Successful Florida girls basketball coach accused of sexual misconduct with student

Successful girls basketball coach accused of sexual misconduct with student

TAMPA, Fla. — A successful high school girls basketball coach in Florida is accused of sexual misconduct with a student, authorities said.

Reginald Jamal Lawrence, 48, of Ruskin, was arrested Tuesday and charged with six counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor student as an authority figure, according to Hillsborough County arrest records. He was initially in jail under $90,000 bail, but on Wednesday a Hillsborough County judge reduced that figure to $50,000, WFLA reported.

Lawrence has been the girls basketball coach at Tampa Bay Technical High School since 2009 and has led the team to five straight playoff appearances, including the program’s first state championship in 2019, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Lawrence’s overall record is 197-87 over the past decade, with only one losing season, the newspaper reported. According to the school’s website, Lawrence is listed as a “student success coach” at the Tampa magnet high school.

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Lawrence has been a teacher since 1999, the Times reported.

Deputies said the alleged misconduct occurred six times at Lawrence’s home in 2016, when the alleged victim was a student at the high school, WFLA reported. The student has since graduated, the television station reported. Her age at the time was redacted from a report obtained by the Hillsborough County Clerk’s office, the Times reported.

“He’s been a teacher, very well respected. Apparently he’s very successful as a basketball coach at Tampa Tech,” Lawrence’s attorney, Frank DelaGrana, told WFLA. “He’s loved by most of his students. He’s dumbfounded by this.”

In an interview with a detective on Tuesday, Lawrence denied sexual activity with the victim, the Times reported.

Lawrence is on administrative leave pending his termination. He will not be returning to campus, according to Tanya Arja, a spokesperson for the Hillsborough County School District.

“We are shocked and deeply troubled by these charges,” Arja said in a statement “Our parents expected this individual to protect their children and he broke that trust.”