The principal of Aurora West Collegiate Prep Academy is resigning after a district audit revealed she delayed calling police or taking security precautions when another administrator brought a gun to school.
Taisiya Tselolikhin had been on administrative leave since Tushar Rae, the school’s dean of instruction, allegedly brought a gun to school on April 3. A district audit, released Monday, found Tselolikhin waited more than an hour to call police after finding out Rae had a gun, and declined to put the school into lockout because she didn’t “want to make a scene.”
Rae faces five felony charges and three misdemeanors in connection with the school incident and two alleged domestic disturbances: attempted first-degree assault with a deadly weapon causing serious bodily injury; attempted first-degree assault with a deadly weapon; possession of a weapon on school grounds; carrying a concealed weapon; felony menacing; kidnapping; imprisonment; and prohibited use of a weapon.
Tselolikhin was listed as the victim in the two domestic disturbances. An affidavit from Denver police said the two had gone to Rae’s house after a work-related event on March 1, and that he had pointed a gun at her chest when she was going to leave, but turned the gun and fired past her. She told police she didn’t initially report the incident because she didn’t want to get him in trouble.
A week later, Tselolikhin went to Rae’s house again, and he allegedly grabbed her by the arm and threw her on the couch to prevent her from leaving. She called 911, but described the incident as an argument and didn’t mention any use of force, according to the Denver affidavit.
On the day of the school incident, about a month later, Rae arrived at the school at about 12:26 p.m. and met Tselolikhin at about 1 p.m., according to the audit. At some point that afternoon, he had texted her a picture of a gun, according to Denver police. He then allegedly showed her the gun and said he would shoot two other administrators in the knee caps.
Rae may have left the school with another person at about 1:51 p.m., and Tselolikhin went back to work, including holding a meeting about the school’s schedule, according to the audit. She didn’t call the district’s security office until after 3 p.m., when she told a dispatcher that she thought Rae might still be in the school. The dispatcher told her to lock the school’s outside doors so no one could enter, but Tselolikhin refused.
Her reluctance to initiate a lockout confused the school security dispatcher, who wasn’t sure how severe the incident was, the audit said.
The audit also found the message to go into lockout was delayed by 10 minutes, because only one dispatcher was working and he or she had too many duties, and because the various computer systems didn’t talk to each other. Tselolikhin’s lack of cooperation also slowed down the process, because the school didn’t go into lockout until a different administrator received a message from security, the audit said.
“The current process relies heavily on the principal’s cooperation to be effective. In this case, the principal did not comply with the dispatcher to place the school into secure perimeter (lockout),” it said. “There is no readily available method for the security office to announce a secure perimeter or lockdown within a school if the principal and/or front office staff does not comply or is compromised.”
Security staff arrived at about 3:16 p.m. and locked the doors leading to the outside while they searched for Rae. They didn’t know it at the time, but security cameras picked up Rae walking to the staff parking lot moments after they arrived. He departed the scene just before Aurora police officers got to the school at 3:24 p.m.
The school was placed on lockdown, meaning students weren’t allowed to leave their classrooms, three minutes after police arrived. Rae’s staff keycard was deactivated about 20 minutes later, roughly two hours after he informed Tselolikhin he had a gun. Aurora police began searching classrooms until they received a call at 4:08 p.m. from Denver police, who had picked up Rae at his home.
Several problems came to light during this period, including that there was no procedure for deactivating a suspect’s keycard during an emergency and that some teachers opened the door for administrators who came to clear their classrooms, even though the protocol told them only to let police or security staff in.
The audit also noted staff’s concerns they were misled because the initial message they received about the lockdown was “rumors of an armed individual in the area,” and that Tselolikhin allegedly continued to mislead them at meetings to discuss the incident over the next few days. In the following days, parents complained that they hadn’t received enough information from the district, but the district expressed concerns in the audit that too much had to leaked to staff and the media, possibly compromising the investigations into Rae.
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