Two Palm Beach County, Florida, middle school teachers have been fired after one was arrested for misdemeanor battery and the other was caught on camera yelling at a woman and using bad language in the school parking lot.
Phillip D’Amico, the principal of Watson B. Duncan Middle School, was arrested on March 29 at his home after his wife told police that he had thrown a picture frame at her and hit her during a fight. Charges against him were dropped.
The school district is also looking into Lake Worth Middle Principal Michael Williams, 52, after a video showed him using racist words and yelling at a woman in the school’s parking lot on March 16.
Both men were fired right away, and a probe is still going on. Last week, the school board chose interim presidents for both schools. Watson B. Duncan will be led by Assistant Principal Milranda Vereen and Lake Worth Middle will be run by Dionne Breaux, an instructional support team leader from the district’s regional office.
Both principals were fired, even though neither was accused of mistreating a student. This shows how quickly schools can get rid of workers who get in trouble or are arrested outside of school. When the school board accepted Vereen’s promotion, the charge against D’Amico had been dropped for a week.
The Headmaster of Duncan Was Arrested, but the Charge of Battery Was Dropped. What Went Wrong?
Barbara, who has been married to D’Amico for 30 years, called 911 in the evening of March 29. This is shown by the police record.
When Jupiter police went to the couple’s home south of Tequesta Road, she told them that he had thrown a picture frame at her, breaking the glass, and kicked her in the leg during an argument about “infidelity and marital matters,” the report says.
Barbara D’Amico said she didn’t want to be with her husband that night because she was scared.
D’Amico told the police that he had thrown something at the picture frame, but then he changed his story and said that he had slammed the door and the frame fell off the wall. The arrest record shows that he said he didn’t kick his wife.
D’Amico told the police she didn’t want her husband to be taken into custody.
He was caught, though, and charged with simple battery. Two weeks later, on April 12, the charge was dropped. Court records show that the charges were dropped because there wasn’t enough proof that a witness wouldn’t cooperate.
Since 2014, D’Amico has been the principal at Duncan Elementary School in Palm Beach Gardens. He was moved to a job where he no longer has to deal with children.
Since the charge against D’Amico was dropped, people from the district said they couldn’t say anything about how the investigation will go forward.
What Made the Woman and the Lake Worth Middle School Director Fight So Hard?
Around March 16, a video emerged of a fight between Williams and a woman in the parking lot of Lake Worth Middle School, near 10th Avenue North and West of I-95.
In the short video shown by WPEC-CBS 12 News, Williams seems to use the N-word and call the woman a “Hispanic b****.”
A woman in the car who is taking the video tells Williams that he has to pay to fix her car. Williams tells her that he won’t pay for a “m*****f****** thing.”
Staff at the district say that the video was likely taken after Williams and the woman were in a small car accident.
WPEC-12 didn’t say who the woman was who took the video or what happened before the fight.
There was no record of the driving violation or the fight that followed at the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
Williams has been the principal at Lake Worth Middle since 2015. He was moved to a job where he no longer works with kids.
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District Rules Require Employees to Report Arrests. What’s the Next Step?
Even though the school system has clear rules about how employees can be fired or suspended, there is no official information about what happens after an employee is arrested or how it is decided if they are fired.
If a school district worker is jailed or charged with a crime, they have to tell their boss about it within 48 hours. The boss then has 24 hours to send this report to the people in charge.
The board policy does not say that teachers have to be taken out of the classroom after being arrested, but a representative for the school system said that when an employee is arrested, supervisors start an internal investigation.
When a teacher is taken out of the classroom and investigated for bad behavior, school leaders usually let the parents know.
But on March 30, the district’s Chief of Schools, Ed Tierney, told Duncan’s parents about D’Amico’s arrest and told them that he had been moved to a job where he wouldn’t see children.
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Tierney wrote to the parents that the battery charge was “in no way related to the campus of Watson B. Duncan Middle School.”
Peter Licata, the regional superintendent, sent a note to Williams’ parents on March 16 with little information about what happened.
He wrote, “I’m writing to let you know that an incident involving Principal Michael Williams is being looked into.”
“It’s not typical for the District to talk about specifics of an internal investigation that is still going on, but we can say that a thorough investigation into this one-time incident is already underway. When the District found out what was going on, they acted right away.”
Staff from the school district confirmed that the “incident” Licata wrote about in the note was the fight in the parking lot.
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