Last Thursday, Boston Public Schools spokesman Jonathan Palumbo said Dean Walter Hilliard had been suspended pending an internal investigation. But Palumbo changed his story on Tuesday after a source within the school said that Hilliard was there. Palumbo said that he was given “bad information” and that the dean was never on leave.
Officials at the Boston Public Schools spent last week struggling among themselves to figure out if a dean of students at the Urban Science Academy had been suspended following accusations that he shoved and threatened a student.
Last Thursday, BPS spokesman Jonathan Palumbo said that Dean Walter Hilliard had been suspended pending an internal investigation. But Palumbo changed his story on Tuesday after a source within the school said that Hilliard was there. Palumbo said that he was given “bad information” and that the dean was never on leave.
“Given that it was vacation, they just moved forward with the disciplinary hearing. The headmaster was able to move forward,” said Palumbo.
The victim, a 15-year-old Boston Public Schools student, said Hilliard pushed her out into the rain and threatened to kill her.
According to Boston Police, Hilliard acknowledged a statement he made to the student “was inappropriate.”
When Shekila Butler got sick two weeks ago at the Urban Science Academy, she did what the school required. She waited in an office at the West Roxbury Education Complex for a dean to give her a pass that would excuse her from classes after her mother picked her up.
But Butler never got the pass.
Instead, the ninth-grader from Roxbury was allegedly harassed and assaulted.
The girl said she was sitting in the school’s administrative office on Wednesday, Feb. 13, when she said something about oral sex that Hilliard, who is also the school’s varsity boys’ basketball coach, found offensive.
“He came out of his office yelling, ‘Who said that?’ and I said ‘I did’ and he automatically jumped up and flared up,” said Butler, adding that the administrator seemed upset because her comments were made in the presence of a secretary.
Butler, who said that she calls all adults “sir” and “ma’am,” immediately apologized, but it reportedly was not enough. Hilliard then allegedly told the teenager to get out, but couldn’t because she had nowhere to go. She was waiting for her mother and needed a pass that would prevent her from an automatic suspension for skipping class.
Hilliard then, according to Butler, “pushed and shoved” the student after she announced that she would ask the nurse for the necessary note.
“I told him not to force me. I told him he was putting his hands on me,” said Butler of the incident in which the dean allegedly wouldn’t move his hands from her shoulders. She also said he grabbed her arm.
Knowing that she had no way of retaliating, Butler fought back verbally.
“I said to him, ‘What would you do if I smacked you?’” said Butler.
She said his response shocked and scared her.
“He said, ‘Then you’ll die right here, little girl,” said Butler.
Butler’s recollection of the incident is corroborated by a police report filed after the incident in which Hilliard was interviewed.
Headmaster Rasheed Meadows did not respond to a message left on his cell phone. The Transcript was unable to contact Hilliard, who has been neither charged nor arrested for his reported behavior.
The suspect, as police referred to Hilliard, “stated his statement was inappropriate.” In police reports, Butler is referred to as the victim.
In addition to threatening a student, Hilliard also allegedly pushed his way to what he wanted — he kicked the 15-year-old out of the school before her mother’s arrival.
“I was trying to find my cell phone and call my mother when he pushed me out of the school doors,” said Butler, an asthmatic who found herself outside in the rain with no place to go.
After making her way to Home Depot, she called her mother, Nichole Butler, who phoned Boston Police and the school to talk with Hilliard.
Hilliard, according to Nichole Butler, allegedly told her that he did not have time for her.
“I called back and he answered, ‘I’m too busy to deal with this,’” said Nichole Butler of the conversation she tried to have as she drove across Boston to get to her daughter.
Once inside the school, the Butlers sat down with Meadows and Hilliard. Two BPD detectives who were in the building for an unrelated incident were also on hand.
“[He first] said he never put his hands on my daughter, but I told him that my daughter would not lie to me. I said that she may lie to you, but never lies to me. Then I said to him, you’re lying and I’m right here,” said the mother.
A school police officer who witnessed Hilliard’s alleged confession also provided a statement, according to the victim’s mother.
BPD detectives also visited the family’s home the night of the incident.
“She [the detective] was like, ‘We’re sorry for what happened’ and handed me a police report. She said we’d get another police report and a court date, but we haven’t received anything else,” said Nichole Butler, whose daughter returned to school on Monday for the first time since the incident.
Hilliard, she said, “Should not be working with kids.”
While Palumbo said the results of the hearing would be part of Hilliard’s record, he said the findings would not be “for public consumption,” but they would be shared with the victim and her family.
Jessica Smith can be reached at email@example.com.
West Roxbury Transcript