A former paraprofessional at George Washington High School alleges that Denver Public Schools created a hostile work environment by ordering him to work with a student who physically attacked him, and then fired him when he fended off a second attack.
Ahmed A. Hakeem wrote in a federal lawsuit that he began work with DPS in 1996 as a paraprofessional. He said that he worked with at-risk students in an anger management program, among other duties. On Jan. 17, 2018, a female student who allegedly had a gang background attacked Hakeem and directed a vulgarity at him. The district placed him on administrative leave and, according to Hakeem, told him to “stay away from this young lady because she had it out for him.”
Upon return, the student allegedly attacked Hakeem a second time on Feb. 6. On both occasions, he tried to defend himself.
Hakeem says that the district “ordered Plaintiff back into the classroom with the violent student. Thus, creating a very hostile work environment.”
A letter from the district’s Department of Human Resources dated July 17, 2018, informed Hakeem that on Jan. 17, he had an “inappropriate interaction with a special needs student in your class” and on Feb. 6 he “engaged in a physical altercation with the same special needs student which involved you ‘kicking’ her while she was on the ground.”
The letter said Hakeem had neglected his duties and committed “insubordination,” and therefore was fired.
"Denver Public Schools cannot comment on any specifics because of pending litigation," wrote a district spokesperson. "We anticipate that all claims against the school district will be dismissed as without merit." George Washington High School did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Hakeem is asking for a jury trial for lost earnings and non-economic damages.
The case is Ahmed A. Hakeem v. Denver Public Schools.