TAMPA -- A principal at a Tampa independent school, arrested on a charge of molesting a 14-year-old student, was released from jail early Friday morning after posting $7,500 bail. He was immediately terminated from his job.
James Jerome Larkin, 63, was the middle school principal at Tampa Day School, which specializes in students in kindergarten through eighth grade who have mild to moderate learning disabilities. Before that, Larkin was headmaster at St. John Greek Orthodox Day School in Hyde Park for more than 30 years.
He was charged with one count of lewd molestation of a child 12 or older, a second-degree felony.
Attempts to reach Larkin on Friday were unsuccessful. His family was in the process of hiring Tampa attorney Eddie Suarez.
“Mr. Larkin has been an educator in this community for more than four decades,” Suarez said Friday afternoon. “He has a distinguished and spotless reputation. He is innocent of these charges and he has the full support of family and friends, and he looks forward to the opportunity to clear his name.”
Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies said Larkin, of 4612 S. Ferdinand Ave., befriended the boy after the death of his father, and the two developed a close father-son type relationship, sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon said in a news release.
Larkin was watching the boy March 7 while the teen's mother was out of the town for the weekend, deputies said. About 10:15 p.m., Larkin entered the boy's bedroom and touched him inappropriately, deputies said.
The teen complained and Larkin stopped and left the room, deputies said.
During the investigation, a recorded call was made between Larkin and the student, McKinnon said. During that call, Larkin admitted to the allegations and that his actions were inappropriate, McKinnon said.
McKinnon said detectives have had full cooperation of the school, located at 12606 Henderson Road in Citrus Park. By noon Friday, Larkin's biography on the school's website had been removed.
Lois Delaney, head of the school, said emails were sent to parents Thursday night and Friday morning notifying them of the arrest. She said that faculty, staff and counselors will be present at the school when students return on Tuesday morning to answer any questions and address any concerns of parents and students.
“We are all saddened and shocked by this news,” Delaney said in a written statement. “I want to assure the community, as well as our parents and staff, that we strongly condemn the alleged behavior. At this time, it appears that this is an isolated incident and that no other students are involved and none of the alleged inappropriate behavior occurred at the school.
“This is the first time allegations of this nature have been made against Mr. Larkin,” she said. “Given his arrest last night and the new information revealed in the police investigation, his employment has been terminated effective immediately.
“Our priority at this time is to support and protect our students,” she said, “and maintain the integrity of the school.”
She said Larkin had been at the school since August 2009 and had enjoyed a “stellar” reputation.
Deputies said they were not aware of any other victims or that Larkin committed any inappropriate activity while on campus.
The father of two was born in Miami Beach and graduated from the University of South Florida in 1973 with a degree in elementary education with early childhood certification. He also taught fourth grade at Carrollwood Elementary School and was past vice president of the Florida Kindergarten Council, former board member of the Florida Council of Independent Schools and past president of the Bay Area Council of Independent Schools.