Breaking News: Ex-Oakleaf High School coach under investigation for ‘misconduct’

Zoey Fields

The Clay County District Schools Police Department is actively investigating former Oakleaf High School girls’ weightlifting Coach Ben White after allegations of “misconduct” were reported to the Clay County school district.

White resigned from the position of head girl’s weightlifting coach and football team defensive coordinator at Oakleaf High at the end of January to take on the head football coaching position at Pedro Menendez High School in the neighboring St. Johns County School District.

White was also going to be a teacher, providing exceptional student education (ESE) support at Pedro Menendez High School in St. Augustine, St. Johns County School District Chief of Community Relations Christina Upchurch said. He was still in the mandatory probationary employment period, due to having just recently started in the new role when he resigned, she said.
Ben WhitePhoto byTony Salazar

White’s first day with St. Johns County School District was Feb. 10 and he resigned March 6, just one month later, Upchurch said.

White said his resignation was for “personal reasons,” according to Pedro Menendez High’s Athletic Director Matt McCool. He said the decision was solely up to White and was not a disciplinary matter. Below is an email that was issued to the entire school by McCool regarding White’s resignation.

Good morning,

The football meeting for March 8, 2023, has been canceled at this time. Unfortunately, Coach White resigned, effective immediately, due to personal reasons. We are going to post this position and try to have it filled as soon as possible. We appreciate your patience during this time.

The date of the allegations regarding White has not been revealed by Clay County District Schools. However, a number of girl weightlifters have been interviewed by the school’s resource officers as part of the investigation, a source told NewsBreak.

It was not until after White left Oakleaf High School that a student stepped forward sharing concerns about his behavior, Clay County School District Coordinator of Communications Terri Dennis said.

“We take all allegations of misconduct seriously and immediately opened an investigation on our end and have submitted that information to Professional Practices Services with the Florida Department of Education,” she said.

The Office of Professional Practices Services investigates alleged misconduct by educators in Florida who hold an educator’s certificate and pursues disciplinary actions against the certificates of educators found to have committed acts of misconduct, according to the Florida Department of Education webpage.

Below is the Clay County District statement on the investigation:

Clay County District Schools takes all employee/student allegations seriously. Once this employee resigned on their own to seek a job opportunity in another county, a student-athlete shared concerns of misconduct and Clay County District Schools immediately began investigating the incident with the school administration, Clay County District Schools Police Department, and Human Resources. Clay County District Schools Human Resources department has reported this former employee to Professional Practices Services with the Florida Department of Education. Clay County District Schools Police Department is still investigating this incident and the former employee, and therefore we cannot comment further pending the investigation."

White had seven years of experience as a boy's weightlifting coach before he arrived at Oakleaf High School in 2016 for the girl’s weightlifting coach role.

White could not immediately be reached for comment. NewsBreak will provide updates when more information becomes available.

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Accredited journalist with experience covering a wide range of stories consisting of breaking news, city and county government, crime and courts, feature stories and local interest. Facebook Bulletin writer, reporter; The Learning Curve. Twitter: @zoeyfields0

Jacksonville, FL

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