Aurora West teachers demand change, district safety policy over staffer who brandished gun

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AURORA | Several Aurora West College Preparatory Academy teachers confronted Aurora Public Schools leadership and submitted a list of demands Tuesday night over the administration’s handling of an incident earlier in April in which a disgruntled staffer threatened to shoot staff with a handgun at the school.

Teachers called for better district policies to help prevent events such as those on April 3 — when West’s Dean of Instruction, Tushar Rae, allegedly threatened Principal Taisiya Tselolikhin and staff — and to better inform staff and students about an incident.

Rae posted bond shortly after in a Denver jail, before Aurora police could immediately identify his whereabouts and place a restraining order between him and staff he threatened.

A West staffer angrily told Munn and school board members that the school community knew Rae had unaddressed mental issues before he threatened school staff. She implied that West and district administrators had not taken the threat seriously.

“The situation we’ve found ourselves in is truly insane,” said another teacher, Patricia DeCoster.

9News first reported Wednesday that Rae was involved in two domestic disputes in the month leading up to the event.

Denver County Court records show Rae was charged in a domestic violence case in addition to his threatening of school staff. Rae was charged with two counts of involuntarily holding an individual against their will on April 12, as well as a felony menacing charges.

The West staff demands include being notified of internal threats of violence in APS schools, a full explanation of the events — which are subject to an ongoing police investigation — and an apology from district leaders.

Munn and his communications staff were accused of withholding information from the public after Rae threatened staff. Police and the school did not say that he was at large after posting bail the night of the incident.

READ THE MESSAGE APS SENT TO STUDENTS WEDNESDAY DURING THE LOCKDOWN

READ THE MESSAGE APS SENT TO STUDENTS WEDNESDAY AFTER THE LOCKDOWN

READ THE MESSAGE APS SENT TO STUDENTS THURSDAY AS A FOLLOW-UP

Demands also include a community-led search for a new principal if Tselolikhin, who is on paid leave, does not return to lead the school. Teachers demanded that some staff be placed on leave for having full knowledge of the events and not revealing the threat to other staff and students.

West teachers including Alex Wilkins, a social studies teacher at the high school level, said trust needs to be rebuilt between district officials, including Superintendent Rico Munn, and the school community.

DeCoster burst into tears describing the emotional duress West teachers and students were under, especially in light of a district-wide shutdown unrelated to Rae placed on schools and metro-area school districts Wednesday.

Wilkins declined to comment further on the events that led to Rae brandishing a weapon and threatening to shoot staff in the knees.

West students have also criticized Munn and officials for not revealing the true nature of the threat to school community. APS and APD said in the aftermath of the event only that there had been an alleged threat in the vicinity of the school that was rectified, and cited an ongoing police investigation in repeatedly declining to comment further.