Allegations of sexual harassment dig deep into South community


Henry Holcomb

In mid-September allegations of inappropriate messages from South English teacher, Darin Doty, to a South ‘18 graduate surfaced at South after the graduate posted the alleged apology message from Doty on her spam Instagram account. These allegations have had a deep impact on the South community. Many students expressed their feelings of sadness and betrayal, as well as the trust they had placed in Doty. As junior Cor Barnhill said, “He was one of the only adults that I trusted. I don’t really trust adults that easily and he was there for me through a lot of things.”

On Wednesday, September 19th allegations of inappropriate messages from South English teacher, Darin Doty, to a South ‘18 graduate surfaced. By the next day, the allegations had circulated around the school. The source of the allegations was a post on the graduate’s spam Instagram account.

The circulated post was a screenshot of what the graduate says is a message from Doty that had been sent over Instagram direct messages. In the now widely-viewed message, he apologizes and says his marriage and career were jeopardized by sending the inappropriate message. While the graduate did not name Doty in the post, the teacher’s identity is confirmed by the graduate in the comments of the Instagram post as Darin Doty. The apology was sent after the graduate had already alerted South staff and administration. Darin Doty could not be reached for comment.

The graduate had served as a student aide for Doty during their time at South. Doty followed her Instagram account the summer after she graduated. It isn’t uncommon for teachers and students to follow each other on social media after graduation. However, the graduate says she was surprised when she received the inappropriate message. “I was really kind of shocked because I never really pictured that sort of thing to come from him or anyone else really and I was really upset by it. And I felt really strongly that I had to report it because I know that it’s a situation that a lot of other people like have dealt with, not with him necessarily, but just with life in general,” the graduate said. She didn’t expect word to spread as quickly as it did. “Once students start to know about it it’s definitely going to spread like wildfire. But I guess I didn’t expect students to find out as quickly,” she explained.

The absence of Doty from school after these allegations has had a large impact on students both in and outside of the classroom. South administration has been working to make a smooth transition for students in Doty’s classes, particularly AP Literature. “My biggest concern really is to support the students in [Doty’s AP Literature] to make sure that they are successful this spring. So that’s what we’re working on… We want to make sure that our students are safe and feel supported. That’s the biggest message. And for me as a dad and as a principal we don’t tolerate any kind of situation happening,explained South principal Ray Aponte.

Doty’s two sections of AP Literature have been taken over by English teachers Tanya Hodge and Elizabeth Johnson. His Humanities II classes are currently being taught by substitute Allen Guindon. Guindon is looking forward to the rest of the school year: “The students are doing remarkably well with the turnover. A couple have indicated they are nervous and some have asked how long I’ll be here. My goal is to be here until June 6th and give them some stability in this room and have a great time doing it.”

Many students close to Doty expressed feelings of sadness and betrayal. Senior Solana Cushing who had Doty for Humanities II, AP Literature, and an aide hour her junior year said, “I was very disappointed and angry. Obviously, before I knew any of this I thought he was a nice guy and a good teacher, invested in his students. And then right after I was angry.” Junior Nya Alexander who was in AP Literature with Doty this year expressed similar feelings: “I feel like a lot of students feel betrayed because I feel like we deserve Mr. Doty to… [give us] an answer because people were close with Mr. Doty and they just felt… devastated.”

Doty gained the trust of many students. As junior Cor Barnhill said, “He was one of the only adults that I trusted. I don’t really trust adults that easily and he was there for me through a lot of things and he was really accommodating and understanding.” Cushing echoed the sentiment saying, “He was somebody that I trusted and was an adult that was important to me and I felt like somebody who was invested in me as a person and as a student.”

It’s been difficult for students to make sense of Doty’s alleged behavior and their relationship to him. Barnhill feels regrets: “I regret a lot of things… every time I confided in him or even comforted him about stuff because we were really close. I look back on some of the things and I feel really sick.” Cushing’s view of her relationship to Doty has changed over the past few weeks. “Initially I was like ‘all of that isn’t important anymore or isn’t good anymore’… Now I think that it was bad but it doesn’t make him a horrible person, and it doesn’t make his relationship with me and other students not real or not authentic in terms of his intentions and how he wanted to help people,” said Cushing.

Cushing also feels that while Doty’s alleged behavior has betrayed the trust of female students, “I also think a little bit of what is damaging to South is the mob mentality against him, which makes people see people as you’re good or you’re bad… and I think people are really complicated. That’s what I’ve realized in my perceptions of him and people in general, that you can do good things and bad things, be a feminist and then do things that are offensive to women,” Cushing said.

Although feelings towards Doty have been very negative for most, some students, including junior Sylence McKinney, still retain a positive perception of him. “My feelings will just never change with Mr. Doty because he’s a dad to me. That’s how I look at him,” said McKinney. To McKinney, the positive experiences he’s had with Doty are not overshadowed by the allegations, “he’s a guy that’s going to push you and make you a better person.”

McKinney still values the role Doty has had in his life, “I met Doty in third grade [at Andersen United Community School]. Been in his class since fourth grade. I played baseball with Mr. Doty, basketball, and football. And it’s just a bond that we had since elementary school. You know, he’s been there for me. Helping me through school and I’ve looked at him as a dad throughout everything.”

Despite some students continued support for Doty, many students’ sense of betrayal has affected their relationship with teachers overall. “There’s been a lot more distrust of the teachers we have now. I feel like a lot less people aren’t willing to put trust and feel as strongly for teachers anymore because you never know,” explained Barnhill. Apparently, this is even a concern for teachers. “[One of my teachers] said that she’s scared that her students aren’t going to want to come talk to her about what they’re going through because Mr. Doty betrayed a lot of the students trust and she’s scared that students are going to be scared to talk to their teachers about it,” said Alexander.

Although Mr. Doty was in the English department, the effect of his leave has extended into classrooms far beyond his own. “The two of us have the same students so on me it’s been a pretty big impact because [I’m] trying to help them to make sure they have their English work done,” said Jeffrey Buszta, a Humanities II team teacher with Doty. Buszta spoke of how the staff has worked to address the effects of Doty’s leave, “I think we’ve pulled together because we know that it’s for the good of the kids that for them to make sure they get an education regardless of who the teacher is in the room. That’s the important thing, that students are learning.”

Current student views of Doty and opinions on Doty’s future involvement at South vary. The graduate involved feels that whatever the outcome, the situation has been handled well. “It’s really out of my hands but I know that everyone has been taking it really seriously and regardless of the exact outcome I’m really glad that they are dealing with it appropriately and didn’t just brush it off,” said the graduate involved.

McKinney believes that Doty should continue teaching at South, “It would be bad if he resigned because that things that he put into my mind our friends mind like ‘wow you just going to leave like that you just don’t care?’ To me that makes me feel like he just doesn’t care about us if he resigns. That’s how I feel if he resigns,” said McKinney. “But to me showing that he stays and they don’t fire him they give him another chance oh yeah it’s going to be Mr. Doty all over again, but different, but different. A good Mr. Doty this time.”

Others firmly believe that Doty has no place in South now, “I wouldn’t want him back at South, I don’t think he has the right to be,” said current AP Literature student and South junior Ellen Weepie. Cushing expressed a similar feeling: “I don’t think he deserves redemption here, at South. But I think that if he seeks it, that he deserves to have a life at some point, somewhere. I would never wish for him to have a horrible life or never be able to work again.”

Officials in Equality and Civil Rights Department at the Minneapolis Public Schools declined to comment on the existence of an investigation. As of publication, Doty’s name and information no longer appear in the Minneapolis Public School Staff Directory. 

In regard to the process of investigating claims, only complaints in the “protected class” will be investigated at the district level. Francisco Gonzalez, director of Equality and Civil Rights Office, described “protected class” as cases relating to “race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, disability, etc.” The initial assessment of how to proceed with a complaint is handled at the school. The department then investigates the complaint by interviewing parties involved and any witnesses. Afterwards, Gonzalez writes a report deciding whether or not district policy has been violated, which is sent to the report to Human Resources who then makes a decision on what the consequences will be. “The most frequent type of incidents that we have is sexual harassment,” said Gonzalez.

Regardless Doty’s future relationship to South, the anguish that these allegations have inflicted on South has been deep. Students are not only grieving the allegations, but also the loss of a teacher that played an important role in the South community.

Additional reporting by Mia Swanson