Bullying is something that plagues schools across the world, often leaving educators at a loss as to how best to deal with the situation. Some kids just enjoy being nasty to those they think are weaker than themselves, and that’s a sad fact of life.
When Dr. Lance Hindt took his position as district superintendent of the Katy Independent School district in Katy, Texas, bullying wasn’t something he was about to allow. When revelations came out that he was allegedly a “vicious bully” more than 30 years ago during his school days though, it would end up costing him his job as well as his reputation.
Katy Independent School
The Katy Independent School District has more than 70,000 students. Consisting of elementary schools, junior high schools, and high schools, the district serves 181 square miles spanning parts of Harris County, Fort Bend County, and Waller County. When Dr. Lance Hindt took a job as district superintendent there, he was excited about the future.
School bullies are a fact of life, and most people knew at least one if not more while at school. Naturally, stronger children, as well as those from troubled homes, can easily become bullies, especially if it gains them popularity. But the weaker kids or those considered less “cool” often fall prey to serious violence and intimidation. Children are often forced to leave schools when the going gets too tough, while teachers do what they can to control the bullying.
When Hindt took the job at the school, one of his first priorities was to stamp out bullying. An interview back in August 2016 claimed that Hindt “takes bullying very seriously,” according to Fox 26. But a year and a half later and Hindt was accused of “vicious bullying” when he was in school back in 1982.
Just 18 months into his new role, Hindt was accused by a former classmate of being a bully. Greg Barrett said about Hindt “Lance; you were the one who shoved my head in the urinal,” according to Fox 26. However, Hindt said he barely remembers what happened more than 30 years ago, saying “Bullying is wrong. It was then, and it is today.”
Judge David Carpenter, who now presides over a criminal court in Alabama, wasn’t the big and powerful character he is now when he was back at school. He remembers Hindt all too well and also joined the fray to condemn him. “He was a vicious bully. He was a thug. He was a wealthy thug, but he was a thug,” he said. And while the judge did what he could to avoid being one of Hindt’s victims back then, he watched his antics in horror.
Judge Carpenter told reporters that he remembers Hindt from Taylor High School all those years ago. “He was physically threatening some of my teammates, just menacing them, standing over them and eventually started throwing weight plates at them, 25-pound weight plates at them,” recalled Carpenter. But there were even more revelations which Hindt assumed were as long forgotten as his football career.
For Carpenter, the worst part of Hindt’s bullying was the fact it was intense and took place on an almost daily basis. And to make matters worse, Hindt allegedly used to enjoy bragging about beating on other people. “He liked to brag about beating up other people, and at one point he even bragged about beating up a police officer,” Carpenter said. But when the judge read Hindt’s public denial that he ever bullied anyone, he felt compelled to speak out.
Judge Carpenter said that based on Hindt’s conduct during his school days he assumed he would probably be behind bars by now. “I thought he might be in prison somewhere based on the way he behaved in high school,” he said. But according to Hindt, “There’s usually two sides to a story.”
While he didn’t want to take responsibility for his sins of the past, Hindt claimed during a special board meeting at the school that a “smear campaign” had been waged against him. That campaign led to his resignation from his position within the Katy Independent School District.
While the school offered to pay for an attorney to pursue a defamation case in support of Hindt, he spoke out during the board meeting. “My family is now my number one priority – they are innocent bystanders,” he said. “In light of an organized, relentless and dishonest smear campaign against me, I cannot remain as superintendent of Katy ISD.”
By all accounts, Hindt may not be too bothered that he was forced to resign as a result of the allegations against him. At that very same board meeting, it was decided that he would receive the equivalent of two years base pay, which translates to a massive $750,000 payout. His contract was also amended by the school board, most of whom were on his side of the argument.
Greg Barrett spoke of his shock that Hindt had been forced to resign as a result of the allegations. To his mind, all Hindt needed to do was to say a simple “I’m sorry” for what he did back in school. “This is not what I wanted at all. I’m horrified,” he said. “I just can’t believe that he resigned. It breaks my heart.” Ironically, Berrett believes that Hindt was the right man for the job. “I’m disappointed that he resigned. He was the right person to fix this problem.”
For Hindt, returning to Katy as superintendent was his highest professional honor. “It was a dream I longed for,” Hindt said. “Serving the students, parents, staff, and taxpayers of Katy taught me more than I ever taught anyone. … This malicious campaign against me is hurting [my family] severely and I cannot allow it any further,” he said. “I cannot justify putting my wife and kids through it anymore.”
Simply not True
As is almost always the case in smear campaigns, somebody had to be lying. Hindt claims that Berrett made up the story in the boys’ bathroom. “It simply is not true,” he said in an official statement according to Chron.com. The only thing he did admit is that he wasn’t a “perfect person.” “I certainly wasn’t as a teenager, and I am not as an adult,” he said. “When I was young and dumb, I did dumb things.”
According to Charles Griffin, secretary of the Katy ISD trustees, the past few months have been the most troubling time for him in six years on the school board. “We’ve been subject to months of personal and professional attacks that continue to escalate outside the original topic of classroom bullying,” Griffin said. He added that the cyberbullying suffered by Hindt completely “crossed the line.”
Paying the Price
To Griffin’s mind, as well as the trauma caused to Hindt and his family, it’s the school kids at Katy district who ultimately paid the price. “It’s time to say enough,” Griffin said. “This side show has cost this district money, it has cost us time, and our children are the ones who are paying the price.” But another board member said he was “heartsick” when he heard Hindt was leaving the school.
George Scott, another long-serving school board member also spoke about Hindt’s impromptu resignation. “It makes me sick to my stomach that we’re losing this man,” Scott said. “The viciousness, the meanness, of what has happened to his family is despicable.” However, there’s usually no smoke without fire, and it’s not as if Judge Carpenter is the lying type.
Ashley Vann, the Katy board president, also spoke out about the shocking revelations, noting that Hindt has always been “transparent and forthcoming” with the trustees since joining the school.”He works harder than anyone I know in the field of public education,” she said, adding that Hindt was a “passionate educator” and “kind friend.”
Despite the allegations against him, many people in the community were so outraged that Hindt resigned that they set up an online petition. The petition page on Change.org states: “The signers of this petition are showing the school board and employees of Katy ISD that we strongly support Dr. Hindt and we know that he is the person that needs to sit in his current position of Superintendent.” Although no one believes at this stage that Hindt will want his job back even if it’s offered to him.
While Hindt denies that he was a bully during his school days, many people who knew him back then disagree. The other issue is a moral one regarding blaming someone for something they allegedly did 30 years after the fact. For Hindt, the $750,000 payout for resigning will probably mean that, despite the hit to his reputation, he won’t be too upset about leaving the Katy school district.