Franklin Countys middle school boys basketball coach has resigned
his position, and been placed on administrative leave from his job as a fifth
grade paraprofessional, after a relative of one of his players raised strong
objections to a comment the coach made pertaining to the young mans sexuality.
The incident in question arose following the Seahawks away game in
Wewahitchka on Oct. 21. After the Seahawk victory over the Gators, Coach Nathan
Jones, members of the team, and several parents and fans stopped at the
McDonalds restaurant in Port St. Joe, a meal break that is customary when
county teams travel into or through Gulf County.
The school district has not provided details of what is alleged to
have been said by Jones. But the students relative, Mary Richardson, who had
been present at the restaurant, posted a video on Facebook in which she
commented extensively on what happened.
In the viral video, the woman said she overheard Jones, who was sitting
with some of the students, say that I wouldnt be surprised if he (the player)
walked up to me one day and said he was gay.
The context of Jones remark remains unconfirmed.
Superintendent Steve Lanier said Thursday that Jones, a former
Seahawk basketball player with the Class of 2018, had voluntarily stepped down
from his position, which is funded by the district as a $1,977 supplemental
At Thursday nights school board meeting, no mention was made of
the matter, other than an announcement by Lanier, at the meetings outset, that
the home game against Tolar that evening had been cancelled, on Tolars
request, and that it would be rescheduled.
Jones was not on the sidelines at Tuesdays home game against Port
St. Joe, in which the Seahawks fell by a point in the last second. Coaching
duties have been assumed for the time being by Seahawks varsity coach Ray
Lanier said Human Resources Director Karen Peddie and Security
Officer Anthony Croom are handling an investigation of the incident, including
its bearing on Jones paraprofessional job, which he is working as he pursues
his college degree.
In the meantime, Jones has been placed on paid administrative leave
pending the outcome of the investigation, Lanier said.
The superintendent said he and Principal Lawrence Pender met with
both Richardson and the students mom last week.
Were not taking it lightly, he said. We have to investigate and
we have to give due process as we do for any teacher.
Richardson said in her Facebook video that she was incensed at what
she overheard, and confronted Jones over it. Both she and Lanier confirmed she
had cursed out the coach in the presence of students.
She indicated Jones tried to respectfully address her concerns at
the time, saying that Maam, thats what these kids do, they pick on each
other. She did not elaborate on Jones explanation of what had prompted his
I dont care what they (students) do, you dont do that, youre a
grown man, Richardson said on Facebook.
She went on to voice outrage, and to press for Jones removal from
his paraprofessional position.
I am pretty sure there are more than one effeminate little boy out
there and more than one little girl who dont want to wear skirts, she said.
I am pretty sure theyre hiding and theyre scared and they dont want to come
forward because of you.
For a grown man to say what he said about a child to other
children, youre wrong dude and you got to go, she said. This guy tried to
embarrass and demean and dehumanize a child.
You dont know what your child is going through, she said.
Somebody could be bullying, somebody could be picking on them, they could be
having thoughts of suicide. Theyre going to go to Nate Jones and say Mr.
Jones, I need to talk to you?
Defenders of Jones have said he has an excellent rapport with the
players, is a product of the local schools, and holds Florida Department of
Education Athletic Coaching Certification, a distinction not universally held
by those coaches who volunteer within the district.
They also say other coaches have made statements, in unrelated
situations, that were highly questionable and offensive, but did not lead to
their being removed either as coaches or within the classroom.
The Times reached out to Jones for comment and will update
this report as necessary.