The special education director of Denver Public Schools was placed on administrative leave Wednesday, nine years after being accused of sexual harassment as a principal using a different first name.
Michael Winston was the principal at Palo Alto High School in California, where he went by Phil Winston, when he was accused of making several sexually inappropriate comments to high school girls and female teachers in 2014.
Winston was removed from his position as principal and issued a formal “notice of unprofessional conduct and unsatisfactory performance.”
Despite the reprimand and at the protest of parents, he was put back in the classroom as a middle school special education teacher in the same district. Superintendent Kevin Skelly claimed at the time he didn’t believe Winston would repeat his actions, according to Palo Alto Online.
“While the behavior that was exhibited at Palo Alto High School was totally unacceptable, we have no reason to believe that the type of conduct that occurred there will be repeated,” Skelly said. “We will continue to monitor the situation and make sure that our goal of achieving and maintaining a safe school environment for all students and staff is met.”
But the next year, in 2015, Winston was paid $150,000 from the school district in exchange for his resignation from his middle school teaching position, according to Palo Alto Online.
Winston was later hired by Denver Public Schools in 2020.
The Denver district officials who hired Winston and later promoted him, reportedly maintain they had no knowledge of the past allegations.
Winston passed a background check because he had never been convicted of a crime or charged. A Google search turned up multiple stories about Winston’s misconduct in Palo Alto, but they were all under his former first name, according to The Colorado Sun.
In the past, Denver Public Schools called Winston’s work “exemplary.” The district stated in October they stood behind their decision to hire him, according to the Sun.
A school district spokesperson confirmed Thursday that Winston was placed on leave but did not say why.