The Gwinnett County Schools Police Department is investigating allegations that four male high school coaches engaged in sexual misconduct with female students.
The allegations, which date back as far as 2013, caught the attention of investigators after students posted details of their interactions with the Meadowcreek High School educators on social media.
Two of the coaches have resigned and the two others have been cleared of any wrongdoing after an internal investigation by the school district.
The school system’s police department, however, launched a criminal investigation on Monday, and school officials have provided information to the Georgia Division of Family and Children’s Services.
The men, who are not being identified by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution because they have not been charged with a crime, are accused of inappropriate contact and engaging in sexually explicit conversations with students. One of the men was accused of physical assault.
Attempts by the AJC to contact the coaches have been unsuccessful. Two of the coaches had phone numbers that had been disconnected. One didn’t return phone messages. One of the men spoke briefly to a reporter and said he would call back, but didn’t as of Friday afternoon.
Capt. Bill Wellmaker of the Gwinnett County Schools Police Department said school resource officers are still speaking with those who have come forward and are seeking any additional witnesses who might be able to provide information.
The school’s internal investigations were halted when one of the men, a soccer coach, tendered his resignation on Tuesday, and a swim coach there retired on Wednesday.
The two other coaches at the Norcross school were cleared of wrongdoing by a Gwinnett schools internal investigation.
The allegations surfaced when some former female students posted their recollections of interactions with the men.
“The way [he] went about with his conversations and actions were not appropriate.” one of the women posted about her relationship with one of the teachers. “As we built a student-teacher relationship, it became unprofessional. There have been numerous times I felt uncomfortable, and unsafe…He bought me gifts, that included Victoria Secret [lingerie].”
The AJC does not identify victims of sexual assault.
Some of the women wrote that the men would stroke their thighs or discuss sexual encounters with them. The coaches would ask the students if they “liked older men,” they wrote.
One parent at the school, who asked not to be named because her daughter, a former student, would be identified, said she often saw girls sitting on a coach’s lap and “hanging all over him” at practice. She said she thought that this behavior was odd and said she told school administrators about it.
Meadowcreek Principal Kevin Wood sent out a message to parents and students after the posts surfaced.
“Gwinnett County Public Schools takes these types of allegations very seriously…I want to reassure you that we are aware of these allegations and that these complaints are under investigation.,” Wood wrote. “As your principal, I am committed to the work we are doing to foster a safe and positive school environment and encourage our school community to come to me when you have concerns.”
Laura Morse, a clinical psychologist who specializes in work with adolescents and teens, said even inappropriate conversations can have lasting effects on relationships and trust issues with young people.
“And sometimes it doesn’t stop with the conversations,” she said. “If you feel an adult is being ‘creepy’ or inappropriate tell someone. And if that person doesn’t take you seriously, tell someone else until something is done.”
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