Family supports assistant principal arrested on child porn charges at hearing

Don Clippinger expected to appear in court again on Thursday

By Derek Shore - Reporter, Amanda Batchelor - Senior Digital Editor

MIAMI - An assistant principal at a Miami Beach school appeared in federal court Wednesday, a day after he was arrested on child pornography charges.

"We have just received the copy of the criminal complaint today, so we're carefully reviewing it," Don Clippinger's attorney, Michael T. Davis, said.

Davis stood with members of Clippinger's family at the courthouse, who did not want to speak to reporters.

"He's a good person who has given much to the students here in the county and to his family, and his family support really reflects the person he is," Davis said.

But some parents from Fienberg-Fisher K-8 Center were not at the courthouse to defend him, but to express their concern about the allegations.

"I've already spoken to all three of my sons (and) asked them every question that, as a mother, you never want to have to ask your children," Rachel Stevens said. "I feel secure and confident that he never did anything toward my three sons."

Before being transferred to the Washington Avenue school this school year, Clippinger worked for more than a decade at the Hubert O. Sibley School, just outside of Miami Shores. 

Parents there were just as put off by the arrest.  

"I'm hurt and I'm shaken up, because he did a lot of things for us here," Pamela Smith said. "And that is why my kids are still here, because of him."

According to the criminal complaint, authorities began an undercover operation in October 2015 of an internet-based video conferencing application that is used by people who are interested in exchanging child pornography and/or sexually abusing children.

Authorities said they discovered that Clippinger had watched child pornography that was streamed on the application at least three times in November 2015.

The complaint states that Clippinger, who appeared to be naked, live streamed himself in a meeting room while he streamed the child pornography that others on the site were sharing.

Authorities said he appeared to be touching himself during some of the live streams.

A federal search warrant was obtained Jan. 25 for authorities to search Clippinger's Miami Shores home.

Agents carried out the warrant Tuesday morning and seized multiple electronics from the home, the complaint said.

Authorities said a preliminary examination of a Dell computer found in the home revealed a pornographic image of a child and showed that a pornographic video involving a minor had been received in September 2013. 

Clippinger confessed to watching videos of child pornography on the video conferencing application, the complaint stated.

Authorities said he also admitted to masturbating to images of child pornography and to describing himself as a "pedo" to other users on the application and other video conferencing software.

Clippinger is expected to appear in court again on Thursday for a detention hearing.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego said the school district is taking steps to fire Clippinger.

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