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Coach in hot water over sexuality comment

Franklin County’s 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 man’s 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
McDonald’s 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 student’s 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 wouldn’t 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 night’s school board meeting, no mention was made of
the matter, other than an announcement by Lanier, at the meeting’s outset, that
the home game against Tolar that evening had been cancelled, on Tolar’s
request, and that it would be rescheduled.

Jones was not on the sidelines at Tuesday’s 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 student’s mom last week.

“We’re 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 “Ma’am, that’s what these kids do, they pick on each
other.” She did not elaborate on Jones’ explanation of what had prompted his

“I don’t care what they (students) do, you don’t do that, you’re 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 don’t want to wear skirts,” she said.
“I am pretty sure they’re hiding and they’re scared and they don’t want to come
forward because of you.

“For a grown man to say what he said about a child to other
children, you’re wrong dude and you got to go,” she said. “This guy tried to
embarrass and demean and dehumanize a child.

“You don’t 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. They’re 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.

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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