JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The football coach at Andrew Jackson High School resigned two weeks ago amid allegations that he invited a female student to use his office shower, then watched her while she was naked and made lewd comments about her.
The Duval County School District said it found evidence supporting that student's claims against Vernon Edwards during its four-month investigation into the allegations.
Edwards was notified Jan. 30 his employment contract as a physical education teacher with Duval County Public Schools was terminated and he was immediately terminated without pay. Under the terms of his contract, he could have appealed the decision, but Edwards submitted his resignation on Feb. 2.
According to the letter from Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, the investigation found that Edwards (pictured in photo courtesy of The Florida Times-Union) violated both the code of ethics and professional conduct agreements, which is grounds for immediate termination and the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office was contacted about possible criminal charges.
Police and the State Attorney's Office are still looking into the allegations, but no criminal charges have been filed.
The investigation began in September after the student -- identified only as a senior who was serving as water girl for the football team -- complained that Edwards twice directed her to shower in his bathroom, then watched her and made inappropriate comments.
The victim told investigators that the first incident occurred Sept. 12, saying that Edwards told her she needed a shower, but she said the door to his bathroom was stuck and wouldn't shut, so she undressed in the shower because the door was wide open. She also said the shower curtain was narrow and wouldn't cover her body and that she felt Edwards was looking at her.
She said Edwards asked why she was hiding from him and then asked her about her private parts.
The student said that after she stepped out of the shower and got dressed, Edwards gave her $10 for food when she left.
The student said that four days later Edwards told her he had a shower ready for her, but she declined. But two days later the girl decided to shower there again, and she said Edwards walked in the room toward a closet, stopping to stare at her naked body. She said he gave her $5 when she was leaving.
After officials investigated the girl's claims, Edwards was suspended from coaching and reassigned to a nonteaching position on Sept. 23. Assistant Michael McNair was named the school's interim coach and finished out the season but wasn't initially told why Edwards was no longer at the school.
Students at Jackson High said Friday that they just don't believe the allegations. They said the man described in the incident report isn't the coach and teacher they know.
"I just don't believe it at all," said one student, who asked not to be identified. "He was like the best teacher. He was just like one of those teachers where you would just -- if you had him early in the morning you would jump up to school just to come to his class."
Several students at Jackson High described Edwards in similar fashion.
"To be around him is really fun, so I don't see him doing stuff like that," said another student, who also asked not to be identified. "When I was around him, it was never uncomfortable. It was always a good vibe."
Edwards' attorney told News4Jax on Friday that he advised his client not to speak about the accusations but said Edwards maintains his innocence. The attorney said Edwards is a graduate of Andrew Jackson and dreams of being cleared to come back and coach at the school.
"We disagree with the findings that were made by the report. We stand by our client and he maintains his innocence," attorney Shannon Schott said. "When these allegations were made, it was devastating. He felt it was in his best interest to step down because why would he fight this just to go back to a place that's no longer what it used to be for him?"
News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said even though the school has released its report and made a decision, the SAO has to review all information presented by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office before deciding whether to file criminal charges.