A Lakeland Senior High School track coach with a history of being investigated for sexually assaulting adolescent boys was arrested Friday and charged with sexually battering a 16-year-old member of the LHS boys track team.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said this is the third time Jarvis Lamot Young, 40, has been investigated locally for sex crimes with teenage boys — and there may be more unreported incidents.
“We strongly believe he has inappropriately touched, battered or possibly had sex with students in the past based upon the rumors that swirl around him, and they continue to swirl upon his arrest,” Judd said during a Friday afternoon press conference.
“My message to the students is we’re going to believe you and we’re going to protect you and we’re going to make sure you have any counseling or infrastructure for support that you need. But you can’t allow this bad man to hurt anybody else. Emotionally, physically. You’ve got to help us. We need to know everybody that he has attacked or tried to attack,” he said.
In 2011, when he was arrested for sexually battering a 14-year-old Auburndale boy at an Orlando hotel, court records show Young was asked to stop coaching Lakeland High School track. It is unclear how he was allowed back in 2020 at the school as a certified coach who was paid a stipend each year. In addition to public court records, news coverage of the 2011 incident can easily be found via Google.
In 2017, Judd said another juvenile reported to the Lakeland Police Department that Young had touched his thigh and unzipped the boy’s pants before the juvenile ran away. There were no criminal charges in that case because the boy’s family declined to move forward with the case.
“He’s a classic predator, child predator. He’s a classic pedophile,” Judd said, adding that Young told investigators he has human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. “He is evil.”
Judd described Young as a man who groomed the 16-year-old LHS victim, buying him a meal and giving him a set of weights before taking the boy to LHS’ athletic room on Saturday, Aug. 26. Judd said Young told the boy he was a licensed massage therapist, although there is no evidence of that, and that he could massage the victim’s sore hamstring muscles.
During that incident, he told the victim to lie on his back, moved aside the victim’s shorts and attempted to perform oral sex on him. The victim jumped up and demanded to be taken home. He told his mother what happened and she told him to report it to the school resource officer, which he did on Monday, Aug. 28.
Because the contact was brief and minimal, medical experts say the HIV virus was most likely not passed on to the young man.
When deputies began investigating the incident, Young fled Lakeland. PCSO spokesman Scott Wilder said Young went to Georgia, but then returned. He was arrested on Lakeland Highlands Road after deputies followed him from his residence.
In 2011, PCSO detectives wrote in an affidavit, still available on the Polk County Clerk of Courts website, that Young and Arnold Maurice Mathis, then a pastor at Saint City Power and Praise Ministry in Winter Haven, drove two boys between 14 and 15 years old to Orlando and raped them in an International Drive hotel room seven years earlier. One was a freshman at Auburndale High School and the other lived in Winter Haven.
According to the affidavit, Young admitted to the act during a recorded telephone call with the Auburndale student, with police listening. Both Mathis and Young were arrested, but the state attorney’s office was forced to drop the charges because the then-statute of limitations had run out. The victim reported it to investigators when he was 21 years old.
The affidavit also states that in 2011, “Young was asked not to return to his duties as a coach due to taking several male LHS track and field athletes to an unauthorized training session at the Lakeland YMCA.”
Judd said Polk County Public Schools Superintendent Fred Heid is furious about this. In an emailed statement, Heid called the allegations against Young disturbing.
“PCPS will be conducting a thorough investigation into how Young was allowed to become a coach for Lakeland High,” Heid wrote. “We also will be pulling a list and re-screening coaches who work with PCPS students, as well as other individuals who work with students in extracurricular programs. Furthermore, we intend to increase the frequency of our background checks and add extra measures to evaluate any past reports of inappropriate behavior.”
Polk County Public Schools employs 13,000 people and is the second-largest employer in the county behind Publix.
School district spokesman Kyle Kennedy said Young received stipends of $2,055 in 2021, $2,600 in 2022 and $2,600 in 2023. He served as a certified athletic coach for PCPS and “would have been subject to the same background check that the school district does for teachers.”
According to school district officials, Level I background checks are done by the Comprehensive Case Information System, via the district’s employee relations investigators. CCIS is offered by Florida’s Clerks of Court, and is a secured, single-point of search for statewide court case information. Level II checks are done by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Those checks are done through fingerprints and would only pick up convictions.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement also has a website in which potential employees’ names can be entered to see if they are registered sex offenders.
The school district’s website states that “All employees in positions designated by law as positions of trust or responsibility shall be required to undergo security background investigations as a condition of employment and continued employment. Security background investigations shall include, but not be limited to, fingerprinting for all purposes and checks…, statewide criminal and juvenile records checks through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and federal criminal records checks through the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and may include local criminal records checks through local law enforcement agencies.”
The district charges a $90 fingerprinting fee for all non-instructional personnel and a $10 fee for an ID badge.
“In compliance with the Jessica Lunsford Act, Polk County Public Schools is making every effort to ensure the well-being of our county’s precious children,” the district’s website reads.
Previous hire of man with a history of sexual abuse
This is the second time in recent memory that PCPS has hired a man previously charged with sexually battering juveniles.
Special education teacher and girls basketball coach Wayne Ricks II was arrested and charged with raping with one of his players in 2021. Ricks had been charged in 2018 with the same crime in Osceola County, but was found not guilty. The first Ricks case was heavily covered by The Orlando Sentinel and several Orlando TV stations and is easily found via a Google search.
After being cleared, he was then hired at Language and Literacy Academy in Winter Haven, a charter school for disabled children.
The school’s executive director and principal, Tandria Callins, provided this reporter with a notice from Polk County Public Schools’ employee relations office that showed Ricks cleared his background check.
At some point, Ricks wrote on his application with PCPS that he had been “disciplined, the subject of an investigation, terminated or … non-reappointed for performance reasons from a prior employer, including military.” He added, “Subject of an investigation I was cleared from.” His application also showed no professional sanctions.
Because of his not-guilty verdict in the 2018 case, school officials said he would clear a criminal background check.
He was then hired at Haines City High School, where he repeatedly sexually battered a female student.
Ricks was found guilty in June and sentenced last month to five years in prison and 10 years of probation upon his release. In February, Ricks was again charged by Osceola County with two counts of sexual battery on a child by a custodial figure. He awaits trial there.
In addition to the district’s flawed background check, the Florida Department of Education failed to flag Ricks’ personnel file or put an administrative notice in his file until after his second arrest in 2021 — three years after his 2018 arrest, when he resigned from the Osceola County School District instead of being fired. It took that long for the FDOE investigation to find there was wrongdoing.
There have been at least seven other PCPS cases in the last 12 years involving teachers having inappropriate relationships with students or sexually abusing them:
December 2011 — Matt Thompson, 30, George Jenkins High School head football coach, was arrested and charged with sexual battery of a 17-year-old female student. He was found guilty and sentenced to seven years in prison and 20 years of probation.
April 2014 – Central Florida Aerospace Academy teacher Jennifer Christine Fichter, 29, of Lakeland had sex with three 17-year-old male students. She was found guilty and sentenced to 22 years in prison.
January 2015-June 2016 – Mulberry High School teacher Jason Argo, then 33, committed sex acts with a 15-year-old student. He was found guilty and sentenced to 12 years in prison. A lawsuit against the district was settled in 2019.
March 2018 — Former City Commissioner and LHS Assistant Athletic Director Justin Troller resigned his teaching and coaching job amid allegations/investigations of inappropriate text messages with a 17-year-old boy. He was banned by the school district from further contact with students.
June 2020 – Lake Gibson Middle School teacher Leslie Bushart, 49, performed oral sex on a 15-year-old boy at a party. She was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison and five years’ probation.
November 2020 — Shawn Fitzgerald, a youth minister, and Lakeland High School teacher and varsity soccer coach, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for 408 counts of child pornography.
December 2021 – Lakeland High School substitute teacher Ayanna Machelle Davis, 20, was arrested for having sex with a student who was 16 or younger. In August 2022, she pleaded no contest and adjudication was withheld. She was placed on one year of probation, and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service. Judge Lori Winstead also forbade Davis to teach any child under the age of 18 years old.
In the 2017 Argo case, court records showed that depositions from three Polk County Public Schools investigators and the then-director for employee relations, Tony Kirk, revealed that the district had no system in place to track the various types of cases their office investigates, including inappropriate relationships with students or those who were criminally charged with sexual abuse of students. They added that once law enforcement becomes involved, they do not conduct their own investigations.
School district spokesman Jason Geary said in 2018 that the human resources department put an electronic tracking system in place beginning with the 2018-19 school year. Prior to that, there was not a searchable system.
On Friday, Superintendent Heid said that although Young wasn’t convicted of any past incidents, “I am extremely troubled that he was involved with our school system in any capacity. We will take a hard look at the circumstances that resulted in this individual working alongside students. I will do everything in my power to prevent this from happening again.”
Young is charged with:
- Sexual battery by a custodian, with a victim between 12-18 years old.
- Lewd and lascivious conduct by someone 24 or older with a victim who is 16 or 17.
- Abuse of a child without great bodily harm.
- Interfering with custody of a minor.
- HIV-infected person having sex without informing a partner.
Any additional victims of Young who have not yet come forward are urged to contact the Polk County Sheriff’s Office at 863-298-6200.
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