NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A Nashville principal has faced allegations that he created a culture inside his school that "would make Stormy Daniels blush," a NewsChannel 5 investigation has discovered.
Among the allegations against John F. Kennedy Middle School principal Dr. Sam Braden: unwanted sexual advances, sexually suggestive comments, and efforts to intimidate those who speak out. He's even accused of hiring one school worker from a local adult bookstore that he frequented.
The allegations are detailed inside two Metro Schools internal investigations obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates. (Read the full reports here.)
Braden has insisted that he did nothing wrong. He declined to comment for this report.
"This is happening, and people know about it," said a man who made one of the first complaints against Braden.
The man didn't want to show his face or reveal his identity because, he said, what happened to him was so embarrassing.
He said he met Braden while working for a furniture company. He delivered a TV to the principal's house, and Braden suggested he come to work at JFK Middle as a clerk and as a football coach.
"I really thought it was a good foot in the door for Metro because it is a good company to work for," the man told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
But right after the start of last year's fall semester, the man told investigators, Braden had a strange question.
It was the same story he shared with NewsChannel 5.
"First week of school, he asked me 'you didn't thank me yet, have you?' Yes, I have thanked you, I thanked you a couple of times. 'No, you haven't thanked me.' That's when he went from my eyes to my crotch," the man said.
We asked, "He was obviously looking at your crotch?"
"Yes, obviously," the man said. "He kind of rared back in his seat, bit his lip and went from eyes to crotch."
The man said he tried to ignore Braden's suggestions, but his boss wouldn't take the hint.
"That's when they started getting more aggressive, his advances started getting more aggressive."
Then, one day last December, the man told investigators, Braden asked him to step behind his desk.
"Come around the desk and let me taste it," the man remembered Braden saying.
"Referring to oral sex?" we asked.
"Yes, sir. I looked at him and I said, 'Excuse me.' And he's like, 'yeah, you know.' That's when I let him know, like, I'm a married man. And he lets me know he's a married man as well. I'm like, yeah, my marriage probably means a little bit more."
But before the man left, he told investigators, Braden had a warning.
"He says to me, you know, I can make it really difficult for you to get a job with Metro or I could make it really easy," the man recalled.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "He's telling you that he has power over you?"
"You thought that was a threat?"
Among the first people he went to was assistant principal Howard Jones.
Jones reported it to Central Office, and Braden was called to Human Resources.
But instead of being placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, as usually happens, the principal was sent back to his school.
Jones later emailed HR officials, saying: "I was directed by Dr. Braden to escort the victim out of the building with a police escort."
He added, "This was awful."
"You have a hallway full of kids and now you have coach being escorted out," the man recalled.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "So what was going through your mind when this police officer was escorting you out of the school building?"
"That he really kept his end of what he said, that he would make it really, really difficult."
Braden later denied the allegations to investigators, claiming it was either "a form of retaliation" for a reprimand he'd given the man... or because he was "a little jealous."
But Metro's own investigative files are filled with other allegations against the JFK principal.
A teacher told investigators about a custodian who suddenly left, supposedly because "Braden was coming on to him."
There is no evidence in the file that HR investigators followed up on that lead.
A bookkeeper said Braden had inquired about whether the coach "might be bi-sexual."
She also claimed that another recent hire revealed he had previously worked at Miranda's adult bookstore, that he "has been knowing Braden for four years from being a frequent customer."
In fact, that employee's job application does show that he worked at Miranda's for three years prior to going to work at JFK Middle.
The alleged victim said the recent hire was very open about his past.
"He was actually an attendant there, said Dr. Braden used to come by often, he said that was their relationship," he recalled.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "So what did people think the fact that the principal had hired someone from an adult bookstore?"
He answered, "You know what, I think that's one of those that he thought that with him being who he is, that it wouldn't matter, I can hire who I want to hire."
Those investigative files also reveal another assistant principal kept a journal about Braden's conduct.
One entry reads, "Interviewed woman. When she left, he stated that one of her boobs was bigger than the other one, so he couldn't hire her."
Another staff member noted that Braden claimed he saw another teacher "scratching her p....y."
Two male teachers also reported the principal liked to boast about his penis size.
The alleged victim said he saw it when attractive moms would come to school to check on their children.
"He'd say, for instance, 'yeah she couldn't handle big daddy,' then do a little tug at the pants."
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "He would say that about a parent?"
The man exclaimed, "A parent! You know, it's like we're all in the front office. You're the principal, man. You can't say these things, but there was never anything above him saying it."
Ultimately, HR personnel concluded there was "not sufficient evidence to support a finding of sexual harassment," although they concluded his behavior might have been "intimidating and inappropriate."
They recommended Braden be given "management training."
His alleged victim wasn't so lucky.
"I knew that if I did say something, that it would ruffle some feathers and I may walk away from this job," he recalled.
The man was told he could come back to work, but says he didn't want to be anywhere near Braden.
So, he quit.
He's tried to get jobs with other Nashville schools, but says those fell through when the principals checked with JFK Middle.
Assistant principal Howard Jones later filed a complaint, alleging that Braden retaliated against him for reporting the man's allegations. Braden eliminated Jones' position at JFK Middle.
"I have witnessed verbal atrocities in this school under the guise of education that would make Stormy Daniels blush and now I'm displaced by that same element," Jones wrote to HR officials.
"This type of bullying and retaliation is not fair or professional to the employees, students, parents or this city that we are to serve."
As for Schools Director Dr. Shawn Joseph, he recently warned school board members that there might be some upcoming stories about the district's HR investigations. He promised to push lawmakers to make such files confidential in the future.
That made no sense to the man who says he was the one violated.
"You're not trying to adjust this situation, you're not even trying to attack it. You just want to sweep this under the rug, this never happened."
The files contain lots of other allegations, including school employees being asked to lie about the alleged victim being habitually late -- something that Dr. Braden also denied.
Metro Schools spokesperson Dawn Rutledge said, in a statement to NewsChannel 5 Investigates, that Braden should have been placed on administrative leave while the investigation was conducted.
But Rutledge said the initial leave letter was improperly drafted.
"There was some confusion regarding reissuing a corrected leave letter to reflect our current practice," she said. "Unfortunately, the re-issuance of the correct version of the administrative leave letter did not take place and Dr. Braden returned to work."
The spokesperson also claimed that Braden had the accuser escorted from campus because there were "allegations" that he "was being disruptive."
However, no such allegation is ever mentioned in the HR files.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates reached out to Dr. Braden last week, asking him to sit down with us to give us his side of the story.