On Monday, teachers and community members stepped up for the Katy Independent School District’s superintendent after he was accused of bullying more than 40 years ago.
“We thought, 'Now is the time for us to rally around our superintendent and (show him) how much we support him, how much we appreciate him and how much we love him,” said Debbi Ellis, a fifth-grade teacher who organized the prayer circle.
Around 100 people waited outside the Katy ISD administration building to support Dr. Lance Hindt before he went to the board of trustees meeting.
“He’s a good man, a God-fearing man and it’s time he be put back on where he should be, in a positive light,” said Ellis.
The crowd erupted in applause when Hindt walked out, surrounded him and prayed over him.
“It’s unfortunate. I’m sorry for the community that we had to go through this, but I also believe through controversy comes togetherness and that’s what you’re seeing here today and seen in the last few weeks,” said Hindt in response to the prayer circle. He said he’s received support over the last month via email and texts.
Hindt came under fire last month after a former junior high school classmate, Greg Gay, accused the superintendent of bullying during public comment at a Katy ISD school board meeting.
“Lance, you were the one that shoved my head in the urinal,” said Gay during the meeting in March. “I got the .45 out of my father's drawer and put it in my mouth because, at this point, I had nobody, nobody in the school system to help me," Gay said.
Gay said he even changed his name to Barrett after he was picked on. He told the school board Hindt shoved his head into a urinal, causing a cut to his lip.
Hindt is seen in the video chuckling after Barrett leaves the podium.
"Please know my reaction this past Monday night was one of shock," Hindt said. "It wasn't one of disrespect or insensitivity. I was purely shocked."
On Monday night, during public comment, several people who either know Hindt from former districts or are part of the Katy ISD stood up for the superintendent. Whenever people praised Hindt, the room erupted in applause, and there was a little sound of booing.
About a handful of people spoke against, not specifically Hindt, but bullying. Gay said the reason he brought the incident up in the first place last month was to bring attention to Katy ISD bullying policies.
“I didn’t come here to attack Lance, I came here to put light on a very dark subject that I still have pain over and I still have that scar,” said Gay. “I have forgiven Lance. I have forgiven Lance and all the other kids who used to do the same things. That’s water under the bridge, but we’re still having problems in the school district.”
“The whole time I’ve said, 'I do not want this man to lose his job.' He is the perfect person to fix it. He’s been through the entire system. It’s been proven he was a bully in junior high. He was a bully in high school. He knows the loopholes -- those needs to be closed, those needs to be fixed so this doesn’t continue to happen and we don’t have another Parkland,” said Gay.
Since the incident came to light, more than 5,000 people signed an online petition through Change.org, asking the superintendent to step down.
"I regret the negative attention that's been brought to this community in the past week," Hindt said. "Ultimately, I'll be judged by one person."
Hindt denied Gay's accusations.
While he did not retract his innocence, he did say, "I am not a perfect person."
On Monday afternoon, Hindt said he would be willing to meet with Gay.
“I hope, at some point, we can sit down, and not in a very big public forum, and we can have a candid conversation and piece together a timeline,” said Hindt.
“This will be great. That’s the first I heard of it,” said Gay. “Absolutely, absolutely,” he said, he would want to meet with Hindt.
This is the full statement from Hindt on the allegations:
“It was difficult for me to listen to a gentleman Monday night recount a bullying incident he said occurred more than 35 years ago. As superintendent in three school districts in Texas, I have always tried to create an environment where every student is safe -- physically and emotionally. But when an individual impugns my character and reputation as the instigator of those actions, I am disappointed because it simply is not true. I do not recall this person from my childhood.
"I did not graduate from the same high school as Mr. Barrett, though we did attend the same junior high in 1978. And my junior high principal -- Mr. McMeans -- would never have let me (or anyone else) get away with the actions he described.
"I do not suggest that Mr. Barrett was not bullied, only that I was not part of it. Bullying is wrong. Period. It was then and it is today. At Katy ISD, we are always looking for ways to make our campuses and our students safe. I am proud to lead a district that is not afraid to confront bullying behavior – whether in person or online. We are always challenging our teachers and principals to identify harmful behavior and to intervene as necessary.”
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