Fort Worth middle school principal accused of leaving her children alone at hotel

FORT WORTH -- A Fort Worth middle school principal was behind bars Sunday on a charge that she abandoned her children at a hotel to go to a nightclub in downtown Dallas, authorities said Sunday.

Carla Westbrook-Spaniel, 44, the wife of an Army Reserve captain who is in Iraq, was in the Dallas County Jail on Sunday in lieu of $30,000 bail.

Westbrook-Spaniel, the principal at J.P. Elder Middle School, was arrested about 1:30 a.m. Saturday in Dallas after she scuffled with a bouncer and Dallas police near a nightclub in the 1500 block of Main Street, according to a report by The Dallas Morning News.

Dallas police arrested her on suspicion of public intoxication after smelling alcohol on her breath, the report states.

During her arrest, police learned that Westbrook-Spaniel's children, ages 3 and 4, were alone in a room at the Adolphus hotel downtown, the paper reported.

Officers found the children sleeping naked. The children were hungry and were given something to eat, the paper reported.

Police took custody of the children and notified Child Protective Services.

After reaching her husband, Capt. Keith Spaniel, who was deployed to Iraq in August, authorities released the children to his family.

Military officials are helping the family, said Lt. Col. Kelly Broome on Sunday, commander of the 490th Civil Affairs Battalion based in Grand Prairie.

"I haven't talked to her, but stress exists after deployments," Broome said Sunday.

Broome noted that Spaniel is on his third deployment.

"The challenges that families face are huge," Broome said. "We're attempting to do whatever we can to help."

Broome said Sunday that a battalion chaplain visited Westbrook-Spaniel in the Dallas County Jail late Saturday. Broome also said military officials are working to get Keith Spaniel back sooner than his scheduled fall return.

Westbrook-Spaniel has been principal at Elder Middle School since the fall of 2006, according to the Fort Worth school district's website.

She has been an elementary and high school principal in El Paso, Dallas and Tulsa. She also earned a doctorate in education in 2008.

Fort Worth school officials will start their investigation of Westbrook-Spaniel today.

"Dr. Spaniel has a long history of excellence as a leader and an educator," district spokesman Clint Bond said Sunday. "We've not yet had the opportunity to speak with her about this."

Staff writer Eva-Marie Ayala contributed to this report.