A high school football coach in Palatka, Florida, has resigned from his job and been permanently banned from teaching after multiple students accused him of abusive behavior.
According to an administrative complaint from the Florida Department of Education, Randell Gene Owens told one student that he was not a good football player and should commit suicide. In another instance, he allegedly head-butted a 16-year-old male student. Another accusation said Owens "plugged up one nostril and forced mucus to be released from his other nostril" onto a 15-year-old male student. Then, the coach allegedly stood on a toilet seat and "peeped over the bathroom stall" while a 16-year-old male student used the bathroom. All four incidents reportedly took place during the 2017-2018 school year.
Owens declined to contest the charges and declined a public hearing, the complaint says. He also voluntarily surrendered his teaching certificate, which has been permanently revoked.
Owens was a dean and a physical education teacher as well as the assistant football coach at Palatka High School before he resigned in December 2017, according to First Coast News. The Palatka Daily News reported his hiring in April 2015. Owens's teaching license was revoked in June.
Concerns about Owens' behavior had been raised as early as 2016, First Coast News reported. He had previously been accused of keeping coaches segregated, playing favorites and telling students with health issues to "go out and play." In November 2016, parents were informed about an ongoing investigation into the school's athletic program. Bobby Humphries, the school's football coach and athletic director, resigned his position in fall 2017, a few months before Owens offered his own resignation.
"All the red flags were there for them to take proper authority to make sure a guy like this doesn't make it into the school system," one parent told First Coast News. She described the coach as "a real danger not only to my son, but to other kids at the school."
In 2013, Owens had resigned from his previous position coaching football in Georgia six days after he was charged with simple battery in an incident that involved a student, the station reported. The charges were dropped, and Putnam County, Florida Superintendent Rick Surrency told First Coast News that "there was no reason not to hire him."
"With any employee who reports an arrest such as he did on his application, as long as there was no conviction and as he reports it and checks it out, it is my understanding that the record had actually been expunged," Surrency said this week.
Owens, whose LinkedIn profile says he has been coaching football for more than 30 years, has not spoken publicly about the accusations. His attorney declined comment when reached by First Coast News.
Several NFL players have come out of Palatka High School and gone on to play for teams such as the Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers. The school is located an hour south of Jacksonville.
The accusations against Owens come at a time when football coaches at all levels are under increased scrutiny. At the University of Maryland, the death of 19-year-old Jordan McNair, who died in June after experiencing heatstroke during a team workout, inspired current and former players to come forward with allegations of bullying and abusive behavior and prompted an investigation into the allegedly toxic culture of the school's football program. It has resulted in Maryland's head coach, DJ Durkin, being placed on administrative leave.
This article was written by Antonia Noori Farzan, a reporter for The Washington Post.