PALATKA, Fla. - A Palatka High School English teacher has been suspended following accusations of having an inappropriate relationship with one his 15-year-old students.
According to a Putnam County Sheriff's Office report, the girl told detectives she and 27-year-old Austin Johns began communicating over the Internet after school, then began text messaging each other. She said things intensified, telling investigators the two would meet before and after class.
"Once the room door was locked and the blinds were closed, Johns and her would go into a large closet and begin to kiss each other," the report reads.
In a sworn statement, the girl said "the two had talked about having sex but it had not happened as of yet."
Johns was not arrested, and deputies closed the case, saying, "A criminal charge is not warranted at this time. However, Johns has clearly violated ethical issues involving his employment as a teacher."
The father of the girl who made the accusations said he believes Johns should be prosecuted.
Channel 4's Vic Micolucci went to the school for answers, but didn't get many. A school resource deputy threatened to arrest him if he didn't leave the vicinity, even though he wasn't on campus. The deputy said Channel 4's cameras were not allowed within 500 feet of any school property, citing it was a "safety zone." The district declined any interviews.
The school district superintendent referred Micolucci to the human resources director, who said she had absolutely no comment except that an investigation was ongoing and the teacher had been suspended.
The school board attorney says while the investigation is ongoing, board members will review it at their next meeting Tuesday. It has been recommended that Johns be suspended without pay for the rest of the school year.
No one answered the door at Johns' home in St. Johns County for comment, nor did he answer his phone.
Parent Karen Korczak said she's concerned about the allegations against Johns, especially because her daughter is in his class.
"Because if he's inappropriate with a child, who's to say the next one's not mine," she said. "I was shocked because I've met him and he seemed very nice."
One of Johns' former students says the accusations alone should put teachers and parents on high alert.
"Because it's just putting a bad image out there for the school, the teacher, the school board themselves," Cole Mayer said.
After the story aired, one of Johns' students wrote Channel 4 to support him. In an e-mailed statement, Shaye Mills wrote:
"I was part of Mr. Johns's first class at PHS. He never made any advances toward any of us then. Then I became his aid this year at the beginning of second semester. I have sat in the room with him by myself and once again he never made an inappropriate comment of anything toward me. He was a friend to me and when I acted quiet, he made sure everything was okay. Mr. Johns loved his job and his students. He would have never put his job at stake like that."
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