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Fort Worth principal accused of leaving children at hotel is put on paid administrative leave

FORT WORTH -- A Fort Worth middle school principal was placed on paid administrative leave Monday after being arrested last weekend in Dallas.

Carla Westbrook-Spaniel, 44, principal at J.P. Elder Middle School, was arrested over the weekend, accused of abandoning her children at a Dallas hotel to go to a nightclub, officials said.

Her husband, Army Reserve Capt. Keith Spaniel, who was deployed in Iraq, is set to return to Texas in the next few days, said Lt. Col. Kelly Broome, commander of the 490th Civil Affairs Battalion based in Grand Prairie.

Police accuse Westbrook-Spaniel of leaving her two children, ages 3 and 4, at the Adolphus hotel downtown to go to a nightclub. When the club's bouncer did not let her in, she became angry and punched him, police said.

She was arrested on suspicion of public intoxication at about 1:30 a.m. Saturday. Police then learned that she left her children alone at the hotel, where they were found naked and hungry, authorities said.

Westbrook-Spaniel remained in the Dallas County Jail on Monday with bail set at $30,000. The children are with her husband's family.

Military officials are helping the family, and a battalion chaplain visited her Sunday, Broome said. Keith Spaniel is on his third deployment and had originally been set to return from Iraq in the fall.

Westbrook-Spaniel has been principal at Elder Middle School since fall 2006. She has been an elementary and high school principal in El Paso, Dallas and Tulsa.

Parent Rachel Moreno said Westbrook-Spaniel is always willing to talk to parents and promptly address concerns. She said the principal recently appeared tired and had mentioned that she would miss an off-campus event because she was under some stress with her husband being away.

"I saw her always trying to encourage the students to participate in school activities and at the same time encourage them to study hard," Moreno said. "I never once saw her as incapable of being a good principal."

EVA-MARIE AYALA, 817-390-7700

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