Law enforcement documents and sources have revealed previous concerns about former Lincolnton High School principal Tony Worley having inappropriate contact with students.
Worley, 56, is currently under investigation after allegations were made earlier in June by a male student who was enrolled at Lincolnton High School during the 2018-2019 academic year. That student first approached Dr. Heath Belcher, the director of human resources for the school system, who then contacted law enforcement. The student told Belcher, according to a Lincolnton Police Department warrant application, that he was in an emotionally connected relationship with Worley and that Worley had sent him numerous pornographic images and that the two had been having ongoing sexual conversations via text and social media.
A request for incident reports from the Lincolnton Police Department revealed an investigation conducted in 2007 by Detective Matt Painter. In this investigation, the Lincolnton Police Department was approached by the father of a Lincolnton High School student, who was 15 years old at the time. The parent was concerned about the relationship that Worley had with his son. Worley had allegedly been contacting the minor on the social media networking site Myspace. Painter interviewed the alleged victim and couldn’t find any evidence that a crime had been committed. Painter met with then-superintendent Dr. Jim Watson and the school system attorney, David Black, telling them that he couldn’t find any evidence that Worley had committed a crime. Black and Watson told Painter that Worley may have “broken policy” and they would follow up on their end.
According to the report, Painter was later contacted by FBI Special Agent Mike Dixon, who said that he was following up on a case that his office was presented with and would like to have a copy of the report. The Times-News is following up on that investigation.
A former law enforcement officer, who asked to remain anonymous because of a fear of retribution, told the Times-News that Worley was investigated for similar allegations in 2014 or 2015. This investigation was prompted by Worley allegedly stalking a school wrestler. Sources also told the Times-News that another investigation was conducted, potentially internally, in 2017.
Worley, 56, has not yet been charged with any crimes.
Worley was suspended from his position on June 22 and resigned on Tuesday, giving up all professional licenses in the process.
Lincolnton Police Chief Rodney Jordan told the Times-News on Friday that detectives are reviewing the contents of several computers and iPhones as well as other articles seized during the execution of search warrants at Worley’s home in Lincolnton, three vehicles and Worley’s office at Lincolnton High School. Jordan said he was unsure of when or if charges will be filed.
Worley was hired in 2002 as an assistant principal and was a principal at Lincolnton High from 2005-2013. Worley served as director of secondary education at the district office from 2013 to 2017 and was again a principal from 2017 to 2019.
The Times-News reached out to current superintendent Dr. Lory Morrow and former superintendent Dr. Sherry Hoyle, who served from 2011 through 2017, to inform them of these findings and to ask for an explanation. Morrow hasn’t responded and Hoyle said she had no comment.