in Houston, Texas

Former Yates High Principal Ronald Mumphery accused of sexual harassment, HISD records show

Friday, Nov 05, 2010, 08:44PM CST
By Lynn Walsh
Yates High SchoolYates High School

A former principal of one of Houston’s largest public high schools is currently under investigation for multiple allegations of sexual misconduct with former employees and a former student, records show. 

The allegations against Ronald Mumphery, former prinicipal of Yates High School, date back to the early 1980’s and include allegations of staff members exchanging sexual favors for preferential treatment and overtime pay from the principal and allegations that Mumphery grabbed and sexually touched a 17-year-old cheerleader and student back in 1984. 

Multiple witnesses and alleged victims’ testimonies are outlined in a Houston Independent School District investigation report made public to Texas Watchdog Friday. The district reassigned Mumphery in late September, saying publicly only that Mumphery had been accused of unspecified “professional misconduct,” without elaborating. He filed paperwork with the school system a few days later to retire.

A 30-year veteran of the Houston schools, Mumphery, reached by telephone Friday afternoon, said the accusations were news to him. “I don’t know anything about that and nothing like that ever happened,” he said, but said he does have a lawyer.  

The news in September that Mumphery had been reassigned made headlines across the city. He had taken the helm in 2008 at Yates, one of the city’s most historic schools, and one whose history is closely intertwined with that of the surrounding Third Ward. 

Mumphery has previously served as principal at Houston’s Cullen Middle School and an assistant principal at Jones High. He earned more than $109,000 last year, according to an HISD salary database.

The allegations came to light, records show, after Houston school Superintendent Terry Grier received an anonymous letter in mid-September alleging sexual misconduct by the former principal.

HISD investigators then reached out to numerous former students and employees of Mumphery, including a current HISD employee who said she was accosted by Mumphrey when she was a student of his 16 years ago. 

The women told investigators she was a cheerleader at Yates at the time, and the report says Mumphrey was a teacher and coach there. 

In the report, the former cheerleader said Mumphery called her into his office after school one day.She said she “thought nothing of it” because Mumphery was her coach, and she worked as an office worker so “she trusted Mr. Mumphery.”

In an interview with the school district, the former cheerleader detailed the incident that occurred back in 1984:

“She alleged that as soon as she came in the room he started talking sexually to her. She said she was shocked and about to leave when he grabbed her arm, pulled her to him and stuck his tongue in her ear.”

The former cheerleader said she immediately ran out of his office to the principal at the time, Osby Mitchell. According to the report, Mumphery allegedly ran after the young woman, telling her to stop, but she kept running.

“Someone is out to smear me, I have never heard of that report, and I have never heard those allegations,” Mumphery said in an interview with Texas Watchdog Friday afternoon. 

He said he is not sure why someone is out to smear him: “I can’t answer that and I really don’t want to talk anymore and I don’t know anything about it. Wow.”

The former cheerleader told school authorities she told Mitchell what had happened and asked him to call her parents; the young woman said her parents were “very upset,” but said she as unsure whether Mumphery was punished by the school system over her accusations.

“She stated she does not know exactly what Mr. Mitchell did to Mr. Mumphery but she thinks her father confronted Mr. Mumphery and told him to leave her alone because he never approached her again.”

There was no mention of the former cheerleader’s allegations in Mumphery’s personnel file when Texas Watchdog reviewed it recently. 

“I don’t know anything about it and have never even heard about it,” Mumphery told Texas Watchdog. “I have no response and don’t know anything about it.”

When asked if the allegations were true, Mumphery said, “I have no comment.”

Even though it happened more than 20 years ago, the woman told HISD “it still haunts her every day.”

HISD investigators also spoke with a former district employee who worked with Mumphery while he was a principal at Cullen Middle. According to the report, the woman said Mumphery “was extremely flirtatious with her but she rebuffed his advances.”

The woman said after she refused Mumphery’s advances she was reassigned to another school because Mumphery “did not want her on his team.” 

Other allegations against Mumphery in the report include:

+ A former Yates employee who said she was sexually harassed by Mumphery and was forced to relocate because “she could not take it anymore."

+ Allegations from a former HISD employee that school workers earned overtime pay for being “good” and attending “late dinners with Mumphery.”

+ A former employee who worked for Mumphery who said, “they had a name for all of us that came from Cullen with him. We were all women you know, they called us ‘Mumphery’s girls.’” When the woman was asked whether she had ever had sex with Mumphery, she said, “I did everything but have sex with that man.”

+ A former employee at Cullen who said she complained about Mumphery’s behavior but was told “they could not do anything to him because it was her word against his since there were no witnesses.”

The internal HISD investigation found some of the interviews with alleged victims and witnesses to be credible, the report shows. 

According to the investigation report, HISD found the former cheerleader’s allegations to be “highly credible” and that the woman “had no motive for lying.” Several other interviews in the report were also found to be credible.

Despite finding the interviews with alleged victims and witnesses to be credible, HISD “found no evidence that Mr. Mumphery was currently engaging in inappropriate conduct with students at Yates High School.”

The report continues to say:

“It is more likely than not that Mr. Mumphery established a pattern of engaging in inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature with subordinates ... there were two additional complaints by subordinates during his employment at HISD.”

One of the formal complaints against Mumphery was made in October 2000, according to documents obtained by Texas Watchdog through the state public information law.

A teacher at Jones High School, where Mumphery was assistant principal at the time, accused Mumphery of sexual harassment in late September 2000, the document says. The investigation found “no evidence to substantiate” the charges, but the school’s principal at the time asked Mumphery to write a letter of apology to the woman and be careful of his actions around employees in the future.

In the letter of apology, Mumphery said:

“It is always my intent to serve the students and staff at Jones High School in a professional manner and always within the policies of the Houston Independent School District. At no time will you or any other staff member be addressed in an unprofessional manner. I apologize for any embarrassment that you perceived that I have caused you. You will always be addressed in a professional manner.”

The other complaint, which was referenced in the investigation report made public Friday, was described only as being filed in 2003 by someone who witnessed the undescribed event. A copy of this report did not turn up when Texas Watchdog reviewed Mumphery’s personnel file.

The report “confirmed that Mr. Mumphery engaged in unacceptable conduct of a sexual nature with student ... when she was 17 and a senior at Yates High School in 1984.” 

According to an HISD lawyer, the police department for the school district is currently investigating the allegations against Mumphery.

Contact Lynn Walsh at lynn@texaswatchdog.org or 713-228-2850 or on Twitter at @lwalsh.

Comments
Backlash
Monday, 11/08/2010 - 12:26PM

1984, really, HISD Board should be expelled, fired or disembowel, if this really happened and they are just now trying the respond to these allegations.

I think this is bullshit; they are upset with the Principal because HISD wanted him to fire the Basketball coach last year for running the score up on its opponents, especially the Robert E. Lee High school in Houston Texas (170-35).

These people are nasty, vindictive, feeble minded individuals….However, if this is true, then this is a travesty of justice and his managers and anyone else that supervised him (Mumphery) should be charged as an accomplice ….20 years ago, really

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