Fort Worth’s Dunbar High School Principal Doug Williams has been put on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of an investigation into allegations that he pinched male students on the nipples and took pictures of at least three young men without their shirts.
According to Interim Superintendent Walter Dansby, Williams has admitted to the actions but said the pinching was a disciplinary measure and that the pictures were made at the boys’ request.
It is unclear whether Williams received permission from the boys’ parents for their pictures to be taken. Taking photos without parental OK would be a violation of district policy.
In the district’s student handbook on prohibitions against hazing, pinching is listed as a specific violation. A district official and social worker who intervenes in sexual harassment and bullying cases said pinching of the nipples is “clearly against district policy” that prohibits intimidating or hostile conduct or knowingly inflicting pain upon a student. The official asked not to be named because of potential involvement in the case.
An initial investigation by the Office of Professional Standards, the district’s investigative arm, was closed last month after failing to confirm the allegations. OPS chief Michael Menchaca did not return calls seeking comment.
Dansby said he put Williams on leave on Dec. 13 following the principal’s admissions in order to “find the truth and to be fair to all concerned.” Dansby named Jannis Dilworth as interim principal.
Williams, 56, has been accused of pinching at least five students on the nipples on numerous occasions over the past two school years, according to investigative documents given to Fort Worth Weekly by a school district source. The documents show that several of the boys who were pinched said they also had seen Williams doing the same thing to other male students. The allegations were first reported in September to a Dunbar employee by two boys who said Williams had pinched them. The employee, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, had the boys immediately tell their parents. At least one mother, he said, then reported the pinching to officials at district headquarters.
Then between Oct. 3 and 7, according to the documents, three more young men came forward, telling the employee they had been pinched on the nipples on many occasions. Fort Worth Weekly is not publishing the names of the students or their parents because of privacy concerns.
“They are angry. They said the pinching was very painful. They are also embarrassed,” the employee said. “These are young men who were abused and humiliated.”
The employee took the three students to the campus security office, where each of them filed a complaint.
According to a Tarrant County Child Protective Services worker who asked not to be named, the Dunbar employee did exactly what the law requires. However, the CPS worker found no report filed with her agency about the allegations.
Whether the incidents at Dunbar rise to the level of sexual abuse would have to be investigated, she said, “but it certainly is inappropriate touching.”
Further allegations against Williams came from a second employee, who accused him of taking pictures of several young males last year, shirtless, holding footballs or basketballs and “flexing their muscles.”
Dansby said that Williams, who is an amateur photographer, told him the boys asked that he take their pictures. However, one of the students involved told the employee that the principal approached him and the others and asked if he could take their pictures after school one day last year.
Three boys agreed. All have since graduated and are in college. “They will be questioned [during] the holiday break,” Dansby said.
That second employee was told that the boys met the principal in the field house after hours, when most students and teachers had left the campus. The principal then allegedly asked them to remove their shirts and stand in front of a black cloth that he had hung on a wall. He gave them footballs and basketballs to hold, the employee said, and the boys posed in various positions. The employee saw two of the pictures by accident, in walking up behind Williams in the hall.
“He quickly put them back in an envelope and walked away,” the employee said.
“I was outraged,” the employee said. “These were not proper pictures for an adult to be taking of kids. … I know one of the boys really well, he’s a good kid and a bright student, and he is now embarrassed that he allowed Williams to take these pictures.”
Melinda Hamilton, a community activist whose kids attended Dunbar and who is president of the East Fort Worth Neighborhood Association, said she was shocked at the accusations.
She noted that Dunbar is a school with multiple problems, including a series of failing scores on the states’ academic achievement tests. “The district needs to be focusing its attention of educating these children and not distracted by things like this,” she said.
District 5 schools trustee Christene Moss declined to comment due to the ongoing investigation, she said.
Williams could not be reached for comment.
The Dunbar employees quoted in this story were extremely hesitant to come forward, fearing retaliation by Williams or the district. However, both cited the child sexual abuse cases that have recently surfaced around the country, starting with the criminal charges against the assistant Penn State University football coach Jerry Sandusky, as factors in their decisions to make the allegations known.
Both said that given the seriousness of the Dunbar students’ charges, they had to tell what they knew of Williams’ behavior. Otherwise, one said, “I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror.”
Williams was hired by former superintendent Melody Johnson as principal of Dunbar in 2007. Previously, he had been principal of a similar inner-city high school in San Diego.