Former Nature Coast Technical High football coach and physical education teacher Jamie Joyner is the subject of a criminal investigation into allegations by a female student's parents that he had a sexual relationship with her before she turned 18.
The Hernando County Sheriff's Office launched the investigation after concerns raised by the student's parents, spokeswoman Sgt. Donna Black confirmed Monday.
The allegations came to light Monday after the school district made public a probe into an off-campus meeting that Joyner had with the same student last month.
Included in the district's investigation file is an open letter from the student's parents that claims Joyner victimized her by having a sexual relationship with her "well before" her 18th birthday.
"With new evidence that this investigation has brought forth, it is clear that Coach Joyner was having an inappropriate sexual relationship with our daughter," the parents wrote in the letter. "They have both admitted to it, and we have found love letters from him to her and phone records."
The parents were "unaware and completely shocked" by the alleged relationship and are "cooperating with the Sheriff's Office because we believe our daughter is a victim and this was going on well before our daughter turned eighteen," the letter reads.
The letter asks parents, teachers and students who have knowledge of the "inappropriate contact" Joyner had with the student to notify the sheriff's office.
Joyner abruptly resigned on Monday, April 13, as the district investigated an incident two weeks earlier in which a deputy patrolling the airport industrial park came across him and the teen in separate cars parked at the end of Radial Road. Joyner was put on a paid suspension pending the outcome of the investigation.
Two days before Joyner resigned, the same deputy patrolling the area around the Microtel Inn in Brooksville saw both cars parked in the hotel's lot, according to a sheriff's report. The deputy confirmed Joyner was there and asked him to come to the lobby.
Joyner initially told the deputies the student was not with him, then changed his story and said she had come on her own accord. He added that he is still married, but his wife knew nothing of this incident or the one prior.
The student also spoke with the deputies and she stated that she wanted to be there. She also provided a driver's license that proved she had turned 18 on Jan. 23.
Hernando Today first reported that incident last week. Black, the sheriff's office spokeswoman, said then that the deputy wanted to check on the wellbeing of the student.
The sheriff's office notified the school district of the incident. The deputy's report is now in Joyner's file.
"The teacher immediately resigned in lieu of termination," district officials state in a summary of the investigation forwarded to the state Department of Education. The state will conduct its own inquiry to determine what action, if any, to take against Joyner up to revocation of his teaching certificate.
If Joyner was having a sexual relationship with a student, he had a chance to confess that earlier during an April 1 hearing when district officials asked him about the meeting at the airport park.
"I know how this looks," Joyner said several times during the interview, according to a transcript. "I want to emphasize there was nothing going on."
Joyner, who is married with two young sons, told officials that he and the student were looking for a place to talk about her anxiety about tryouts for college basketball. The student was "almost in tears," Joyner said.
The two had been on campus for a softball game and Joyner said he didn't want people to see them talking in the dark school parking lot because it "wouldn't look good."
"Especially because of the events that have already taken place at our school," Joyner said, apparently a reference to former band director Tim Brightbill, who resigned amid accusations that he had a sexual relationship with a student.
Joyner and the student planned to meet at Anderson Snow Park but Joyner got lost and they met by the airport instead, he said. He emphasized that he has "a different relationship" with the student because "our families are very good friends."
"I'm more like a big brother and want to have a positive influence on (the student)," Joyner told officials.
He agreed that he used, as the school board attorney Paul Carland put it during the hearing, "poor judgment."
"The only reason for this situation happening is because I was trying to be a mentor," Joyner said during the hearing. "I didn't become a coach or a teacher to hurt students. I was trying to avoid rumors and it ended up worse."
Superintendent Wayne Alexander did not return a call seeking comment Monday.