Local News

Second sexual battery complaint filed against Zebulon school headmaster

Posted March 15, 2012 11:50 a.m. EDT
Updated March 15, 2012 7:00 p.m. EDT

— A second female employee at a Zebulon charter school has filed a criminal complaint against the school's headmaster, claiming sexual battery, the town's police chief said Thursday.

The board of directors at East Wake Academy placed Brandon Smith on a paid leave of absence Wednesday evening while it investigates a personnel matter involving him.

The board's vice chairman, Bill Ausley would not say what the matter was.

"I ask that nobody assume anything until (the investigation's) concluded, perhaps in a court of law," he said.

Zebulon Police Chief Timothy Hayworth said Thursday that the employee filed the complaint late Wednesday evening, hours after another employee filed a similar complaint.

Sexual battery, Hayworth said, is unwanted touching for sexual gratification.

"We're going to be following up on this case like we would any case," he said. "The assumption of innocence is there. It's innocent until proven guilty."

Smith, 57, who has been the headmaster at East Wake Academy for nearly a decade, has not been charged with any crime.

He said Wednesday that the accusations are from disgruntled former employees.

"I'm bound … by personnel law in terms of what I can say," he said. "I can tell you this: I continue to follow policy. I have always put children first, and I have not done anything wrong or harmed anyone."

Parents' reaction were mixed Thursday.

"The principal seemed like a really good guy, and he probably still is," Amy Shirley said. "I don't know what the circumstances are, but it's just a shame that we're all having to deal with it."

"I know one of the teachers really well," Bonnie Taylor said. "She was one of my son's teachers. She's really a wonderful teacher, and so I'm really saddened by all of this."

The allegations aren't the first for Smith, who was the principal of Githens Middle School in Durham in the late 1990s.

Court records show that a chorus teacher filed a lawsuit against the Durham County Board of Education, alleging that it ignored complaints that Smith "created a sexually hostile work environment by engaging in sexually explicit and suggestive behavior toward her."

The complaint alleged that Smith would tell the teacher that he thought she was "beautiful" and "sexy" and that on one occasion, he kissed her with an open mouth after grabbing her and pulling her to him.

Smith was suspended in February 2000 and resigned five months later. The lawsuit was eventually settled out of court.

Prior to working in Durham, Smith was an assistant principal at Enloe High School in Raleigh from 1990 to 1993, according to the Wake County Public School System. It's unclear why he left.