take your kid to school."

Following the two days off, RFMA posted on their website that school would resume with regular hours Wednesday.

"We have used the last two days as a staff to refocus, re-plan, and do what we can to continue in our mission to support all students in their educational journey," the website says.