Rep. Randy Fine Calls for Release of All Records Involving Investigation of Kenny Johnson’s Alleged Sexual Misconduct
By Space Coast Daily // August 29, 2020
MATT SUSIN: 'Brevard Public Schools' number one job is the health, wellness and protection of our students'
REP. RANDY FINE: “I will be sending a letter to the Brevard County School Board next week calling on them to release all records involving the investigation of Deputy Mayor Johnson’s sexual misconduct with his student (with the name or any identifying information about his underage victim redacted) as well as how this coverup occurred and how Johnson was able to regain unfettered access to potential underage victims.”
A letter from Richard Corcoran, the Commissioner of the Florida Department of Education to Brevard Public School has once again spotlighted a 2015 incident involving current Palm Bay Deputy Mayor Kenneth Johnson, Jr., who was alleged to have sent a text message to a minor student that contained a “grossly inappropriate picture.”
SEE THE LETTER HERE
Corcoran said that on April 24, 2015, Johnson was fired as an assistant football coach at Bayside High School as a result of the allegation, and at that time, Brevard Public Schools failed to report allegations of an educator’s predatory behavior to the Department of Education’s Office of Professional Practices Services as required by law.
He was also barred from substitute teaching in Brevard Cunty while law enforcement investigated the allegation.
Johnson was arrested by the Palm Bay Police Department and an investigation was conducted. During Johnson’s campaign for the Palm Bay City Council in 2018, the incident became an issue.
“As a result of an investigation, all charges were dropped,” said Johnson’s campaign in 2018. Johnson said the record was expunged by mutual agreement, “to protect all parties involved.”
Johnson’s Brevard Public Schools volunteer status was reinstated in 2017 after passing a criminal background check through the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, which conducts BPS’ security.
In March of this year, he was suspended again after a robocall was sent out by Leadership for Florida’s Future as a “Palm Bay Sexual Offender Alert.”
“If you have an underage daughter, you are advised to be on the alert for any illegal pornography sent by Palm Bay Deputy Mayor Kenny Johnson that may be transmitted from Johnson’s cellphone,” said the robocall.
His volunteer status with the school district remains on active suspension.
REP. RANDY FINE CALLS FOR RENEWED INVESTIGATION
“I will be sending a letter to the Brevard County School Board next week calling on them to release all records involving the investigation of Deputy Mayor Johnson’s sexual misconduct with his student (with the name or any identifying information about his underage victim redacted) as well as how this coverup occurred and how Johnson was able to regain unfettered access to potential underage victims,” said Florida State Representative Randy Fine.
Fine represents the Florida House District 53, which includes Palm Bay.
“BPS broke the law in failing to report the incident to the state, and worse, even after Johnson apparently admitted to the conduct, gave him unfettered access to additional potential underage victims,” said Fine.
Fine said that he will also call on the School Board to do a comprehensive investigation into whether this was an isolated incident where a powerful local politician was receiving special, illegal, protection or if other student sexual abusers are being covered up as well.
“The school board of Brevard County’s number one job is the health and wellness and protection of our students,” said Brevard Public Schools Board Member Matt Susin.
“We take that very very seriously. We will work with district staff to ensure that all procedures and policies have been followed. In the event that they were not, we will take corrective measures to make sure that it never happens again.”
The below letter from Richard Corcoran, the Commissioner of the Florida Department of Education, was sent to Mark Mullins of Brevard Public Schools:
Florida Department of Education
Richard Corcoran, Commissioner of Education
August 20, 2020
Mark W. Mullins, Superintendent
School District of Brevard County
2700 Judge Fran Jamieson Way
Viera, Florida 32940
Dear Superintendent Mullins:
In April 2015, five years ago and prior to you becoming Superintendent, the Brevard County School District’s Office of Professional Standards became aware of an allegation that Athletic Coach Kenneth Johnson, Jr., sent a text message to a minor student that contained a grossly inappropriate picture.
The incident was investigated by the Palm Bay Police Department and on April 24, 2015, Mr. Johnson was removed from his position with the School District of Brevard County. At that time, Brevard County Schools failed to report allegations of an educator’s predatory behavior to the Department of Education’s Office of Professional Practices Services as required by law.
Failure to timely report allegations of conduct affecting the safety and welfare of students negatively impacted the Department’s ability to fulfill its obligation to protect the educational environment of our schools and could have resulted in exposing additional students to abusive behavior by an individual who had not been held fully accountable.
In March 2020, almost five years after Brevard County was first made aware of the suspected conduct, the allegations against Mr. Johnson were brought to my attention.
This extended delay extremely hampered the Department’s investigative efforts. As Commissioner, and in conjunction with the entire agency, I am charged with protecting the health, safety, and welfare of Florida’s students, a responsibility I take very seriously.
Since becoming Commissioner, I have enforced the highest expectations for our district leaders in ensuring timely reporting and action in response to incidents which can negatively impact our students, staff and families. In a similar situation, I even went as far as to recommend the removal of an elected Superintendent from office.
Delays in reporting educator misconduct will not be tolerated by our office. Section 1012.796 of the Florida Statutes, states in part that all school districts are required to report legally sufficient complaints to the Department within 30 days of the complaint coming to the attention of the district. As superintendent one of your many duties listed in Section 1001.51, Florida
Statutes, requires you to ensure that the Brevard County School District complies with the 30 day reporting period and this section of the statutes carries with it a one year forfeiture of salary for superintendents who fail to comply.
In October 2019, we passed Rule 6A-10.082, F.A.C., which clearly enumerates 10 felony offenses and one misdemeanor offense that must be reported to the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Professional Practices Services now within 24 hours of the individual’s arrest or conviction.
These deadlines must be adhered to in order for the district and the state to work together to quickly mitigate potential risks to student safety. Timely reporting also allows the Office of Professional Practices Services to place a notification of a pending case on the educator’s profile in the educator certification database, so other school districts are aware and can make informed decisions regarding potential employment.
Additionally, Brevard County School District employee Beth Thedy, Deputy Superintendent, has worked with the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Professional Practices Services to improve the reporting timelines and ensure that statutory guidelines are met.
As the Commissioner of Education, my first priority is protecting Florida’s students. Any delays to the mandatory reporting periods could risk the health, safety, and welfare of our students. This is unacceptable and something I will not tolerate. Since this occurred long prior to our administration and rule change, we are not taking any action.
However, if such a situation were repeated in the future, we would act decisively. I thank you and your team for ensuring student safety by adhering to all Florida Statutes and guidelines.
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